Roma snatches draw vs. Atalanta

Kevin Strootman leveled in the final minute to rescue Roma’s unbeaten record as the capital side snatched a 1-1 draw at Atalanta in the Italian league on Sunday.

There was better news for AC Milan as a Mario Balotelli free kick helped it beat Catania 3-1 for its first win in six league matches, while a last-minute equalizer saw Sampdoria earn a 1-1 draw at Inter Milan, in front of new Nerazzurri President Erick Thohir.

Davide Brivio’s free kick seemed enough to inflict a first defeat on Roma, but Strootman pounced at the death.

Roma moved level with Juventus, which hosts Udinese later, and six above Napoli, which visits Lazio on Monday.

Elsewhere, Cagliari came back from two goals down to draw 2-2 against Sassuolo and Chievo Verona beat Livorno 3-0.

Roma was keen to get back to winning ways after three successive draws had seen it lose top spot to Juventus. Security was reinforced after the strong rivalry between the two clubs was exacerbated by the recent tank prank when midfielder Guilio Migliaccio was onboard a tank that drove over two cars decorated in the colors of Brescia and Roma at the supporters’ annual preseason festival. Local fans held up cardboard cutouts of tanks.

Atalanta almost took the lead in the 28th minute when Maxi Moralez’s free kick was deflected to Franco Brienza, whose shot crashed off the base of the left post.

The home side did go in front six minutes into the second half when Brivio sent a free kick under the wall and into the bottom right corner, although Roma goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis was somewhat at fault as he misjudged the ball.

United States forward Michael Bradley though he had leveled in the 76th minute but his header was harshly ruled out for offside.

Atalanta goalkeeper Andrea Consigli pulled off a number of saves, most notably a spectacular stop to keep out Alessandro Florenzi’s header from point-blank range.

However, he could do nothing when Adem Ljajic crossed for Strootman to tap in from six yards.

There was also a last-gasp leveler at San Siro, where Thohir was watching his first match since being elected president last month. Inter captain Javier Zanetti made his first start since snapping his Achilles tendon in April.

Inter took the lead in the 18th minute when Ricardo Alvarez mazed his way through on the left of the area before rolling across for Fredy Guarin to lash in under the bar.

Guarin almost doubled his tally seven minutes after halftime but his effort crashed off the post. Shortly afterwards Sampdoria striker Nicola Pozzi’s effort was ruled out for offside.

Substitute Renan leveled in the final minute, with a powerful shot from distance, just three minutes after coming off the bench.

In the lunchtime kickoff, Milan dominated possession but it was Catania that took the lead in the 13th minute against the run of play as poor defending eventually saw Lucas Castro’s effort deflected over stand-in goalkeeper Gabriel.

The visitors leveled six minutes later when Riccardo Montolivo volleyed Urby Emanuelson’s cross into the back of the net.

Balotelli had gone six matches in all competitions without a goal before Tuesday’s 3-0 win at Celtic, but he was involved in most Milan moves and fired his side in front shortly after the hour mark with a low free kick.

Moments later Catania were down to 10 men when Panagiotis Tachtsidis was harshly shown a straight red for a challenge on Balotelli.

Kaka sealed the match nine minutes from time, bursting into the box and firing into the roof of the net from a tight angle to score for the third successive match. It was his 99th Milan goal.

Milan moved provisionally level with eighth-placed Lazio. Catania remains at the bottom of the league.

There was another positive for Milan as Stephan El Shaarawy made his return from injury, coming on in the 74th minute for his first appearance in three months.

Balotelli was replaced seven minutes from time after getting into a heated argument with Catania defender Nicolas Spolli, who he accused of racism.

Elsewhere, Sassuolo seemed to be heading for victory after Lino Marzorati’s header and Simone Zaza’s fifth goal of the season. But goals from Nene and Marco Sau saw the Sardinians earn a draw.

Chievo continued its revival under new coach Eugenio Corini as goals from Luca Rigoni, Cyril Thereau and Alberto Paloschi helped it to its second win on the trot.