Nainggolan’s goal helps Roma keep Serie A title hopes alive

Radja Nainggolan (L) scored Roma's match winner against Serie A side Fiorentina on Saturday.

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Roma ensured Juventus will have to wait a little longer before celebrating their 30th Serie A title with a 1-0 win at Fiorentina which returns them to within eight points of the league leaders with four games of the season to go.

Radja Nainggolan’s goal in the 26th minute was enough for Rudi Garcia’s men to keep the title race alive while securing the Giallorossi’s return to the Champions League next season. Fiorentina, who put up a brave fight at the Stadio Artemio Franchi, missed a chance to increase the pressure on Napoli in third and now look likely to have to settle for a place in the Europa League as their attention turns to the Coppa Italia final on May 3.

Juve’s win over Bologna had reduced Roma’s hopes of catching the Serie A leaders even further, but while it remains mathematically possible, and with Juve due at the Stadio Olimpico in a fortnight’s time, Garcia’s men were not going to throw in the towel just yet. Playing their usual fast-passing, attack-centric game, Roma gained the lead when Adem Ljajic sent a ball teasingly in front of Nainggolan, who had to slide in at full stretch to meet it first and guide it past Fiorentina goalkeeper Neto.

It was only the second goal of the season for the former Cagliari midfielder, whose arrival in January has bolstered Roma’s midfield and given Garcia more options. Fiorentina are not in fourth, and still chasing third-placed Napoli, by fluke, however, and they were keen on keeping up the pressure on the Azzurri for a place in the Champions League next season.

Fortune, or the lack thereof, has hampered their season, and they did not have the rub of the green once again at the Franchi. A free-kick which struck the elbow of Francesco Totti inside the area did not result in a penalty for the Viola, who carried their protests even beyond the end of Roma’s swift counter-attack which, had it been played better by Maicon, might well have seen them double their lead.

DRAWING UP CONCLUSIONS

Luck was lacking midway through the second half too when the ball skidded a little too high off the surface for Stefan Savic to guide it under the crossbar from five yards out, the goal at his mercy. By now Roma had abandoned their attacking style and, with Totti removed, were more focused on holding on to their slender advantage.

There was only a minor late scare when Alessandro Matri claimed a penalty when his shot was blocked, possibly by another Roma arm, but all he received was a yellow card as Roma took the points.