Milan (AFP) – Edin Dzeko struck his 19th Serie A goal and Francesco Totti came off the bench to provide an assist as Roma kept their ‘scudetto’ hopes alive with a 4-1 win over Torino on Sunday.
Roma’s 18th win of the campaign allowed Luciano Spalletti’s men to 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, AC Milan and Fiorentina all in hot pursuit.
Fresh from hitting his second successive Europa League hat-trick in a 4-0 romp at Villarreal, Dzeko’s drive to “score as many as possible” this season remains intact.
On 10 minutes the Bosnian collected Radja Nainggolan’s delivery from the left, took a touch and coolly fired beyond the outstretched hand of England ‘keeper Joe Hart 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 the ‘keeper was powerless to stop Mohamed Salah’s superb volley after he pounced following Dzeko’s failed attempt to control in the area.
Salah then outpaced Antonio Barreca only to fire off the far upright and when Dzeko controlled with his chest shortly after the restart, his follow-up was just over.
Torino fought their way back, Sasa Lukic coming close with a great volley 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 beat Hart at his near post.
– ‘Running up stairs’ –
Totti was applauded when he replaced Kevin Strootman on 82nd 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.
Totti made sure Nainggolan got on the scoresheet too, the 40-year-old club captain controlling a high ball in the area before a cool lay-off allowed the Belgian to beat Hart with a powerful curling drive.
Earlier, 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.
Slovakia midfielder Hamsik scored his maiden Serie A hat-trick in a 7-1 rout at Bologna two weeks ago. On Sunday he took his tally to 112 with an easy tap-in seven minutes before half-time.
Chievo remain 11th, well clear of a relegation zone from which Pescara will now harbour hopes of escaping 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’m happy for the lads, we have to keep thinking that we can stay up although it will be difficult,” said Zeman.
“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.
Earlier Sunday, 20-year-old Brazil international Gabriel ‘Gabigol’ Barbosa came off the bench to hit his maiden Serie A goal for Inter Milan and secure a 1-0 win at Bologna that has boosted their Europa League qualifying hopes.
“I’m really happy, for my first goal and for this important win,” said Barbosa. “I hope it’s the start of something special.”