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Tough for Totti as Roma edge opening day win

Milan (AFP) – Italian legend Francesco Totti conceded life on the other side of the touchline was “tough” as he watched Roma win their opening Serie A match, a cagey 1-0 victory at Atalanta.

One-club man Totti’s 24-year career with Roma ended with a fairytale farewell on the final day of last season.

Barely three months on, a bronzed and suited Totti looked out of sorts as he watched the action in Bergamo with Roma sporting director Monchi, whom he is now working alongside in his role as a director at the club.

Totti, 40, said that watching his former teammates wasn’t easy.

“From the stands, watching the match is really tough,” Totti wrote on social media. “Well done lads for this first win. Forza Roma!”

Totti played 786 matches for Roma after joining as a schoolboy in 1989, scoring a club-record 307 goals, and won the 2006 World Cup with Italy.

Former Manchester City defender Aleksandar Kolarov’s clever first-half free-kick, rolled under the defensive wall, secured the points on what was Eusebio Di Francesco’s first outing as coach of the Giallorossi.

Despite coming from a player who played with Roma’s arch rivals Lazio, the goal had major ramifications for Di Francesco.

Heavily criticised after a recent 4-1 friendly defeat at home to Spanish minnows Celta Vigo, Di Francesco’s credentials — despite being a former player who won their last title in 2001 — have since been under scrutiny.

Roma were far from the well-oiled machine that pushed champions Juve close last season, but claiming three points from an Atalanta side that confidently grabbed a Europa League place was not to be sniffed at, said Di Francesco.

“I asked the lads to show me character, and they responded well at a ground where few teams won last season,” he said.

“They showed sacrifice and a will to help each other out, and as a coach you can’t ask for any more.” 

Di Francesco, though, showed some character himself when he broke a chair in a fit of anger as Atalanta pushed for a second-half leveller.

“I lost it, because our last ball control was awful and we were giving them the chance to level. And big teams shouldn’t be making these kinds of mistakes.”

Roma, who finished only four points behind Juventus last term, have secured a place in the group stages of the Champions League — a competition that is expected to fully test Di Francesco’s tactical nous.

He added: “We can do a lot better, certainly in technical terms, but I’m calm because today we were better at defending than attacking. From tomorrow, we’ll work more on attacking.”

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