Gervinho helps Roma close the gap

Ivorian inspires to close gap on Juve while Inter draw with bottom club Catania and Milan relieved to beat Cagliari.

     Francesco Totti celebrates with Gervinho (right) during Sunday's win [Reuters]
    Francesco Totti celebrates with Gervinho (right) during Sunday's win [Reuters]

    A rejuvenated Gervinho produced another inspirational performance for Roma, setting up one goal and scoring with a stylish effort of his own in a 3-1 win over Hellas Verona.

    Adem Ljajic and Francesco Totti were also on target as second-placed Roma cut the gap between themselves and leaders Juventus to six points and re-ignited the Serie A title race.

    Gervinho has been a different player following his close season move from English Premier League Arsenal, where his sometimes comical finishing and bizarre performances made him the object of criticism and sometimes derision.

    The Ivorian, who scored the only goal in Wednesday's Coppa Italia win over Juventus, created Roma's first chance with a typical surging run down the left only to see his effort wasted by Mattia Destro who prodded the ball over from six metres.

    Undeterred, Gervinho produced a similar run in first-half stoppage time and pulled the ball back for Ljajic, who had no trouble in tapping the ball in from close range.

    Verona quickly got back into the game after the break when Roma lost possession and Emil Hallfredsson fired the equaliser.

    Gervinho put Roma back in front on the hour when he collected the ball in the penalty area with his back to goal, skipped past two defenders and scored with a low shot through a crowd of players, his sixth goal of the season in all competitions.

    The visitors wrapped up the three points with a controversial penalty after Alejandro Gonzalez was judged to have fouled Vasileios Torosidis, although the Uruguayan appeared to play the ball.

    Stalwart Totti, who came on as a second-half substitute after being rested at the start, ignored the angry Verona protests as he converted his fifth league goal of the season.

    Juventus, held to a 1-1 draw at Lazio on Saturday, have 56 points from 21 games, with Roma on 50 and Napoli 44.

    Milan's late show

    AC Milan's crisis eased when they scored twice in the last five minutes to win 2-1 at Cagliari on Sunday, but Inter's deepened when they were held to a goalless draw at home to bottom club Catania at a tense San Siro.

    Mario Balotelli scored direct from a free kick and substitute Giampaolo Pazzini hooked in from a corner to give Milan their second straight Serie A win since their former player Clarence Seedorf took over as coach.

    Inter, with new club president Erick Thohir making a rare appearance at San Siro, dominated possession but created few real chances, further angering their already restless fans who greeted the team bus with jeers outside the ground.

    Inter have won only one of their last nine Serie A games, a run which coincidentally began after the Indonesian business tycoon's consortium completed its takeover of the club in November.

    Inter are fifth with 33 points, only one ahead of Parma, Torino and Hellas Verona while Milan climbed to ninth with 28 points.

    Milan gifted Cagliari the lead on a blustery afternoon in Sardinia when goalkeeper Marco Amelia sent a clearance straight to Mauricio Pinillia, who curled the ball into the area for Marco Sau to score with a classy finish.

    With the Sant'Elia stadium still being rebuilt, only 4,500 fans were able to watch the match, nearly all of them packed behind one goal, creating an unusual atmosphere.

    Cagliari, only four points clear of the relegation zone, sat back on their lead in the second half and paid the price in the last five minutes.

    Balotelli, whose late penalty gave Seedorf a winning start against Hellas Verona last week, curled a free kick past a poorly-placed wall and into the net in the 87th minute after a needless handball by Matias Cabrera.

    The hosts were all at sea and more shoddy defending allowed Pazzini to hook in from a corner two minutes later.

    Amauri's first-half goal gave Parma a 1-0 win over Udinese, pushing their opponents further towards the relegation zone, while Torino beat Atalanta by the same score thanks to an Alessio Cerci penalty on the hour.

    Livorno scored three times in the first half hour on their way to beating Sassuolo 3-1 in a clash featuring two teams mired in the danger zone.

    Alessandro Diamanti's last-minute penalty gave Bologna, hovering just above the bottom three, a 1-1 draw and a precious point at Sampdoria.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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