STADIO OLIMPICO (Rome): AS Roma kicked off their fiendish run of festive fixtures with a 2-0 victory over nine-man Napoli as Lorenzo Pellegrini and Romelu Lukaku scored inside the final quarter-hour on a miserable night for the champions.
Matteo Politano and Victor Osimhen were sent off for the visitors either side of Pellegrini‘s emphatic finish, and Lukaku wrapped up a crucial three points with the final kick of the game.
The result saw Roma leapfrog the Partenopei in the Serie A table into sixth place and give them a rare but confidence-boosting victory in a big game ahead of a run that will see them face Juventus and AC Milan away either side of the visit of Atalanta.
Edoardo Bove had the only two big chances of the first half, dipping a shot onto the top of the bar from the edge of the box before Alex Meret spread himself brilliantly to deny the midfielder from five yards after some excellent work from Andrea Belotti to set up the chance with a cut-back.
The opening 45 minutes was otherwise characterised by a lack of attacking endeavour and a flurry of yellow cards, with referee Andrea Colombo going on a remarkable 10-minute spree where he booked three Roma players, one Napoli player and both coaches.
Half-chances remained the name of the game as the second half got underway, although Napoli looked to be rediscovering a bit more fluidity to their game following a stuttering start.
But their chances of taking three points home from the Eternal City were dealt a huge blow in the 66th minute when Politano kicked out at Nicola Zalewski for tugging on his shirt, deemed enough for a straight red by the card-happy Colombo.
Mourinho acted quickly, rolling on the changes for the final 20 minutes and one of them, skipper Pellegrini, required just five minutes of game time to make the difference.
The goal came with a pinch of good fortune, as fellow replacement Stephan El Shaarawy‘s miscued shot cannoned off the ground and bounced up in Pellegrini‘s path, and the midfielder finished superbly by swivelling and volleying into the far corner.
Lukaku had a good chance to put the game to bed when he was played through one-on-one with Meret and tried to outsmart the keeper with a chip, but the Napoli man was alert to it and palmed the ball clear for a corner.
Napoli‘s night then fell apart entirely when Osimhen was shown a second yellow, a decision that left him furiously accusing El Shaarawy of diving and approaching the Roma bench in anger.
There was still just one goal in it, though, and Napoli gamely tried to win it in stoppage time by pushing upfield, only to leave themselves exposed to a counter that ended with Lukaku having plenty of time and space to control and finish.