Totti all smiles as defiant Roma keeps Juve waiting

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MILAN: Club icon Francesco Totti applauded from the sidelines then celebrated at the whistle as Roma kept Juventus waiting for the Serie A title with a defiant 3-1 win at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday (Monday in Manila).

Treble-chasing Juventus travelled to the capital hoping to secure at least a point to mathematically ensure a record sixth consecutive scudetto with two games to spare.

But despite heading in for the half-time on equal terms after Daniele De Rossi levelled Mario Lemina’s 21st minute opener for the visitors, Juventus were stunned by a pair of second-half strikes from Stephan El Shaarawy and Radja Nainggolan.

Roma’s 26th win of the campaign moved Luciano Spalletti’s men back up to second place, only four points off the lead, to sit one point ahead of Napoli, who saw Jose Callejon hit a brace in a 5-0 rout at Torino earlier.


It kept the capital side in contention for the league’s second automatic Champions League spot and, to boot, ended Juve’s hopes of celebrating at the ground of their bitter league rivals.

“After Napoli’s win (earlier), the league standings started to worry us a little,” said Roma captain De Rossi.

“Juve started well and we went down a goal. All they needed was a draw, but we responded well.

“It was a great game, and a great night.”

Juve can wrap up the title with a win at home to relegation-haunted Crotone next week, but their fifth defeat of the campaign ended Massimiliano Allegri’s hopes of securing the scudetto before they face Lazio in the Italian Cup final on Wednesday.

“We did well in the opening half, we kept it tight in defense, but then we thought we had the game wrapped up and took our foot off the pedal,” Allegri told Mediaset.

“Hats off to Roma, but this will just make us more determined for next week, and for Wednesday.”

Allegri rested several players as the champions, who face Real Madrid in the June 3 Champions League final, target an unprecedented club treble.

Argentinian playmaker Paulo Dybala started on the bench alongside defenders Giorgio Chiellini and Dani Alves, handing a rare start to Mario Lamina.

Only days ago the Frenchman complained of his lack of playing time in Turin, but after a couple of early Juve chances he was eating his words.

Ghanaian defender Kwadwo Asamoah, too, was given a rare start and drew gasps with a ferocious left-foot drive following a corner that smashed off the upright after just seven minutes.

Gonzalo Higuain’s drive then curled over, but the visitors broke the deadlock soon after, Lemina side-footing Higuain’s generous ball past Wojciech Szczesny after controlling Stefano Sturaro’s long ball from midfield.

Roma striker Edin Dzeko’s absence due to a calf strain robbed Roma of the aerial threat usually provided by the Bosnian.

But when Kostas Manolas rose high to meet a corner with a powerful header that forced Juve ‘keeper Gianluigi Buffon to parry, the rebound fell to De Rossi, who beat the Italy ‘keeper at the second time of asking.

Roma resumed in determined fashion after the interval, De Rossi earning a quick a caution after clattering into Miralem Pjanic.

Minutes later, the Olimpico erupted — and Totti began clapping — when El Shaarawy goal collected a cross from Nainggolan, cut inside and unleashed a low, right-footed strike that took a slight deflection before squeezing inside the far post of Gianluigi Buffon’s net.

The goal took the wind out of Juve’s sails, but not as much as Roma’s third.

AFP

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