A sensational late show from the Uruguayan striker makes life for coach Vincenzo Montella difficult, after seeing his side crash to a hugely disappointing defeat late on
Roma's hopes of featuring among Europe's elite next season suffered a huge blow after a 3-2 defeat saw Abel Hernandez score two late goals to earn Delio Rossi his first win in his second spell as Palermo coach.
Francesco Totti and Mauricio Pinilla ensured the match was tied for the majority of the game with two first-half penalties, whilst Mirko Vucinic scored a late goal.
Inside the first five minutes, the home side produced a fantastic chance to take the lead. An audacious free-kick from Totti on the edge of the box tricked the Palermo defence, after he accurately drove the ball to John Arne Riise outside the area, and the Norwegian full-back unleashed a stinging volley at Salvatore Sirigu, who could only parry the ball in front of a melee of players. The rebounded effort from Jeremy Menez wasn’t to prove decisive.
Sirigu made another important intervention just six minutes later, after Menez again was involved in another Roma chance. His powerful close-range shot required the impressive Rosanero keeper to be on his toes. Palermo almost capitalised from the following counter-attack, but Abel Hernandez’s shot was blocked in last-gasp fashion.
The Lupi’s early dominance was repaid with a penalty on the 20th minute, after Menez was taken down cynically by Armin Bacinovic when trying to latch onto a visionary Totti chip pass.
Totti then continued his emphatic run of goalscoring form with a superbly driven spotkick into the bottom left corner, with Sirigu diving the opposite way for 1-0. The goal was his 205th league goal, meaning he is now level with Roberto Baggio in fifth place on the all-time Serie A top goalscorers chart.
Only a couple of minutes later, the much in-demand Javier Pastore had an opportunity of his own to grab an equaliser after being found in the area, but his volleyed shot hit the side-netting. Uruguayan Hernandez had the next noteworthy chance with an explosive snapshot at goal, but his effort went just over.
However, in controversial circumstances, Palermo were awarded a penalty of their own after 42 minutes, as Nicolas Burdisso was adjudged to have pushed Mauricio Pinilla while the ex-Grosseto man attempted an overhead kick at goal. The Chilean hitman dispatched his spotkick with great aplomb to ensure his side went into the half-time interval level on terms.
Roma started the second half in explosive fashion once again, with De Rossi crashing a long-range shot, but the midfielder could only manage to hit the supporting posts behind the goal. A minute later and it was Menez who was found on the shoulder of the defence, but after beating the offside trap, his finish was poor and missed the target.
Vincenzo Montella's men had an incredible opportunity to regain the lead through substitute Mirko Vucinic after the hour-mark. Menez broke off the Rosanero defensive line and, in masses of space, he fed the Montenegrin striker with just a simple tap-in to an open goal, but he blazed his effort over, much to Rosella Sensi’s shock and horror.
The Lupi also threw on Marco Borriello to try and salvage a winner in the last 20 minutes, and his introduction emphasised the team’s attacking mentality. Palermo seemed happy enough to contain the Roman pressure, but also had chances through the likes of Pinilla and Afriyie Acquah.
However, Hernandez handed Palermo the lead late on in the 84th minute, after Simone Loria's inept defending allowed the visitors to capitalise on a failed offside trap, and the Uruguayan scored his teams' 49th goal of the season.
Hernandez scored once more just six minutes later to make it 3-1 through a fine finish with Doni inspiring little confidence for Roma with his goalkeeping.
Incredibly, just a minute later, Vucinic made it 3-2 with a fantastic strike, but it wasn't enough to salvage a point.
Delio Rossi will be basking in his side's success after tasting victory for the first time back. For Montella however, his side remain outside the top four in the Serie A standings and could fall seven points behind fourth-placed Lazio, who take on Catania on Sunday afternoon.