The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION
Roma held to 2-2 draw at AC Milan in Serie A and loses more ground on leader Juventus
MILAN - Roma was held to a 2-2 draw at AC Milan on Monday as it lost more ground on Serie A leader and reigning champion Juventus.
Mattia Destro opened the scoring for Roma in the 13th minute with his second goal in as many matches but Cristian Zapata levelled on the half-hour mark.
Kevin Strootman restored Roma's lead in the 52nd minute from the penalty spot after substitute goalkeeper Gabriel had needlessly fouled Gervinho.
Tensions began to fray at San Siro and Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri was sent to the stands, while captain Riccardo Montolivo was booked for dissent and will miss Sunday's derby match against Inter Milan.
Sulley Muntari rescued a point for Milan 13 minutes from time. It was the first time Roma — which has the stingiest defence in Serie A — had let in two goals in a match all season.
"I talked to the fourth referee but I didn't offend anyone," Allegri said. "I'm sorry I left the team on its own but fortunately the lads managed to equalize.
"We played better technically in the second half, we were braver and took the game more to Roma. Although we risked more and let them have more counterattacks so it was more dangerous for us."
Milan had several penalty appeals of its own turned down, notably when Mario Balotelli and Mehdi Benatia fell to ground in the area.
"I never comment on the referees decisions," Allegri added. "I think we played well. It's a good sign that Balotelli doesn't react after he is fouled, I think maybe it's because he's happier."
Balotelli will again be talked about after the Milan forward wore boots decorated in the style of newspaper print with various headlines that have been written about him.
Roma remained second but is five points behind Juventus.
"We had many chances so it was a pity we didn't score a third," Roma coach Rudi Garcia said. "We're very ambitious but we need to win games, that's why we're a bit disappointed here. We have to do everything to win the last match before the break, in front of our fans. It would be great to close the year with more than 40 points, it would mean we have had a great first half of the season. A team that hasn't lost in 16 matches has a lot of quality."
There was good news for Roma as talismanic captain Francesco Totti made his long-awaited return after more than two months out with a hamstring injury. The forward replaced Destro in the 64th minute.
Milan's injury woes grew. Already without Stephan El Shaarawy, Valter Birsa, Ignazio Abate, Robinho, Kevin Constant, Matias Silvestre and Marco Amelia before kickoff, goalkeeper Cristian Abbiati and Emanuelson had to be replaced during the match.
Milan was celebrating its 114th birthday and before the match the Curva Sud unfurled a banner honouring its founder Herbert Kilpin.
Allegri's side was the only Italian team to make it through to the knockout stage of the Champions League but was languishing in mid-table after just one win in its past seven matches.
Roma had topped the table for most of the start of the season but had only recently got back to winning ways, with a 2-1 victory over Fiorentina snapping a run of four successive draws.
The visitors took the lead when Strootman rolled the ball across the area for Destro to slide in and fire home. The forward had scored last week on his comeback from several months out with injury.
Roma almost gifted Milan the equalizer following a poor clearance from Napoli goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis, who was surprised by a back pass from Dodo. Emanuelson mazed his way into the area but his angled drive was deflected over the bar.
However, Muntari nodded the resulting corner on to Zapata, who headed it down and in over the line.
Roma thought it had restored its advantage moments later but Daniele Bonera made a goalline clearance to deny Michael Bradley, with the ball millimeters from going over.
Gabriel replaced Abbiati at the break and gave away a penalty seven minutes later when he came rushing out and scythed down Gervinho. Strootman stepped up and fired into the bottom right corner.
Milan was back on level terms when Balotelli controlled the ball well under pressure and managed to pass to Muntari, who slotted it into the bottom near corner.
Both sides had chances to win the match in stoppage time with Balotelli firing wide after doing well to dummy Daniele De Rossi and create space for himself. Gervinho also missed the target with the last kick of the match.
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