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Roma end draw sequence

Reuters . Rome

AS Roma’s Maicon (C) scores his team’s opening goal against Fiorentina during their Serie A match at the Olympic stadium in Rome on Sunday. — Reuters photo  AS Roma’s Maicon (C) scores his team’s opening goal against Fiorentina during their Serie A match at the Olympic stadium in Rome on Sunday. — Reuters photo

Serie A title challengers AS Roma ended a run of four successive draws with an enthralling 2-1 win over Fiorentina on Sunday, helped by an inspirational display from Gervinho who set up both their goals.
The Ivorian has enjoyed a new lease of life since his move from Arsenal in the close season and repeatedly tormented Fiorentina’s defence as Roma recaptured the form which helped them win their first 10 games.
Maicon and Mattia Destro, making his first appearance of the season after a knee injury, were on target as Roma, on 37 points and still unbeaten after 15 games, stayed three behind leaders Juventus who won 2-0 at Bologna on Friday.
Serie A is already threatening to turn into a two-horse race with third-placed Napoli having dropped five points behind Roma after their 3-3 home draw with Udinese on Saturday.
The mere presence of talismanic forward Francesco Totti on the substitutes’ bench, after more than one month out through injury, also appeared to inspire Rudi Garcia’s side, even though the 37-year-old did not play.
Only a needless sending off for Miralem Pjanic, who received a second yellow card for fouling David Pizarro inside the opposition’s half in the 87th minute, spoiled Roma’s day.
Maicon put Roma ahead with his first goal for the club, the Brazilian bundling the ball home in the seventh minute after Gervinho pulled the ball back.
Gervinho had the Fiorentina defence in trouble every time he ran at them as Roma created chances to increase their lead.
Fiorentina, joint fourth with 27 points, were certainly not out of it and levelled on 29 minutes when Peru midfielder Juan Vargas rifled home from a Nenad Tomovic pass.
Both sides created openings early in the second half before Roma grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck.
Gervinho had a shot blocked by Neto and Kevin Strootman hit the Fiorentina post as the pressure mounted, the winner finally arriving when Gervinho pulled the ball back from the byline and Destro fired home.
The overjoyed Destro, who had only been on the field for eight minutes, was mobbed by his team mates and booked taking his shirt off in the celebrations.
Meanwhile, Napoli dropped two precious points in the Italian title race on Saturday after Dujan Basta levelled late on for Udinese to grab a share of the spoils from a 3-3 draw.
Despite edging Francesco Guidolin’s visitors in both halves, they failed to capitalise on their share of chances and paid the price in the 80th minute when Basta bundled home in a busy six-yard box.
Goran Pandev had given the hosts a 2-0 lead with close-range strikes by the 41st minute after being set up by Federico Fernandez and Gonzalo Higuain respectively.
But Udinese, who beat Fiorentina two weeks ago and were unlucky not to take a draw from a 1-0 defeat away to Juventus last week, did well to keep their composure and were rewarded just before the interval.
A corner found the head of Thomas Heurtaux, and his effort came off the head of Fernandez and past Rafael Cabral, standing in for Pepe Reina in the Napoli net.
Earlier, Mario Balotelli scored a brace, including a stunning free-kick seven minutes from time, to help secure a share of the points for Milan in a hard-fought 2-2 away draw to Livorno.

Roma 2 (Maicon 7, Destro 67) Fiorentina 1 (Vargas 29)
Livorno 2 (Siligardi 26, Paulinho 58) AC Milan 2 (Balotelli 7, 83); Napoli 3 (Pandev 38, 41, Dzemaili 71) Udinese 3 (Fernandez 45-og, Fernandes 70, Basta 80).

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