A fine individual goal from substitute Mirko Vučinić gave AS Roma three precious points from a tight contest against Sporting Clube de Portugal at the Stadio Olimpico to leave them clear in second place in UEFA Champions League Group F after three games.
A replacement for the injured Francesco Totti, the Montenegrin's 70th-minute strike was only his fourth goal for the Giallorossi. Earlier, in an even first half, Sporting's Liedson had equalised fellow Brazilian Juan's header for the home side.
Cat and mouse
With the return match coming up in Lisbon on 7 November, it was a cautious opening on a cold night in Rome as the teams sized each other up. The first chance was not long in arriving though. From a corner, Roma's Philippe Mexes managed to muscle into a clear shooting position yet watched in horror as his fierce shot clipped the top of the crossbar. Sporting were having problems dealing with the high ball and from a 15th-minute left-wing corner, Roma's other centre-back, Juan, rose unchallenged at the near post before calmly steering his header past the advancing Tiago and into an empty net.
Mirroring Giallorossi coach Luciano Spalletti's commitment to attack, Sporting boss Paulo Bento had included two forwards in his lineup and within three minutes of Roma's opener, the Portuguese club were level. Abel got to the byline and from his right-wing centre Liedson ghosted between Roma's centre-halves to thunder a header into the far corner.
The match was suddenly stretched. Totti, who had needed treatment after a jarring block, found space in his favourite position on the corner of the box but screwed a right-footed shot wide. From a similar position at the other end, Yannick Djaló saw his goal-bound effort deflected for a corner. In a frenetic spell of all-out attack, Juan was again left unmarked from a 24th-minute corner but this time nodded over.
Off the spot
Three minutes after the restart, Roma had a glorious chance to retake the lead. Vučinić, who had come on for the injured Totti ten minutes before half-time, somehow wriggled between two defenders inside the area before being upended. Mancini telegraphed the penalty though and Tiago, only playing because regular No1 Vladimir Stojković had returned late after international duty, saved low to his right.
Marco Cassetti and Mancini had swapped wings and from the former's left-wing delivery, the Brazilian fired wastefully over as the Roman crowd vented their frustration. Then, on the hour, Marat Izmailov almost silenced them outright but the Sporting player's raking long-range drive was tipped round the post by the diving Doni.
With 20 minutes remaining, however, the stadium erupted. There was seemingly little on when Vučinić picked up possession down the left, beat one defender, cut inside another before firing high into the far corner. Sporting suddenly appeared spent. With seconds left, they mustered one last shot on goal but Miguel Veloso's free-kick was comfortably kept out by Doni. Roma had done enough.