(Reuters) - Edin Dzeko shot to the top of the Serie A scoring charts and set a club record for the most goals in a season by hitting a brace to fire Roma to a 2-0 win over Empoli on Saturday, provisionally cutting the gap behind leaders Juventus to five points.
Dzeko pounced from close range to knock in a cross from a corner in the 12th minute then produced a similarly nonchalant finish to convert Mohamed Salah’s cutback in the 56th to claim his 23rd goal of the season in the league and move ahead of Torino forward Andrea Belotti as Serie A’s top scorer.
His double also took him to 33 goals in all competitions for the season, overtaking Roma great and team mate Francesco Totti’s tally of 32 in the 2006/7 campaign. Dzeko was then fittingly replaced by Totti and given a roaring reception by the fans inside Rome’s Olympic stadium.
Roma were without midfielders Kevin Strootman and Daniele de Rossi through suspension and injury respectively and at first seemed to lack control against an Empoli side who are one place above the relegation zone and in freefall after losing their previous six games.
Senegalese forward Miame Thiam, who is on loan at Empoli from Juventus, was denied a penalty in the early stages after being hauled down by goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny but he was harshly ruled offside.
It then took a brilliant save from Szczesny to preserve Roma’s lead at the start of the second half, the Poland international tipping a looping shot from Guido Marilungo behind for a corner.
Roma are second in the standings on 68 points, moving to within five of Juventus, who visit third-placed Napoli on Sunday in Gonzalo Higuain’s first game back at the San Paolo stadium since his acrimonious move to the champions last summer.
“We had a few problems in the first half but we were much better in the second and thoroughly deserved to win,” Roma coach Luciano Spalletti told reporters.
“The most important thing was to play well and win the game as sometimes we pay too much attention to the other games and forget about our own, but today we got the points.”
Also on Saturday Lazio maintained their hopes of a third-place finish in Serie A after an 83rd-minute own goal from defender Francesco Acerbi gave them a 2-1 comeback win at Sassuolo.
Domenico Berardi had given the home side the lead from the penalty spot in the 26th minute, before Italy international Ciro Immobile pulled Lazio level two minutes before halftime, ghosting into the box to score his 18th league goal of the campaign.
Lazio came out far stronger after the interval and coach Simone Inzaghi used all three substitutes in a bid to get the winner.
His final change paid off as Cristiano Lombardi sent in a low cross which Acerbi inadvertently sent trickling over the line.
The home side had two chances to snatch a late equaliser, however, with winger Lorenzo Pellegrini striking the bar with a header and Berardi firing wide in stoppage time from inside the area.
Lazio are fourth on 60 points, three behind Napoli in third.
“I often tell the players that those who play for 20 minutes are every bit as important as those who play 90. Today the substitutes won the game for us,” Inzaghi told reporters.
The coach also rebuked Anderson for walking straight down the tunnel after being taken off and criticised Wesley Hoedt for angrily throwing his shirt to the floor when he was withdrawn.
“When they see themselves back on camera, they will understand that they were in the wrong,” he added.
Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Toby Davis, Neville Dalton