Rome – Roma enjoyed a perfect dress rehearsal for the first leg tie of their UEFA Champions League semi-final fixture with Liverpool on Saturday.Liverpool’s Brazilian midfielder Roberto Firmino (L) is restrained by team-mates as he reacts after Everton’s English defender Mason Holgate (R) pushed him in a challenge resulting in Firmino falling into the crowd during the English FA Cup third round football match between Liverpool and Everton at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on January 5, 2018. / AFP PHOTO
Radja Nainggolan and Patrick Schick struck after a Francesco Vicari own goal to give them a 3-0 win at SPAL in Serie A.
The result left Roma third on 67 points from 34 games, three ahead of city rivals Lazio and four ahead of Inter Milan who both have a game in hand.
It is a huge victory in the three-way battle for two UEFA Champions League slots.
With one eye on Tuesday’s clash with Liverpool at Anfield, Roma coach Eusebio di Francesco left the bulk of his regular starters on the bench.
However, the makeshift side delivered with a classy performance at relegation-threatened SPAL.
After a cagey opening half-hour, Vicari fired Roma ahead in the 33rd minute when he poked the ball into his own net from seven metres.
The error was committed in a futile attempt to divert a Lorenzo Pellegrini pass to the advancing Kevin Strootman.
SPAL goalkeeper Alex Meret made two fine saves before halftime but was powerless in the 52nd minute, when Nainggolan unleashed a swerving volley into the bottom right corner.
Pellegrini provided another superb assist in the 59th for Schick to head home from close range as Roma turned on the heat.
Stephan El Shaarawy missed several chances including a diving header which hit the post.
Roma goalkeeper Alison Becker was rarely called into action but made two good saves to deny Alberto Paloschi and Mirko Antenucci.
The defeat leaves SPAL in 17th place on 29 points from 34 games, one ahead of Crotone who have a game in hand.
In the day’s other matches, Sassuolo were at home to Fiorentina, while AC Milan faced bottom team Benevento in the evening kick-off.
The round’s stand-out fixture is Sunday’s potential title showdown as champions and leaders Juventus (85 points) take on second-placed Napoli (81) at home.(Reuters/NAN)
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