French midfielder Jordan Veretout struck twice yesterday as Roma beat Udinese 3-0 to climb back to third in Serie A.
Atalanta moved up to seventh, level on points with fifth-placed Napoli, after Luis Muriel scored in the 90th minute to earn a 1-0 victory at Cagliari.
One week after losing to Juventus, who jumped into third, Roma took advantage of the reigning champions’ loss to Napoli on Saturday night.
Roma continued their strong form at the Stadio Olimpico even without Edin Dzeko, who returned from his brief exile when he came on for the last 21 minutes. They are the only team in Serie A unbeaten at home this season.
Veretout put Roma ahead after five minutes, racing forward to meet a cross from Gianluca Mancini with a powerful header.
After visiting goalkeeper Juan Musso upended Henrikh Mkhitaryan in the 25th minute, Veretout converted the penalty.
It was Veretout’s fourth succesful penalty and ninth league goal of the season.
With 15 league goals (and 17 in all competitions) since his arrival in Rome from Fiorentina in 2019, the former Aston Villa and Nantes player has overtaken Vincent Candela as Roma’s top-scoring French player.
Veretout said he had been told to get into the opposing penalty area more often by coach Paulo Fonseca.
“I have challenged him on the number of goals he scores,” said Fonseca. “I told him that he had to score more than ten.”
Pedro Rodriguez replaced Veretout after 78 minutes and added the third goal in stoppage time.
Roma moved a point ahead of Juventus and three points clear of Napoli, though those teams have a game in hand, against each other.
In Cagliari, Atalanta were frustrated for 90 minutes by the relegation-haunted hosts before the game sprung to life in the dying seconds.
Atalanta looked heavy legged four days after beating Napoli in an Italian Cup semi-final but their bench made the difference. Muriel, who came on in the 68th minute, beat two defenders on the edge of the box before drilling home the winner in the 90th minute.
Four minutes later, with added time expired, the referee pointed to the penalty spot after Cagliari’s Daniele Rugani tried to shoot and caught Marten de Roon’s leg, but after review concluded that the Atalanta sub had touched the ball first.
“It was a very difficult match from the start, I’m happy to have scored. Winning like that means a lot,” said Muriel.
On Saturday, AC Milan’s charge for a first league title since 2011 took a hit after they fell to a deserved defeat at promoted Spezia and gave Inter Milan an opportunity to claim top spot in Serie A.
Seven-time European champions Milan had the chance to stretch their lead over Inter to five points and put 10 between themselves and third-placed Juventus, who lost 1-0 at Napoli earlier in the evening.
But goals from Giulio Maggiore and Simone Bastoni on a historic night for Spezia mean Inter will move one point ahead of their city rivals, with the Milan derby coming up next weekend, on Sunday night if they beat a Lazio side on a run of six straight league wins.
Spezia, who had to restart from the fourth tier in 2008 after going bankrupt, have impressed in their first ever Serie A season and move up to 14th, nine points away from the relegation zone after another exciting performance.
Vincenzo Italiano’s side showed why observers in Italy back them to stay up, pushing Milan onto the back foot from the start and not letting them have a single shot on target despite the presence of talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
In fact it was Gianluigi Donnarumma who kept the away side level early on, making one fantastic save with 13 minutes gone to push Riccardo Saponara’s powerful effort out from under the bar.
However the Italy stopper could do nothing in the 56th minute when after a sweeping passing move Maggiore found himself completely unmarked within spitting distance of the goal and slotted the home side ahead.
Bastoni doubled the hosts’ lead 11 minutes later with a screamer of a strike, meeting Nahuel Estevez’s pass from a free-kick to flash an angled shot past Donnarumma’s despairing dive for his first Serie A goal.
Substitute Mario Mandzukic’s weak header wide in stoppage time was a sign of how little resistance Milan had put up in a dreadful display.
Spezia’s win means that Juventus’ title bid is still just about on course despite Lorenzo Insigne scoring his 100th Napoli goal in a 1-0 win over the champions.
Earlier, Torino were held to a goalless home draw by Genoa which leaves Juve’s city rivals just two points above the relegation zone.
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