Dzeko makes amends as Inter, Atalanta sight Europe
Edin Dzeko made amends for a first-half penalty miss to hit Roma’s second in a 2-0 win over Crotone that kept the capital side’s Serie A title challenge ticking over on Sunday.
Roma’s 17th win of the campaign moved Luciano Spalletti’s men back up to second spot to close the gap to four points, although Juventus can restore their seven-point lead with a win at Cagliari in Sunday’s late game.
Napoli sit third two points further off the pace following a 2-0 win over Genoa on Friday.
Elsewhere, Eder and Antonio Candreva struck one apiece in either half as Inter Milan moved up to fourth, 12 points behind Juventus, with a comfortable 2-0 win at home to Empoli.
Atalanta’s push for a place in next season’s Europa League was given a boost by a comfortable 3-1 win away to relegation-haunted Palermo.
The Bergamo side are up to fifth, on the same points as Inter, although Lazio, a further two points off the pace, will move above both Inter and Atalanta with a win at home to AC Milan on Monday.
Italy striker Andrea Belotti hit a brace for Torino in a 5-3 win over Pescara, who kept Sinisa Mihajlovic’s men on their toes till the death after Ahmad Benali built on Arlind Ajeti’s 73rd minute own goal for the hosts with a late brace.
Sassuolo’s woes continued in a mid-table battle with Chievo that saw the Flying Donkeys triumph 3-1 thanks to a Roberto Inglese brace after Alessandro Matri had broken the deadlock in Reggio Emilia with a 24th minute opener.
Dzeko, meanwhile, went from zero to hero in Crotone.
After missing his second successive penalty this season, he made amends with an 18th league goal of the campaign that gives him a one-goal lead on Belotti in the Serie A scoring charts.
Roma got off the mark on 40 minutes when Radja Nainggolan collected Mohamed Salah’s pass to beat Alex Cordaz with an angled strike.
The visitors doubled their lead shortly after the interval when Dzeko pounced on Salah’s cutback to seal the points.
He admitted afterwards: “Next time I will be telling someone else to take the penalty, but it’s not a major problem.
“The important thing is we won today.”
Spalletti was all praise for Salah on his full return from the Africa Cup of Nations, where the inspirational Egyptian front man lost in the final to Cameroon.
“It was a great comeback match for him, his ball control shone through today,” said Spalletti.
Inter’s 2-0 San Siro win came in the absence of Mauro Icardi, Ivan Perisic and Marcelo Brozovic.
Argentine striker Icardi and Perisic were handed two and one-game bans respectively following unsavoury incidents at the end of last week’s 1-0 defeat at Juventus, where Brozovic broke his toe in a challenge with Miralem Pjanic.
Given Icardi and Perisic have scored 22 of Inter’s 37 league goals this season, Nerazzurri fans had cause for concern.
But any pre-match fears were settled quickly, Empoli ‘keeper Lukasz Skorupski performing heroics to tip a Rodrigo Palacio header out from underneath the bar early on.
Inter broke deadlock in the 14th minute, Eder chesting the ball past Skorupski at the back post after Palacio flicked on Antonio Candreva’s inswinger.
Eder turned provider 10 minutes after the restart, the Brazil-born Italy striker setting up Candreva for a strike from distance that beat Skorupski at his near post.
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