MILAN: Edin Dzeko struck his 19th Serie A goal and Francesco Totti came off the bench with an assist as Roma kept their ‘scudetto’ hopes alive with a 4-1 win over Torino on Sunday (Monday in Manila).
Roma’s 18th win of the campaign saw Luciano Spalletti’s men leapfrog Napoli, 3-1 winners at Chievo, and return to second spot to sit seven points behind leaders Juventus.
Napoli, nine points behind Juventus, are six points ahead of both Inter Milan and Atalanta with Lazio and AC Milan boosting their European hopes with wins over Empoli and Fiorentina respectively.
“We were great tonight,” Spalletti told Premium Sport. “After our win at Villarreal we risked struggling to get into this game, but instead we showed our true qualities.”
Fresh from hitting his second successive Europa League hat-trick in Roma’s 4-0 romp at Villarreal, Dzeko got Roma off the mark on 10 minutes after collecting Radja Nainggolan’s pass to coolly beat Hart at his far post from the edge of the area.
With 19 goals in 25 games, Dzeko is tied with Gonzalo Higuain at the top of the scoring charts after the Argentina striker struck once in Juventus’s 4-1 win over Palermo on Friday.
A former teammate of Dzeko’s at Manchester City, Hart was in for a busy night in the Torino goal.
A Nainggolan volley was straight at Hart but he was powerless against Mohamed Salah’s superb volley from Dzeko’s failed attempt to control in the area.
Salah hit the far upright and Dzeko fired just over after the restart.
Torino fought back, Sasa Lukic’s volley coming close and Wojciech Szczesny forced to stop Marco Benassi down low.
But all thoughts of a comeback were ended by Leandro Paredes’s stunning long-distance volley that sneaked inside Hart’s near post.
Running up stairs
Totti was applauded when he replaced Kevin Strootman on 82 minutes, prompting a tactical change by Spalletti.
It was enough for Maxi Lopez, sidelined by coach Sinisa Mihajlovic for several weeks for being overweight, to fire an angled drive past Szczesny into the far bottom corner for a late consolation.
But when 40-year-old club captain Totti controlled a high ball in the area to lay off for Nainggolan, the Belgian unleashed a powerful curling drive that gave Hart no chance.
Spalletti added: “We need more leaders like Totti in this squad.”
Marek Hamsik moved to within three strikes of Diego Maradona’s Napoli record of 115 goals in a 3-1 win at Chievo, while veteran Zdenek Zeman steered Pescara to a first win since August in a 5-0 rout of Genoa.
The Slovakia midfielder’s 112th was an easy tap-in seven minutes before half-time.
Pescara, meanwhile, will now harbor hopes of escaping the drop after Zeman, who replaced sacked Massimo Oddo in midweek, led the league strugglers to their first win in six months.
Zeman, however, said the task will be difficult and the players he inherited are unfit.
“I’ve only laid some basic foundations, but from tomorrow (Monday) we start working seriously, also with (running up) the stairs. They’re not in great condition,” said the chain-smoking Czech.