Roma keep pressure on Juventus, move within five points of Serie A summit

Francesco Totti carried Roma to a smooth victory over Atalanta on Saturday.  

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Roma kept up the chase of Juventus with a comfortable 3-1 win over Atalanta, taking them to within five points of the Serie A leaders.

Francesco Totti inspired the Giallorossi to all three points, playing a hand in goals for Rodrigo Taddei, Adem Ljajic and Gervinho before Giulio Migliaccio bagged a consolation for the Nerazzurri. The win puts the ball back in Juve’s court ahead of their trip to Udinese on Monday night, while practically securing the Giallorossi second spot with 15 points now between them and third-placed Napoli, who host Lazio on Sunday.

Although he may not have been included in Italy coach Cesare Prandelli’s enlarged squad for fitness tests early next week, and his chances of earning a call-up for the World Cup therefore seem slim, Francesco Totti showed he can still be a standout player in a Serie A fixture. He did not even need to score a goal himself to make a difference on Saturday evening.

His first involvement was unintentional – he failed to control Dodo’s hooked pass back from the goal line, slipping near the penalty spot – but it meant the ball fell for Taddei to strike through a pack of players to give Roma the lead in the 13th minute. The Roma captain then went close to scoring in the 25th minute when, at full stretch, he met Maicon’s cross at the far post, butsent it wide.

Ljajic went even closer with a free-kick as Roma continued to dominate, Radja Nainggolan also just missing the target. Totti then played a big hand in Roma’s second goal, which was finished by Ljajic after Daniele De Rossi selflessly touched Totti’s pass back to the Serbian midfielder, who could not miss.

DRAWING UP CONCLUSIONS

A fine backheeled pass from Totti set up Ljajic to tee up Gervinho for Roma’s third in the 63rd minute before the captain was given a standing ovation as he made way for Michel Bastos. Gervinho contrived to miss an even easier chance from five yards out, missing an open goal from Dodo’s cross, and shortly after, Migliaccio stunned Roma with a powerful, committed header to pull a goal back. It was nothing more than a consolation, though, as Roma held on to the points without breaking a sweat at the Stadio Olimpico.

In Saturday’s other game, relegation-threatened Sassuolo claimed a much-needed point from a 1-1 home draw against Cagliari.

Returning Cagliari coach Ivo Pulga saw his side trailing in his first match back at the helm after Simone Zaza put the home side ahead eight minutes before the break, but an Agim Ibrahimi penalty at the start of the second half clinched a point for the visitors.