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El Shaarawy masterclass downs Empoli as Roma run goes on

Sun, 28 Feb 2016

Rome: AS Roma's Stephan El Shaarawy scored twice in a 3-1 victory at Empoli that took them up to third place in Serie A on Saturday and extended their winning streak to six league matches.

Roma have had an upturn in fortunes since Luciano Spalletti replaced Rudi Garcia as coach in mid-January and the win takes them to 53 points, one above Fiorentina, four behind Napoli and within five of Juventus, who have all yet to play this weekend.

AC Milan extended their unbeaten run to 11 games in all competitions by beating visitors Torino 1-0 to leave them sixth on 47 points, one behind Inter Milan, who visit Juve on Sunday.

As well as transforming morale at Roma, who had won one game in 10 in all competitions before his arrival, Spalletti can take credit for signing El Shaarawy on loan from AC Milan, with the Italy forward making an encouraging early impact.

He opened the scoring in the fifth minute by curling in a delicious right-foot effort from 25 metres before Empoli equalised through a bizarre Roma own goal.

Visiting goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny's punched clearance rebounded off team mate Ervin Zukanovic's face into the net, flooring the Roma defender in the process.

Miralem Pjanic restored Roma's lead with a thumping low effort, before El Shaarawy guaranteed an away victory in the 74th minute when Empoli goalkeeper Lukasz Skorupski could only touch Mohamed Salah's strike into his path.

Empoli were reduced to 10 men when Mario Rui was shown a second yellow card in the fourth minute of stoppage time as the hosts remained in mid-table on 34 points without a win in eight.

"The players' minds are vital, so if you make them understand and motivate them mentally you can have instant results," Spalletti told Mediaset Premium.

Milan's Luca Antonelli scored just before halftime with a close-range effort against Torino at the San Siro to leave manager Sinisa Mihajlovic targeting a third-place finish.

"In the next three matches we'll find out if we can really fight for third or not. I believe in it, and so do the players," said Mihajlovic, whose team are six points adrift of a Roma side occupying the final Champions League qualifying spot.

"What was vital this evening was having the right attitude, everyone was ready to fight hard and work for the result. If we want to climb up the table, we must continue like this." 

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