MILAN: Francesco Totti came off the bench to hit a late winner from the spot as Roma moved to within two points of leaders Juventus after a rain-interrupted 3-2 win over Sampdoria on Sunday.
“That was the first time I’ve ever felt afraid of taking a penalty,” the 39-year-old veteran, who is in his 24th and final season at the club, told Sky Sport minutes after being mobbed by teammates under the stadium’s popular Curva Sud end.
“You just can’t afford to miss under the Curva (sud)!”
Roma looked to be heading for a difficult second half at the Stadio Olympico after Sampdoria surged to a 2-1 half-time lead when goals from Fabio Quagliarella and Luis Muriel cancelled out Mohamed Salah’s eighth minute header for the hosts.
But Roma coach Luciano Spalletti was given extra time to consider his tactical options when officials delayed the restart by over 30 minutes to render the pitch playable again following a first-half deluge of rain and hailstones.
Totti replaced Diego Perotti and Edin Dzeko came on in place of Stephan El Shaarawy for the start of the second half, and the changes made an immediate impact.
After Kevin Strootman saw his drive palmed away by Emiliano Viviano, Totti set Dzeko up for a shot that forced Viviano to parry for a corner.
Two minutes later, Totti sent Dzeko through in the box and the Bosnian shimmied around Viviano before tapping home from close range to pull the hosts level.
Roma had the momentum, but Salah glanced a header wide and only the trailing foot of Viviano stopped Dzeko’s goalbound shot from crossing the line.
Roma looked all set for a share of the spoils until Dzeko made the most of a Milan Skriniar’s challenge in the area to win a penalty that Totti cooly slotted past Viviano.
Roma are now two points behind leaders and champions Juventus, who claimed their third successive win with a 3-1 defeat of Sassuolo on Saturday.
And Spalletti, who endured a lengthy spat with Totti last season, said he’s on the lookout for a bunch of new Tottis.
“I want four or five [Francesco] Tottis in this team,” said Spalletti, who was called out by the club talisman last season over his lack of playing time.
“If I don’t play him people get annoyed at me but I want to produce another player like him.
“One great player is not enough – you need more than that. I want to find more Tottis in my team.
“I want to see some of the other players in the squad develop into players like Totti – that’s what we need.”
Napoli sit in second place, also two points behind Juve, following a 3-0 rout of Palermo on Saturday when Jose Callejon added a brace to Marek Hamsik’s 47th minute opener.
Earlier, England goalkeeper Joe Hart conceded twice on his Torino debut as Atalanta secured a 2-1 win in Bergamo.
Hart, deemed surplus to requirements by Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola, completed his move to unfashionable Torino on a season-long loan deal two weeks ago.
Torino made light of injury-enforced absences up front to take a 54th minute lead through Iago Falque.
But Atalanta only two minutes later Hart came off his line to palm a corner away with one hand, and Andrea Masiello punished the move by deftly volleying the loose ball into the net.
When Alejandro Gomez was hauled down by Lorenzo Di Silvestri inside the penalty area with only eight minutes on the clock, Ivorian striker Frank Kessie stepped up to coolly send Hart the wrong way to seal the win.
Torino coach Sinisa Mihajlovic was sent off for dissent, and tried to justify his outburst: “I protested to the referee because he didn’t whistle when (striker) Maxi Lopez suffered two fouls, while at the other end they blew the whistle immediately.”
In Sunday’s late game Inter Milan had Mauro Icardi to thank for a second-half brace that secured their first win of the season in a 2-1 defeat of new boys Pescara.