City failed to build on Sergio Aguero giving them the lead with a fourth-minute penalty, and veteran Francesco Totti’s record-breaking equaliser midway through the first half earned the visitors a deserved point.
Determined to bounce back from their opening week defeat to Bayern Munich, City were rewarded for their enterprising start when Aguero was hauled down by Maicon as he looked to get on the end of David Silva’s neat clip into the box.
Aguero sent Lucasz Skorupski the wrong way, but Maicon almost atoned just a minute later when he raced onto an insightful lofted pass from Totti and thundered a volley against the bar with Joe Hart grasping at thin air.
Maicon’s effort seemed to rattle City’s resolve as well as the goalframe, and the home side struggled to maintain possession as the game developed into a stuttering midfield scrap, with chances at a premium.
But it was the visitors who broke the shackles in the 23rd minute as Radja Nainggolan flicked on Maicon’s pass and Totti timed his run to perfection before lofting a delightful finish over the onrushing Hart to become the oldest goalscorer in Champions League history at the age of 38.
City produced an encouraging response with Yaya Toure having a decent shot deflected wide, and the home side had another penalty appeal waved away when Kostas Manolas slid in to intercept a low cross from Jesus Navas and appeared to handle with his trailing arm.
Vincent Kompany blazed over from the edge of the box, and Gervinho forced a smart near-post save from Hart as the half drew to a close, and the City goalkeeper pulled off another fine save soon after the interval to deny Miralem Pjanic, after great link-up play with Totti.
Pjanic saw a further effort drift narrowly wide and a well-struck 20-yarder fizz over the bar, while substitute James Milner’s low shot missed the target at the other. Fellow sub Frank Lampard almost made an instant impact when his deflected piledriver was beaten to safety by Skorupski.
Lampard was again thwarted by the Roma keeper from Gael Clichy’s corner, and Silva hammered wide of the post as City looked to forced a winner with the visitors content to soak up the pressure over the final 10 minutes.
Stevan Jovetic looked a genuine threat after he was introduced with six minutes remaining, and he was inches away from getting his outstretched boot to Silva’s cross before Pablo Zabaleta’s low delivery was turned behind with Silva poised to strike.
Jovetic smashed the final chance of the game high and wide and City had to settle for their first point in their Group E campaign, with a trip to CSKA Moscow next up on October 21.