ROME - AS Roma's gladiators again proved
their battling qualities after recovering from two goals down to
seal a 3-2 win over Bayern Munich that has left them on the
brink of securing a place in the Champions League last 16.
Already-qualified Bayern, who still secured top spot in
Group E, were two goals ahead at the break thanks to a double
strike from Mario Gomez but the Romans marched out for the
second half intent on bombarding the opposing goal.
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Three incisive passes pierced Bayern's defence and led to
goals from Marco Borriello, Daniele De Rossi and a Francesco
Totti penalty as the Stadio Olimpico faithful roared with
delight at an eighth game unbeaten in all competitions.
Coach Claudio Ranieri's empire was crumbling at the start of
the season but a remarkable turnaround in form means Roma will
guarantee themselves a place in February's first knockout round
with a draw at CFR Cluj in the final group game on December 8.
"The lads were magnificent, they ran, they fought and they
were helped by the fans who were marvellous," Ranieri told Sky.
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The coach introduced Totti with 15 minutes left and the
substitute played in Borriello with a beautiful ball that led to
the striker being debatably felled by inexperienced goalkeeper
Thomas Kraft, who was unlucky not to save the winning penalty.
"Totti had played two games so I let him rest a bit but I
knew I could count on him, he is a stupendous athlete," Ranieri
said of the 34-year-old captain.
In-form Gomez, who blasted a hat-trick in the previous group
win over Cluj to secure progression, had lit up the Eternal City
in the first period and looked to have put last term's
runners-up on track for a fifth win from five European games.
He finished off a hopeful clip across the box from Franck
Ribery, starting for the first time since injury in September,
after 33 minutes and six minutes later he had the ball in the
net again after poor defending involving Roma's Jeremy Menez.
The hosts were booed off at the break but the French
playmaker redeemed himself when his run and cross was turned in
by Borriello, albeit from the ground after the ex-AC Milan man
fell over while controlling the ball.
Another superb pass from Mirko Vucinic set up John Arne
Riise to cross for Daniele De Rossi to score from close range
after 81 minutes before Totti's spot kick secured the win.
Bayern coach Louis van Gaal, recently criticised by Ribery
and club boss Uli Hoeness for being arrogant with the team
struggling eighth in the Bundesliga, was fuming.
"We gave the match away like a present. It is unbelievable,
we were so dominant. Then our concentration was gone. This
defeat is not good for our self esteem," he told German TV.
"The problem lies in our attack, not defence. It begins with
losing the ball but my players don't seem to understand."
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