MILAN: Frenchman Cyril Thereau scored a 90th-minute volley for Serie A minnows Chievo to secure a 1-0 win over Roma and upset the capital club’s hopes of Europa League football next season.
Roma remain in fifth place on 58 points but risk being overtaken by Udinese (57) if the northerners win at Palermo when Lazio, in seventh on 55, will look to draw level with their city foes.
“We stuttered through the first half but we should have finished the game earlier,” lamented Roma coach Aurelio Andreazzoli.
“Chievo didn’t give our defence too many problems but we knew they were dangerous on the counter-attack.”
Chievo, meanwhile, achieved their aim of pulling far enough away from the relegation zone to secure top-flight football next season.
“It’s an important result for us, but it’s all down to the players,” said Chievo coach Eugenio Corini.
“They are the ones who go out and play and try to put my ideas into action.” Roma’s reserve ‘keeper Bogdan Lobont started despite fracturing his nose in the 1-0 away win to Fiorentina on Saturday because number one Maarten Stekelenburg is still injured.
Andreazzoli, meanwhile, left some regulars on the bench, including striker Erik Lamela and American midfielder Michael Bradley, as he tested a 3-4-1-2 system and a new front pairing of Pablo Osvaldo and Mattia Destro.
Chievo, who were looking to pull away from the relegation zone, came out on top, at least in defensive terms, after a fairly balanced first half in which Roma shaded the visitors for the few real scoring chances created.
Chievo ‘keeper Cristian Puggioni was alert to prevent a threatening cross from reaching Destro, while Ivan Piris’s cut-back from the by-line following Francesco Totti’s smart through-ball set up Osvaldo, only for Puggioni to get low to smother the striker’s snap shot.
In the dying seconds of the half Totti sent a free-kick through a hole in the defensive wall to force Puggioni to block.
Thereau came close for the visitors moments after the restart, but it was Roma who were most frustrated after missing a hatful of chances.
Destro showed great control on the edge of the area by avoiding two tackles, but Puggioni did well to collect the striker’s shot.
Totti then unleashed a drive from 20 metres which took a deflection before hitting the crossbar, and Puggioni thwarted Destro from close range after a corner by Miralem Pjanic.
Roma looked to be edging closer to the opener when Dodo combined well with Destro on the left but a superb sliding tackle by defender Marco Andreolli came to Chievo’s rescue.
Lamela finally made an appearance, replacing Pjanic in the 72nd minute, and Destro made way for Bradley minutes later, however, Roma soon began to lose momentum.