AS Roma scraped their way through to Friday's draw for the UEFA Champions League's second group stage after a nail-biting 1-1 draw with AEK Athens FC at the Stadio Olimpico.
A first-half header from Marco Delvecchio put Roma in the driving seat, but Walter Centeno equalised in the 90th minute, forcing Roma to hang on for six-and-a-half nervewracking minutes of added time.
The result means AEK, who made Champions League history by drawing all six of their Group C games, drop into the UEFA Cup despite being undefeated. Roma, who dominated the match but lacked the killer instinct infront of goal, progress to the tournament's last 16 along with group winners Real Madrid CF.
For much of the first half it seemed Roma, who had found the net just twice in their first five games, would fail to score at all. A combination of stubborn defending and a mean offside trap kept Roma's chances to a minimum.
Dionisios Chiotis was by far the busier of the two goalkeepers. The 25-year-old spilled a 13th-minute effort from Cafu and 14 minutes later narrowed the angle causing Christian Panucci, who was at the heart of everything for the home side, to clip a shot narrowly wide from eight metres out.
On 36 minutes Cafu's cross from the left presented Delvecchio with a gilt-edged chance, but despite rising to meet the swerving ball, the striker flicked a header wide of the far post. Four minutes later Chiotis made a stunning parried save from Panucci's vicious effort but when Georgos Georgatos made a mess of his clearance, Panucci nodded the ball forward for Delvecchio, whose looping header gave Roma a well-deserved lead.
Roma played a more guarded game after half-time, breaking forward sporadically and allowing AEK to take possession in their own half. But on one surge forward eight minutes into the second period, Cafu's clever chip played in Delvecchio and, as the striker tried to lob the onrushing Chiotis, the AEK goalkeeper appeared to block the ball with his arm outside his area, but the referee waved play on.
Five minutes later Delvecchio's trickery on the left fed Vincenzo Montella, who sprinted into the area and drew a wonderful save from Chiotis with an angled, left-footed drive. The ball dropped to to Antonio Cassano, unmarked six metres from goal, but he completely failed to connect despite having the goal at his mercy.
Midway through the half Vassilios Tsartas sent a rising drive over the bar from 22 metres as AEK signalled their goalscoring intentions and at the other end Montella missed a wonderful goalscoring opportunity. Cafu's chipped pass fell to the striker, who brought the ball down but waited too long and failed to beat Chiotis with his shot.
As the clock ran down it seemed Roma had done enough to top the group but when Tsartas swung in a swerving free-kick at the death, Centeno stuck out a leg to prod the ball past the helpless Francesco Antonioli and salvage some pride for the tireless Greek side.
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