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Leagues: Serie A

Izzo own goal saves Dzeko blushes for Roma

Milan (AFP) – Edin Dzeko hit a series of blanks as Roma kept the pressure on leaders Juventus with a cagey 1-0 win at Genoa courtesy of Armando Izzo’s disastrous first-half own goal on Sunday.

Roma’s 13th win of the campaign closed the gap on Juventus to one point before the champions, who also have another game in hand due to end-of-year Italian Super Cup commitments, host Bologna in Sunday’s late game.

Napoli, 2-1 winners over Sampdoria on Saturday when Lorenzo Tonelli hit a last-gasp winner on his debut for the southerners, are third.

Lazio remain in fourth, only a point behind Napoli, after Ciro Immobile made up for Lucas Biglia’s penalty miss at the Stadio Olimpico by striking in the final minute to secure a 1-0 win over dogged Crotone.

Roma coach Luciano Spalletti refused to criticise Dzeko, telling Rai Sport: “He had a great game because he never once made it easy for the opposition defence.

“He put himself about, especially at the end of the game to make sure we got the result we wanted.”

Dzeko is only one goal behind Serie A goals leader Mauro Icardi, who has hit the net 14 times for Inter Milan in the league so far this campaign. 

But the towering Bosnian was kept on a tight leash by a Genoa side that barely six weeks ago inflicted a chastening 3-1 defeat on Juventus and when Dzeko did find clear chances, he was wasteful.

The hosts started brightly and Roma goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny had to dive to palm a curling shot by Diego Laxalt around his far post in the opening minutes.

At the other end a Dzeko snapshot forced Mattia Perin into action and as he dived to stop the follow-up from Bruno Peres the Italian goalkeeper suffered a suspected knee sprain that prompted his replacement by Eugenio Lamanna.

Roma were sorely missing Egyptian winger Mohamed Salah, who is on Africa Cup of Nations duty, but were gifted the lead in the 36th minute thanks to a double defensive blunder by Izzo.

The Italian first headed a poor clearance straight at Peres, then stuck out his shin to direct the Brazilian’s angled cross past Lamanna at the keeper’s near post.

Genoa regrouped and a free kick from the left flank had Szczesny in a flap as Roma came under pressure during a brief Genoa assault before the interval.

The hosts threatened an equaliser in the final stages, but not before Dzeko disappointed again.

He volleyed a cross from Radja Nainggolan on to the upright, hit the side-netting from Diego Perotti’s assist and then blasted over from Kevin Strootman’s delivery.

Genoa dug deep and Szczesny did well to parry Luca Rigoni’s effort from point-blank range before securing the points when he flew to fingertip a Lucas Ocampos strike out from under the bar. 

Atalanta’s stunning season continued with a 4-1 away win at Chievo where Alejandro Gomez notably hit a first-half brace to send the Bergamo side up to fifth at just seven points behind Juve.

Coach Gianpiero Gasperini later hailed a side whose players, including Franck Kessie, Andrea Conte and Roberto Gagliardini are attracting outside interest.

Scouts from both Chelsea and Sevilla were reportedly in attendance to observe Kessie and Conti on Sunday, and Gasperini confirmed Gagliardini, who sat on the bench, was on his way to Inter Milan.

“He’ll be going to Inter, but we fully intend on hanging on to our other players until June,” Gasperini told Sky Sport Italia.

AC Milan, in sixth at two points behind Atalanta with a game in hand, can leapfrog Gianpiero Gasperini’s men with a win later at home to Cagliari.

Ivan Perisic scored twice including a late winner as Inter Milan began the New Year with a 2-1 comeback win at Udinese.

Despite the hosts taking a 17th-minute lead thanks to Jakub Jankto, Perisic goals on the stroke of half- and full-time helped Inter close the gap on Juventus to nine points.

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