Juve marches on as Totti sets Roma hearts racing

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Juventus’ forward Paulo Dybala from Argentina (center) fights for the ball with Lazio’s midfielder Marco Parolo during the Italian Serie A football match Juventus Vs Lazio on Thursday at the “Juventus Stadium” in Turin.  AFP PHOTO

Juventus’ forward Paulo Dybala from Argentina (center) fights for the ball with Lazio’s midfielder Marco Parolo during the Italian Serie A football match Juventus Vs Lazio on Thursday at the “Juventus Stadium” in Turin. AFP PHOTO

MILAN: A Paulo Dybala brace kept Juventus’s title push on track but Francesco Totti stole the show in Serie A with two goals in a 3-2 win over Torino that moved Roma closer to Champions League qualification on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila).

Juve’s closest rivals Napoli had fired a warning shot after putting six unanswered goals, including a hat-trick from Belgium midfielder Dries Mertens, past Bologna on Tuesday.

But the Turin giants were not to be fazed as they continued their bid to emulate their 1935 feat of winning five consecutive titles by beating Lazio 3-0.

Juventus will win the title if they beat Fiorentina on Sunday and Napoli lose at Roma a day later.


But coach Massimiliano Allegri said: “We need four points so we need one win and a draw. We still have four games left, two of which are at home, but all we’re thinking of is Sunday’s game.

“We’re going to Florence and that will be complicated because there’s a big rivalry between the sides.”

After Mario Mandzukic put Juventus in front six minutes before the interval, the Croatia striker turning Paul Pogba’s pacy drive into the net, Juventus moved up a gear against Simone Inzaghi’s visitors.

Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi had warned of Juve’s “invincibility” and after the visitors lost right-back Patric for a second bookable offence against Dybala the writing was on the wall.

From the free-kick, Brazilian midfielder Hernanes forced Federico Marchetti into action but the Lazio keeper could do nothing minutes later when Dybala sent him the wrong way from the spot after Leonardo Bonucci was hauled down in the area.

Dybala completed his brace with his 16th league goal of the campaign, the Argentine collecting Sami Khedira’s ball to beat Marchetti from distance just after the hour.

Juve’s 26th win of the season maintained their nine-point lead on Napoli with four games remaining.

Like an epic film
Third-placed Roma were trailing 2-1 with four minutes remaining after Josef Martinez had added to Andrea Belotti’s first half penalty in the 80th minute for visiting Torino.

That meant Napoli looked likely to open up an eight-point gap on Luciano Spalletti’s side, but the Italian coach had other ideas.

Roma had seen several penalty claims waved away during the game and Spalletti played his final card five minutes from the end.

Totti had levelled late when he made a cameo appearance in a 3-3 draw at Atalanta on Sunday.

But the 39-year-old playmaker, in which could be his final weeks as a player at the club, went one better.

Seconds after replacing Seydou Keita, Totti slid in at the back post to meet Miralem Pjanic’s free-kick to guide the ball past Daniele Padelli on 86 minutes.

Three minutes later Roma won a controversial penalty for handball in the area, and although Padelli got a touch on Totti’s drive it was not enough.

The ageing captain was mobbed by the bench and fans were seen crying in the stands as Roma kept the pressure on to sit five points behind Napoli.

“I don’t know how to describe it, but it was like the ending of an epic film,” midfielder Alessandro Florenzi told Premium Sport.

Behind the top three, the chase for Europa League qualification got complicated.

Inter Milan, still hoping for a top-three finish, failed to find the net at Genoa where Sebastian De Maio hit a 77th-minute winner for the hosts.

Roberto Mancini’s men remain fourth but are now seven points behind Roma in the last Champions League qualifying spot.

Striker Mauro Icardi admitted: “In my opinion, we’ve got little chance of finishing third now, it will be difficult to claw back Roma.”

Fiorentina lost 2-1 at Udinese, leaving La Viola fifth but in danger of seeing their seven-point gap on AC Milan reduced to just four if the Rossoneri beat struggling Carpi on Thursday.

Elsewhere, Chievo reacted to Daniel Ciofani’s fifth-minute opener for relegation-haunted Frosinone by hitting five goals in a 5-1 thrashing, with Sergio Pellissier scoring a brace.

AFP

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