Vucinic fires Roma to victory over Sporting

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ROME, Oct 24 (Reuters) AS Roma substitute Mirko Vucinic scored a splendid second-half goal to earn a 2-1 win over Group F rivals Sporting Lisbon in the Champions League.

The Montenegro forward, on for injured captain Francesco Totti, powered past Sporting's Marat Izmailov and stepped inside Tonel before firing into the far corner in the 70th minute.

Roma, who fluffed a penalty just after the break, had taken the lead in the 15th minute thanks to Brazilian defender Juan, but they surrendered it almost immediately to a Liedson goal.

The Italian side are now second in the group with six points, three behind leaders Manchester United who won 4-2 at Dynamo Kiev, while Sporting are third with three points.

''Roma were not great tonight, they were really great,'' their coach Luciano Spalletti told a news conference yesterday.

''We always knew it was going to be a difficult match because of the quality of the opponents and because of the difficult period we have been going through recently.

''So I compliment my team because they were ordered, they showed character and they had the patience to wait for the right moment (to attack)''.

JUAN OPENER Roma, who had conceded eight goals in their last two Serie A games at home, almost scored in the 13th minute with a strike by French centre back Philippe Mexes that skimmed the bar.

Two minutes later a David Pizarro corner found Juan unmarked in the area and the defender had no trouble heading past Sporting goalkeeper Tiago for the opening goal.

The visitors quickly equalised through Brazilian striker Liedson, who nodded home an inviting cross served up by right back Abel after 18 minutes.

The hosts then nearly hit back right away with a diagonal shot by Totti that went narrowly wide.

The Roma skipper had to make way for match-winner Vucinic in the 35th minute, though, with an ankle problem from an earlier clash with Liedson.

''I'm worried about Totti because he was in a lot of pain,'' said Spalletti. ''I'll wait anxiously for the result of tomorrow's tests''.

Vucinic went down in the area to earn the Italian side a penalty two minutes after the break, but Tiago saved Mancini's spot-kick with the help of the left-hand post.

The visitors continued to push forward after Vucinic's strike, although Roma keeper Doni saved their best effort, a Miguel Veloso freekick in the 90th minute.

Sporting coach Paulo Bento wasted no time in looking towards the return match in Lisbon in two weeks' time.

''That will be the decisive game. It is not impossible for us to win and go through to the next round,'' he said.

''Clearly, we know that we will face a Roma side that is technically and tactically very mature''.

REUTERS YA RAI0854

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