Roma’s league title hopes takes another hit with draw at Palermo

Rudi Garcia's team failed to secure three points at Roma to close the gap on Serie A leaders Juventus.

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MILAN —

Roma was held to 1-1 at Palermo on Saturday in another slip-up in its quest for the Serie A title.

Rudi Garcia’s team fell three points behind Juventus after last week’s derby draw against Lazio, and the defending champion can pull further ahead on Sunday when it hosts Hellas Verona – which it beat 6-1 in the Italian Cup on Thursday.

Paulo Dybala returned from injury to stun Roma by firing Palermo ahead in the second minute following a defensive error. Mattia Destro levelled nine minutes into the second half.

Palermo remained level on points with Inter Milan, which was fortunate to leave relegation-threatened Empoli with a 0-0 draw.

Both are level with AC Milan in mid-table, but just five points below third-placed Lazio ahead of the rest of the weekend’s fixtures.

Roma knew it could move provisionally level with Juventus but had key players Daniele De Rossi and Radja Nainggolan suspended, so Garcia handed rare starts to Kevin Strootman and Destro.

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Palermo was keen to bounce back after its club record nine-match unbeaten run ended in a 4-3 thriller at Fiorentina.

The Sicilian side took the lead less than two minutes in. Franco Vazquez intercepted a woeful pass from Davide Astori and immediately threaded the ball to Dybala, who struck it into the bottom right corner.

It was Dybala’s eighth goal in his past nine league matches, and his 10th this season.

Roma risked going further behind shortly before the break when Michel Morganella crossed for Edgar Baretto but Morgan De Sanctis flew acrobatically to pluck his header away from goal.

The capital side leveled in the 54th when Miralem Pjanic’s free kick was nodded on by Strootman, and Destro stuck out a leg to bundle it in.