| Roma captain Francesco Totti jumps over Lazio goalkeeper Luca Marchegiani at Rome’s Olympic Stadium Wednesday
Rome: AS Roma kept their stuttering season alive by clinching a place in the Italian Cup final Wednesday at the expense of city rivals Lazio.
A goal from second-half substitute Vincenzo Montella gave Roma a 1-0 semi-final, second leg victory at the Olympic Stadium and a 3-1 aggregate win.
Knocked out in the second phase of the Champions League and languishing mid-table in Serie A, Roma will meet AC Milan in a two-legged final, which rewards the winner with a place in next season’s Uefa Cup.
Lazio, lying fourth in Serie A, had the majority of chances but failed to convert any of them as the Roma defence held firm.
Lazio, beaten 1-4 by Porto in the first-leg of their Uefa cup semi-final last week, still may outshine their neighbours by qualifying for next season’s Champions League.
Roma coach Fabio Capello acknowledged the fact that should Milan finish in the top four, which they look set to do, Roma would automatically qualify for the Uefa Cup, as their Cup final opponents would make the Champions League.
“This victory has opened the door to Europe,” he said. “It was an important win for us as we can salvage something from the season.”
Lazio coach Roberto Mancini said he was unhappy not to make the final, but admitted he had more important things on his mind.
“We got to this stage of the competition and obviously wanted to win, but we still have two important objectives,” he said.
“Although our task is difficult, we are still in the Uefa Cup and are hopeful of finishing in the top four and qualify for the Champions League.”
Roma were without Brazilian wing-back Cafu and striker Marco Delvecchio who were both suffering from thigh injuries, while Greek defender Traianos Dellas was suspended.
Frenchman Vincent Candela switched over from his normal left-wing position to replace Cafu and Antonio Cassano filled in for Delvecchio.
Bernardo Corradi returned from injury to play alongside Claudio Lopez in Lazio’s attack.
Lazio enjoyed the better of a first-half littered with mistakes and niggly fouls, while Roma failed to register a single shot on target.
Ivan Pelizzoli almost gifted Lazio an early goal when he dropped Sinisa Mihajlovic’s inswinging corner, but the Roma goalkeeper redeemed himself by gathering the ball at the second attempt.
The best chance of the first 45 minutes fell to Lopez in the 24th minute.
Pelizzoli misjudged the bounce from a high ball, handing possession to Lopez who shot towards goal only to strike the outside of the post.
A sometimes fractious first-half ended with Paolo Negro being cautioned for a late foul on Roma captain Francesco Totti.
Lazio kept up the pressure at the start of the second-half and only a superb reflex save by Pelizzoli low to his right kept out Corradi’s drive.
Roma eventually took the lead against the run of play in the 56th minute after Damiano Tomassi had been denied by a brave block by Lazio goalkeeper Luca Marchegiani.
Candela’s teasing left-wing cross was dropped by Marchegiani at the feet of Montella, who rammed the ball home from a yard out. After substitute Diego Simeone was cautioned for hauling back Montella, Pelizzoli, who looked nervous throughout, almost gifted Lazio an equaliser when he made a hash of Negro’s 25-yard shot.
As Lazio desperately poured forward Enrico Chiesa came close when his delicate chip sailed over Pelizzoli before Dejan Stankovic had a goal ruled out for offside.
Yesterday, AC Milan booked their place in the final after edging Perugia 2-1 at the San Siro Stadium in Milan.
Jon Dahl Tomasson broke the deadlock with a close range effort four minutes from half-time, before Alessandro Nesta scored his first goal for the club with a firm header seven minutes after the break.
The visitors rallied in the closing stages and pulled a goal back in the 83rd minute thanks to second-half substitute Andrea Caracciolo’s volley.
Seeking a place in the final for the first time, Perugia pressed for the equaliser that would have taken them through on the away goals rule, but milan survived several scares to hold on.
Milan, four-time winners of the trophy, went through to the final 2-1 on aggregate, having drawn the first leg in Umbria 0-0.