Sunday 21 May 2017

Roma Keep Juve Waiting


Mohamed Salah and Stephan El Shaarawy fired a double apiece and Edin Dzeko struck late as Roma put Juventus’s title celebrations on hold with a 5-3 win at Chievo on Saturday.

Roma travelled to Verona knowing defeat, coupled with a Napoli draw against Fiorentina, could hand Juventus a record sixth consecutive title before the Turin giants host relegation-haunted Crotone on Sunday.

But with Napoli also going on to win later Saturday with a 4-1 home triumph over Fiorentina, to remain only one point further adrift in the race for Serie A’s second automatic Champions League qualifying spot, Luciano Spalletti’s Roma were in no mood for capitulating early.

The capital club’s 27th win of the season kept them in second place but, a week after stunning Juve 3-1 at the Stadio Olimpico, they closed the gap on Juventus to one point.

However, a Juventus win at home against Crotone, who are third from bottom and one point from safety, will see the treble-chasing champions win the scudetto and secure a record third consecutive league and Cup double.

Massimiliano Allegri’s men—who face Real Madrid in the June 3 Champions League final in Cardiff—outplayed Lazio 2-0 in midweek on their way to a record third consecutive Italian Cup.

And Spalletti, conceding the title, said in comments to Sky Sport: “I’ve always said that Juventus will win the title because they’ve deserved to, and because they merit the points they have. It’s all down to Allegri, to whom I doff my cap.”

Roma will finish the season empty-handed by comparison, but finishing second and enjoying a better Champions League campaign than their doomed one this season remains a priority.

Chievo took a 15th-minute lead through Lucas Castro’s low volley past Roma goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny from 10 yards.

Chievo saw Valter Birsa fire an angled shot just wide moments later, but Roma levelled on 28 minutes when El Shaarawy sprang the offside trap to pounce on a Federico Fazio knockdown in midfield and roll into an empty net from the edge of the area.

Roma’s defence proved just as vulnerable, the visitors left shaking their heads when Roberto Inglese was allowed to run in unmarked to meet Birsa’s cross and nod past Szczesny on 37 minutes.

Salah spurned a chance for a quick leveller when he nodded straight at Stefano Sorrentino from point-blank range, but the Egyptian made quick amends with a left-footed curler that took a deflection before wrong-footing Sorrentino on 42 minutes.

El Shaarawy’s second was a delight, the forward running on to a superb, 30-yard cross into space by Strootman that bamboozled the Chievo defence.

The ex-AC Milan striker was given plenty of room to control and turn before firing past Sorrentino at his far post.

Yet, gaping holes in the Roma defence meant a change of strategy for Spalletti.

Despite nursing a calf strain, Belgium midfielder Radja Nainggolan replaced El Shaarawy for the last 20 minutes and soon set up Dzeko for a strike from the left side of the area that Sorrentino pushed to safety.

Roma were regaining momentum, and when Dzeko collected Daniele De Rossi’s smart dink outside the area, the Bosnian found the overlapping Salah to his left for a left-foot strike that beat Sorrentino at his near post.

The Egyptian now has a career best 15 league goals for the first time in a league season.

Spalletti introduced club icon Francesco Totti for Dzeko for the final five minutes, only for Chievo to reduce the arrears seconds later when Inglese sneaked in at the far post to grab his second.

In Naples, Senegalese defender Kalidou Koulibaly gave Napoli a fourth-minute lead with Lorenzo Insigne left unmarked to make it 2-0 after 35 minutes.

Dries Mertens added two second-half strikes to take his season’s tally to 27 and Napoli’s goal haul to 90 in Serie A as beaten Fiorentina stayed in seventh place and in danger of missing out on the Europa League.



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