Stadio Olimpico, Rome, Italy
22′ El Shaarawy
45’+2′ Iličić (P)
Third placed Roma thrashed fourth placed Fiorentina 4-1 at the Stadio Olimpico to close the gap on second placed Napoli to two points.
First-half Goals from Stephan El Shaarawy, Mohamed Salah and a Diego Perotti strike gave the side from the capital a three-nil lead before a Josip Iličić penalty on the stroke of half-time reduced the deficit. Former Chelsea winger Salah also added a second after the break to ensure Roma prepared for the second-leg of their Last-16 Champions League tie at Real Madrid in style.
The hosts started relatively slower than their opposition, who started brightly. The closest either side went to taking the lead was when Iličić cut-inside to fire an effort just over the bar after 12 minutes.
However, ten minutes later, it was the hosts that opened the scoring. Miralem Pjanić played Salah through down the right before the Egyptian squared for El Shaarawy who slotted home on the slide. The hosts were fortunate to be ahead as Salah looked marginally offside, but the linesman didn’t flag and Salah obliged.
If the hosts were fortuitous for their opener, their second was even luckier. After playing a nice one-two with Pjanić, Salah found space to fire an effort that deflected off the trailing foot of Davide Astori to wrong-foot Ciprian Tătărușanu three minutes later.
A minute later, the hosts almost made it three. Astori, who was the unfortunate culprit for the host’s second, almost put his side into further trouble. His poor backpass was seized upon by Perotti, who struck the post with just the keeper to beat.
Four minutes later, the visitors almost snatched one back against the run of play. A freekick from the left made its way to Nikola Kalinić, who acrobatically volleyed just wide of the post.
Eight minutes later, the hosts extended their lead. Lucas Digne chested the ball onto El Shaarawy, who beat his man before finding Perotti with the outside of his foot, and the Argentine curled home.
The visitors were fortunate not be further behind when Radja Nainggolan broke forward to scuff an effort just wide of the post.
However, the ‘Violas’ were given a lifeline right on the stroke of half-time. The referee pointed to the spot after substitute Cristian Tello went to ground under a challenge from Digne. The Spaniard made the most of the Frenchman’s overstretched leg, but it was careless from the on-loan Paris Saint-Germain full-back. Iličić fired the resulting spot-kick home despite Szczęsny guessing right to reduce the deficit and possibly give the visitors hope of a comeback.
The goal had given the visitors confidence and three minutes after the break, they went close to finding another. Facundo Roncaglia fired an effort just wide of Szczęsny’s post.
However, ten minutes later, the hosts made it four. Pjanić fantastically picked out Salah, who was in acres of space, and the Egyptian slotted through the legs of Tătărușanu to end any hope of a comeback. There was no question of offside or luck in that goal.
Since the goal, the game had become less of a contest and both sides conceded that the match was over. The hosts even brought on veteran forward Francesco Totti to put the icing on the cake, and he very nearly added a fifth. The Italian almost rolled back the years, curling a freekick that hit the outside of the woodwork, with Tătărușanu well-beaten.
That was the last action of the match as the referee blew his whistle to bring the game to an end. The result meant that Roma moved up to 56 points extending their lead on their fourth-placed opposition to three points. It also meant that they closed the gap on second placed Napoli to two points, who are due to play later this weekend.