Dzeko’s goals pace Roma into top chal­lenger spot in Italy’s Serie A

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

With Edin Dzeko im­prov­ing match by match and Arka­diusz Mi­lik down and out, Roma has over­taken Napoli as the top chal­lenger to Ju­ven­tus in Serie A.

Dzeko scored twice in Roma’s 3-1 win at Napoli over the week­end, giv­ing him a league-best seven goals in eight league ap­pear­ances this season - just one less than he scored in 31 ap­pear­ances in his first season with Roma.

Ini­tially a dis­ap­point­ment af­ter trans­fer­ring from Manch­ester City in Au­gust 2015, Dzeko is now dis­play­ing the same ruth­less­ness in front of goal as in his best sea­sons in the Premier League.

Still, Roma coach Lu­ciano Spal­letti is not sat­is­fied.

“Edin is an ex­cep­tional player but con­sid­er­ing the skills that he has he’s still not fully tak­ing ad­van­tage of them,” Spal­letti said.

The win moved Roma into se­cond place, five points be­hind five-time de­fend­ing cham­pion Ju­ven­tus.

“It’s too early to say, even though it’s ev­i­dent that if we play these matches like this we can at­tempt to be the anti-Juve,” Spal­letti said.

Napoli, mean­while, needs to find a bet­ter so­lu­tion with Mi­lik out for six months af­ter tear­ing a lig­a­ment on in­ter­na­tional duty. The Poland striker had a great start to the season and re­place­ment Manolo Gab­bia­dini looked lack­lus­ter at cen­ter for­ward against Roma.

Gab­bia­dini was booed by the crowd at the San Paolo Sta­dium af­ter get­ting re­placed by Dries Mertens early in the se­cond half.

The en­er­getic Mertens was one of the few bright spots for Napoli and looks to have earned a spot in the lineup against Be­sik­tas in the Cham­pi­ons League tomorrow.

Mean­while, 40-year-old Roma cap­tain Francesco Totti should play in a Europa League match against Aus­tria Vi­enna on Thurs­day af­ter be­ing left on the bench for two straight games.

Here are a few other things learned over the week­end in Ital­ian soc­cer:

JUVE’S LUX­U­RIES:

That Ju­ven­tus can still win with an er­ror by Gianluigi Buf­fon and Gon­zalo Higuain on the bench has to be wor­ri­some to its ri­vals.

Buf­fon gifted an early goal to Udi­nese but Paulo Dy­bala re­sponded with two scores in a 2-1 win over Udi­nese that saw Higuain stay on the bench un­til mid­way through the se­cond half af­ter all of the goals had been scored.

The Bian­coneri visit Lyon in the Cham­pi­ons League tomorrow.

MI­LAN’S YOUTH MOVE­MENT:

AC Mi­lan has con­sis­tently fea­tured the youngest team in Serie A and two teenagers were in the start­ing lineup in a 3-1 win at Chievo Verona that moved the Ros­soneri up to third place, level on points with Roma.

Sev­en­teen-year-old Gianluigi Don­narumma has been a fix­ture in goal for Mi­lan and 18-year-old mid­fielder Manuel Lo­catelli has taken on ex­tra re­spon­si­bil­i­ties since cap­tain Ric­cardo Mon­to­livo was side­lined for six months with an­other in­jury.

With Sil­vio Ber­lus­coni in ne­go­ti­a­tions to sell a ma­jor­ity stake in the club to Chi­nese in­vestors, Mi­lan is aim­ing to re­turn to Euro­pean com­pe­ti­tion af­ter a three­year ab­sence.

“We’re start­ing to smell it,” Mi­lan coach Vin­cenzo Mon­tella said.

Up next for Mi­lan, which is on a five-match un­beaten run and won four of five, is a home game against Ju­ven­tus on Sat­ur­day.

The last time Mi­lan col­lected 16 or more points over its first eight matches was in 2010-11, when the Ros­soneri won their last ti­tle.

CRAZY GOALS:

With 10 goals in six matches, former Italy for­ward Gi­ampaolo Pazz­ini has helped Hel­las Verona to the top of Serie B and is on pace to break Luca Toni’s mod­ern-day scor­ing record for the se­cond di­vi­sion.

Pazz­ini, nick­named “il Pazzo” the crazy one - scored twice in a 41 win at As­coli on Sat­ur­day.

Toni scored 30 goals with Palermo in 2003-04 and paired with Pazz­ini at Verona un­til he retired at the end of last season. Toni is now a mem­ber of Verona’s staff.

Roma’s Edin Dzeko, left, cel­e­brates with team­mates Le­an­dro Pare­des, cen­tre, and Radja Naing­golan af­ter scor­ing against Napoli Photo: AP

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