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Cassano keeps Roma hopes alive

Published: Tuesday 11 March 2003, 22.50CET
Arsenal FC 1-1 AS Roma Roma shrug off Francesco Totti dismissal to maintain hope of progress.
Published: Tuesday 11 March 2003, 22.50CET

Cassano keeps Roma hopes alive

Arsenal FC 1-1 AS Roma Roma shrug off Francesco Totti dismissal to maintain hope of progress.

By Trevor Haylett

AS Roma shrugged off the loss of Francesco Totti, who was red-carded after 21 minutes of their UEFA Champions League match with Arsenal FC, to gain a valuable 1-1 draw at Highbury that keeps their hopes of a quarter-final place alive.

Enthralling struggle
It was an enthralling struggle which appeared to be going the way of the English champions when Patrick Vieira scored with an early header. How well the ten men fought, however, and Antonio Cassano brought them back into the match with an equaliser in first-half stoppage time.

Campbell missed out
Arsenal had injury concerns over three of their first-choice team but in the event both Thierry Henry and Martin Keown were passed fit and only Sol Campbell missed out following his achilles problem. The Gunners supporters were relieved to find Henry's name on the team sheet, Roma's less so. The Frenchman's hat-trick in Rome brought the first of three consecutive defeats for Fabio Capello's side in Group B before a surprise victory at Valencia CF had revived their optimism.

Positive start
Capello had said they were thinking only of victory here and his team certainly began in an offensive frame of mind as Cafu immediately began to stretch Arsenal down the right and Totti saw a half-chance from a corner come and go.

Free header
Immediately Arsenal sprung a counterattack from which Sylvain Wiltord directed a deep cross from Gilberto into the ground, Ivan Pelizzoli pushing it over the top. From the corner Gilberto headed too high. Gilberto had found far too much space for Roman comfort on that occasion and Vieira's 12th-minute goal showed that the lesson had gone unheeded because he too was able to peel off and spear home his header while unmarked.

Totti sent off
The corner which Giovanni van Bronckhorst swung in was also an error from the away side, needlessly conceded by Damiano Tommasi. Vincent Candela robbed Dennis Bergkamp as the Dutchman prepared to shoot and then another free Vieira header was clawed away by the young goalkeeper. Roma were on the rack and their hopes were about to dip further when Totti was shown the red card in the 22nd minute for what appeared to be a hand in the face of Martin Keown as the two went to dispute a high ball.

Cassano equaliser
Robert Pires put a header into an empty net but was ruled offside while Pelizzoli saved low down from Wiltord and then saw Bergkamp aim wide of the far post. Roma would have been happy to have reached the break without conceding again but in stoppage time Cassano put them back on level terms when he met Emerson’s long ball fractionally ahead of David Seaman and scored comfortably.

Close calls
Clearly stung, Arsenal poured forward in the second half and Wiltord was denied when he shot towards Pelizzoli’s near post. Arsenal's slick, incisive football saw them come close on three occasions in quick succession around the 55th-minute mark. Each time they shot too high – Wiltord beginning the misfiring followed swiftly by Pires and Henry.

Montella miss
Gilberto sent a raking drive perilously close but in the final ten minutes it was Roma who should have emerged victorious but substitute Vincenzo Montella headed over with only Seaman to beat

Last updated: 12/03/03 11.12CET

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