BIG GUNS IN TOP FORM

Roma, Napoli pun­ish strug­glers Palermo, Cro­tone to keep pace with Juve

New Straits Times - - Sport -

ROMA and Napoli en­joyed 3-0 wins over Serie A rel­e­ga­tion can­di­dates on Sun­day as they kept pace with lead­ers Ju­ven­tus, while In­ter Milan cap­tain Mauro Icardi and Ever Banega grabbed hat-tricks in a 7-1 rout of Ata­lanta.

Roma’s goals at Palermo were shared by Stephan El Shaarawy, Edin Dzeko and Bruno Peres, while Napoli beat Cro­tone helped by penalties from Lorenzo In­signe, af­ter 32 min­utes, and Dries Mertens in the 66th be­fore In­signe com­pleted the scor­ing.

Ju­ven­tus, who beat vis­it­ing AC Milan 2-1 on Fri­day, lead the stand­ings with 80 points as they chase a sixth suc­ces­sive ti­tle, eight ahead of Roma with Napoli a fur­ther two be­hind.

In­ter are up to fourth on 54 af­ter thrash­ing Ata­lanta, whose coach Gian Piero Gasperini was sacked by the Milan side af­ter only five games in 2011. The vis­i­tors, who have 52 points, had been ex­pected to pro­vide a stern test to their op­po­nents.

El Shaarawy side-footed home from seven me­tres to give Roma the lead in Si­cily af­ter 22 min­utes.

Al­though Palermo looked threat­en­ing, Dzeko put Roma fur­ther ahead when he chested the ball down and prod­ded it past An­drea Fulig­nati in the 75th for his 20th league goal of the sea­son.

Bruno Peres then fin­ished off a counter-at­tack with an an­gled shot to com­plete the win in stop­page time.

“We’re al­ways hop­ing that Ju­ven­tus slip up at some point, but they’re like a mov­ing tar­get – al­ways set­ting a dif­fer­ent yard­stick,” said Roma coach Lu­ciano Spal­letti.

“We’re happy with what we’re do­ing, as Napoli prob­a­bly are too.”

Fu­ri­ous Cro­tone claimed that Napoli’s sec­ond penalty, awarded for what ap­peared to be the faintest of touches on Marek Ham­sik, should not have been given and that Marko Rog should have been sent off with the score at 1-0.

Cro­tone coach Da­vide Ni­cola was left fum­ing af­ter he was sent off for protest­ing the de­ci­sion not to give a sec­ond yel­low card for Rog for foul­ing an op­po­nent.

Rog was sub­sti­tuted sec­onds later.

“Napoli were al­lowed to play with eleven men to the end, be­cause Marko Rog should have been sent off,” said Ni­cola. “The sec­ond penalty should not have been awarded and, in ad­di­tion to that, Ham­sik was off­side.”

In Milan, Icardi’s per­fect 10minute hat-trick, in­clud­ing a penalty, fol­lowed by two goals from fel­low Ar­gen­tine Banega put In­ter 5-0 ahead af­ter 35 min­utes.

Remo Freuler pulled one back but fur­ther goals from Roberto Gagliar­dini, who left Ata­lanta for In­ter in Jan­uary, and Banega com­pounded Ata­lanta’s mis­ery in the sec­ond half.

AFP PIC

Roma’s Stephan El Shaarawy (right) vies with Palermo’s Alessan­dro Gazzi in their Serie A match on Sun­day.

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