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Leagues: Serie A

Dzeko joy as Roma oust Napoli to become the ‘anti-Juve’

Milan (AFP) – Edin Dzeko was celebrating hitting his first league brace on the road as Roma stunned Napoli 3-1 in the ‘Derby del Sole’ to relaunch their Serie A title hopes Saturday.

“It’s not easy to win at Napoli and to score three goals here, we did very well,” Dzeko told Sky Sport.

“Scoring two goals is great, it’s my first brace away from home.”

Bosnia international Dzeko faced huge criticism last season when he struggled to score eight goals in 31 appearances for the Giallorossi.

But with seven goals in as many games, the former Manchester City marksman is now provisionally top of the Serie A scoring charts as Roma provisionally replaced Napoli as the biggest threat to Juve’s hopes of a record sixth consecutive scudetto.

Playing as a lone striker and receiving regular service from attacking midfielder Mohamed Salah, Dzeko broke the deadlock two minutes before half-time when he swept Salah’s delivery past ‘keeper Pepe Reina following Kalidou Koulibaly’s blunder at the byline.

Dzeko completed his brace, his first outside of Roma’s Stadio Olimpico, when he held off Elseid Hysaj at a free kick to head past Reina from the edge of the box on 54 minutes.

Although Koulibaly made amends for his earlier mistake by reducing arrears with a powerful header three minutes later, Salah’s 86th minute strike sealed the points for the visitors.

It was Napoli’s first home defeat since May 2015 and left them at risk of dropping to seven points behind leaders Juventus if the champions account for struggling Udinese in Turin later Saturday. 

“Conceding against a side like Roma that has phenomenal counter-attacking players was a game-changer for us,” Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri said.

“It was a great game that could have finished differently for us. It’s a tough period, we’ve lost our last two games.”

Roma sit two points off the pace, and although coach Luciano Spalletti was buoyed by his side’s “tactically strong” display against a side he described on Friday as “the best in Serie A”, he says Juventus will only be caught if they slip.

“To win in this manner against Napoli underlines the quality we have throughout the team,” said Spalletti.

“We’ll see if it’s enough to keep pace with Juventus, or whether they’ll keep on going as they’re doing. But we did what we had to do.”

If Roma are to maintain a title challenge, and hand club icon Francesco Totti a memorable send-off in what is likely his final season, a consistent Dzeko will be key.

But Spalletti believes the laid-back Bosnian can do more.

“He scored twice, but if you ask me he can score more if he just showed a little more fighting spirit, and was more clinical,” added Spalletti.

“In the opening half he had four or five chances to hurt Napoli. For a player with his physical and technical skills, he can do much better.”

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