Milan (AFP) – Ciro Immobile hit a brace as Lazio thrashed Sampdoria 7-3 to cut the gap on third-placed Roma to five points in Serie A on Sunday.
A week after a 3-1 romp secured the bragging rights in the Rome derby, Lazio extended their impressive end-of-season run of form to lead 5-1 by half-time.
Simone Inzaghi’s men made sure there was little chance of a comeback from the Genoa side with Senad Lulic hitting their sixth just after the hour before Immobile completed his double 20 minutes from time.
Lazio’s 21st win of the campaign left the capital side in fourth but Roma, and a possible Champions League qualifying place, remain in sight with three games left to play.
Now 11 points ahead of sixth-placed AC Milan, Lazio are guaranteed at least Europa League football next season.
“We played great,” said Lazio left-back Jordan Lukaku. “It wasn’t easy to produce a repeat of our derby win, but every one of us put everything into this game.”
Roma, 10 points behind leaders Juventus and two behind Napoli, visit the San Siro later Sunday where they can expect to meet a fired-up AC Milan after the Rossoneri were given extra incentive in their bid to claim a Europa League place.
Milan trail fifth-placed Atalanta by six points but were buoyed after the men from Bergamo were held 1-1 by Udinese.
Vincenzo Montella’s side were probably even happier by seeing city rivals Inter stretch their winless run to seven games after succumbing 1-0 at Genoa after a 70th-minute strike by Goran Pandev.
It was Inter’s third defeat on the trot, their fifth in their past seven games and left them in seventh place, nine points behind Atalanta and with virtually no chance of qualifying for Europe.
Coach Stefano Pioli rejected suggestions he could resign, saying: “I haven’t seen anyone else before me do it, so I won’t.”
But, with four Champions League places up for grabs in Serie A as of next season, he hinted Inter were happy to avoid the Europa League to focus completely on securing a top-four finish next year.
“The important thing for us is to finish this campaign and have clear ideas with a view to next season.”
– Skriniar dismissed –
Keita Balde has been enjoying a rich vein of form, scoring twice last week in a win that ruined what was Roma icon Francesco Totti’s final derby as a player.
And the Senegal international showed no signs of letting up amid reports he is desperate to fashion a move away from the club.
After just two minutes, Balde fired Lazio in front from a difficult angle.
Lazio goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha pulled off a great double save from Milan Djuricic and Karol Linetty’s strike from the rebound, but minutes later Lazio had doubled their lead.
Balde sprinted into the area and after being hauled down by Milan Skriniar, who was sent off for the foul, Immobile stepped up to fire the spot-kick past Christian Puggioni.
Samp looked to be on their way back when Bartosz Bereszynski rolled across for Linetty, unmarked at the back post, to tap the ball past Strakosha.
But Lazio netted three in succession, Wesley Hoedt heading home a corner before Felipe Anderson beat Puggio with another penalty after being fouled by Vasco Regini.
Lazio made it five on the stroke of half-time when Dutch defender Stefan De Vrij coolly placed his shot into the bottom corner from Lucas Biglia’s cut-back.
The hosts kept the pressure on as Lulic scored their sixth on 65 minutes and Immobile then finished off a one-two with Balde to beat Puggioni from a tight angle.
It was the right decision as a defiant Samp reduced arrears with two goals from striker Fabio Quagliarella, one from the spot, in the closing minutes.
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