AS Roma finally scored their first UEFA Champions League goal of the season, Antonio Cassano getting the all-important strike to decide their Group C clash with ten-man KRC Genk at the Fenixstadion. The Belgian side played the last 78 minutes of the game one man down after goalkeeper Jan Moons was sent off.
Roma had gone 380 Champions League minutes without scoring before Cassano, a half-time substitute for Brazilian full-back Cafu, finally broke the deadlock in bizarre circumstances.
The danger looked to have been cleared when Ivorian defender Didier Zokora hooked clear a Francesco Totti through-ball aimed at Vincenzo Montella, but substitute keeper Davy Schollen had raced from his goalline, and was left stranded as Cassano calmly headed the loose ball into the goal from 22 metres.
Defeat was harsh on Genk, who had battled hard to contain Roma after the 12th-minute dismissal of Moons. Totti raced clear on to a looping through-ball and, as he got his toe to the ball, Moons clearly blocked the effort with his fists.
At that stage things looked bleak for the home side. A moment before the dismissal, Totti had floated a chip just over after Zakora had been caught in possession, and it seemed only a matter of time before Roma opened the floodgates.
But Genk dug in, and, although Roma had the best chance of the half when Gabriel Batistuta eluded the offside trap only to be denied by Schollen, it was the home side who had the bulk of early possession.
Deprived of a right-wing outlet by the decision to remove Mirsad Bešlija for Schollen, they focused their attacks down the left, where Koen Daerden was a constant threat, his crosses frequently threatening to service the aerial threat of Moumouni Dagano.
The introduction of Cassano at half-time heralded a more attack-minded Roma, as they switched to what was effectively a 4-3-3 formation, with Totti operating just behind Batistuta and the substitute drifting wide to the right.
Cassano, indeed, looked much the likeliest to create something, and he had already won a corner after a clever jink on the edge of the box when he laid on a golden chance for Batistuta just after the hour. The Argentinian, stretching, though, saw his shot deflected wide by the chest of Schollen.
Once Genk had gone behind they looked shattered, and as Roma knocked the ball around calmly, it seemed they were too exhausted even to mount an attack. Indeed Totti, who hit a hat-trick against Brescia Calcio at the weekend, almost doubled Roma's advantage as his 22-metre free-kick came back off the upright.
At the death, though, Genk almost snatched an equaliser, substitute Marco Ingrao crossing from the left for Wesley Sonck, who jinked inside Jonathan Zebina, only for the Frenchman to slide in and deflect the ball wide for a corner.
Sonck was left beating the ground in frustration, and so too were Genk, who, with just one point from their first three games have a mountain to climb if they are to qualify. Roma meanwhile, move to second in the table, a point ahead of AEK Athens FC, who drew 3-3 with Real Madrid CF.