Roma refuse to give up on the Scudetto and are mathematically second, as Radja Nainggolan earned a 1-0 victory away to fourth-placed Fiorentina.
This eighth consecutive Serie A victory secured their spot in the Champions League group phase next season with four rounds left to play.
This was a fascinating showdown between fourth and second, but above all the two teams who arguably play the most entertaining football in Italy. Vincenzo Montella hosted his beloved former club, who he had never been able to beat as a Coach. The injury list remained extensive with Giuseppe Rossi, Mario Gomez, Mati Fernandez and Ante Rebic. Roma missed Mehdi Benatia, Federico Balzaretti, Kevin Strootman and the suspended Mattia Destro, whose appeal against a three-match ban was rejected this week. It meant Adem Ljajic started against his former club, as did Alberto Aquilani.
The Viola had won just four of their previous 30 Serie A meetings with Roma, home and away. After just 95 seconds Ljajic unleashed a snapshot that Norberto Neto beat away with some difficulty.
Juan Cuadrado drilled wide from distance, but Gervinho wasted an incredible scoring opportunity when Ljajic went on the counter and rolled across for the former Arsenal man to side-foot wide of an open goal.
Roma’s poor clearance fell to Borja Valero, who blasted straight at Morgan De Sanctis, then Leandro Castan was decisive in intercepting a Nenad Tomovic cross for Cuadrado from five yards. Castan also charged down a Josip Ilicic effort.
It was Roma who took the lead at the Stadio Franchi when Ljajic went on a mazy run and threaded through for Radja Nainggolan to spring the offside trap, at full stretch poking it past Neto. This was Ljajic’s seventh assist of the season and Nainggolan’s third goal.
An Ilicic free kick curled just over the bar and a spectacular Francesco Totti volley whistled wide.
The Stadio Franchi demanded a penalty just before the break when Totti charged down an Ilicic free kick with what appeared to be his elbow, but the referee waved play on. His arms were close to his body and even replays do not entirely clarify what happened.
David Pizarro flashed his effort wide from outside the box in first half stoppages and Ilicic’s attempt was deflected over the bar by Rafael Toloi.
Alessandro Matri replaced Ryder Matos for the second half and Neto flew to beat away a powerful Ljajic strike. De Sanctis got his body behind a strong but central Cuadrado free kick, while Ilicic, David Pizarro and the Colombian couldn’t keep their shots on target.
Neto had his gloves stung by a Dodò strike that swerved in the air from a tight angle. Totti hit a blockbuster from distance, but Neto plucked it out of the air with great confidence.
Fiorentina had an excellent scoring opportunity on 71 minutes when Ilicic whipped a free kick to the back post, but it bounced right in front of Stefan Savic and he ballooned over from five yards.
De Sanctis also palmed a long-range Savic effort out from under the bar and deep into stoppages Matri saw a shot charged down by Toloi from point-blank range. Matri wanted a penalty for a handling offence, but it bounced off his shoulder. Instead, the ex-Milan striker earned a yellow card that suspends him for next week's game with Bologna.
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