ROME (Reuters) – AS Roma were left to rue a rejected penalty appeal after they suffered a setback to their Serie A title aspirations in a 0-0 home draw with a battling 10-man AC Milan on Saturday.
The second-placed hosts were fuming when Nigel de Jong handled the ball in the 32nd minute, swiping it away from Seydou Keita who was about to head at goal from point-blank range.
Neither Nicola Rizzoli, who took charge of this year’s World Cup final, nor his assistants saw the incident.
“The handball was blatant,” Roma boss Rudy Garcia told Sky Sport Italia.
“However, it can happen. We lacked creativity today. Milan defended extremely well with five midfielders who played very close to each other.”
Roma, three points behind leaders Juventus who beat Cagliari on Thursday and face Napoli in the Super Cup in Doha on Monday, played the last 26 minutes with an extra man after Pablo Armero was sent off after a second yellow for a handball.
However, they were unable to consistently put pressure on seventh-placed Milan, who are showing a marked improvement under Filippo Inzaghi after a dreadful season last term.
“I’m very happy,” Inzaghi told reporters.
“We come away with four points from the Napoli and Roma matches, this means that we are almost at the same level as two teams which began the season with the goal of winning the scudetto.
“We were fantastic once we were down a man. We showed a lot of heart and it’s too bad that Armero was sent off as I was starting to believe we could win this match.”
The two best chances for the home side were created by Gervinho, who was able to gain space inside the box but was twice denied by Diego Lopez.
“I was somewhat lucky both times,” the former Real Madrid goalkeeper said. “It was more a question of him kicking right at me.”
In the early game, lowly Cesena earned a well deserved 1-1 draw in the closing seconds of their match at Sassuolo. Ze Eduardo’s header from close range allowed the visitors to equalise Simone Zaza’s generously awarded penalty.
Inter Milan against Lazio is the pick of Sunday’s main programme of matches.