Rampant Roma close gap on Juve to six points

AFP| Last Updated: Jan 26, 2014, 21:24 PM IST

Milan: Captain Francesco Totti scored late from the spot to cap a crucial win for Roma in a 3-1 rout away to Verona which helped close the gap on leaders Juventus to six points on Sunday.

Juventus had to settle for a share of the points in a 1-1 draw away to Lazio on Saturday when goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was sent off and left the champions with 10 men for much of their encounter at the Olympic Stadium.

Napoli, in third, were also held on Saturday at home against Chievo meaning Roma remain second but are now six points behind Juve with Napoli in third at a further six points off the pace.

Totti was quick to underline Roma`s scudetto ambitions when he told Sky Sport Italia: "After Juve`s slip-up yesterday we put pressure on ourselves to take the three points.

"I think we`ve fired a warning shot with regard to the championship fight. We`re on a par with Juve."

Roma scored a first blow against Juve with a 1-0 win over the champions in the quarter-finals of the Italian Cup in midweek.

Coach Rudi Garcia left Miralem Pjanic and Totti on the bench for the start of Sunday`s game, while the hosts had striker Luca Toni return to the starting line-up after a bout of flu.

Roma started positively and when Douglas Maicon`s cross was deflected it almost wrong-footed Rafael in the Verona goal, while Mattia Destro and Ljajic both spurned early chances.

Destro saw a shot fly over the crossbar from close range, while the hosts suffered a blow when captain Domenico Maietta was stretchered off with a suspected thigh injury.

Roma finally found the breakthrough in first-half injury time when Gervinho powered down the left and pulled back for Ljajic to tap home from close range.

Verona got right back in the match minutes after the restart, thanks to the good work of Juan Iturbe who held off a number of challenges to help set up Emil Hallfredsson to beat Morgan De Sanctis with a powerful drive.

Maicon and Ljajic both had chances, but Roma pulled in front on the hour thanks to a superb Gervinho strike from just inside the area after the Ivorian had danced past a number of defenders.

At the other end Hallfredsson`s fierce drive from distance tested De Sanctis.

But the game turned in the visitors` favour when they were awarded a questionable penalty after Alejandro Gonzalez was deemed to have fouled Vasileios Torosidis.

Totti, who had replaced Destro on 76 minutes, stepped up to beat Rafael to all but secure Roma`s third consecutive win since the wake-up call of a 3-0 away to Juve earlier this month.