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Serie A roundup: Dzeko brace cuts Juve’s lead on Roma to 5 points

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MILAN (AP) Edin Dzeko continued his astonishing season with a double to help Roma beat Empoli 2-0 in Serie A on Saturday.

The goals took Dzeko’s tally to 33 for the season in all competitions. He is the league leading scorer with 23, one more than Torino’s Andrea Belotti.

Dzeko is just three off his best tally of 26 league goals for Wolfsburg in the 2008-09 season. There are eight Serie A matches remaining.

It is all a far cry from last season, when Dzeko managed just eight goals in 31 appearances in his first Serie A campaign.

Roma will hope he can deliver again when they play city rival Lazio in the second leg of their Italian Cup semifinal on Tuesday.

“We had an average match,” Dzeko said. “Maybe our minds were on the derby a bit but we did our bit and we got the three points.

“The cup match is such an important test. It will be difficult to overturn the 2-0 deficit, but we are a strong team.”

Dzeko scored his first early when Antonio Rudiger flicked on Leandro Paredes’ corner and it went in off Dzeko’s knee.

The Bosnia and Herzegovina forward doubled his tally in the second half. Mohamed Salah nodded down Diego Perotti’s cross and Dzeko swept it past Empoli goalkeeper Lukasz Skorupski, who is on loan from Roma.

Salah almost got on the scoresheet in the 70th but his header came off the crossbar.

Roma moved to five points behind league leader Juventus, which visits third-placed Napoli on Sunday.

A late own goal boosted Lazio’s hopes of sneaking into the Champions League at the start of an important eight days for the capital side.

Lazio moved to three points behind third-placed Napoli. The two meet in Rome next Sunday, five days after Lazio plays Roma in the second leg of their Italian Cup semifinal.

“It’s a very important victory for us, against a strong team and in a difficult stadium,” Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi said. “We won deservedly, because we believed in it more.

“Will I support Juventus in tomorrow’s match? I don’t really look at other teams because two days after we have the derby which will be very difficult. Then from Wednesday we’ll think about Napoli.”

It looked as if the match was heading for a draw before Keita Balde Diao crossed to fellow substitute Cristiano Lombardi, who was unmarked at the back post. He rolled the ball across the area and it ricocheted in off Francesco Acerbi and goalkeeper Andrea Consigli six minutes from time.

Lorenzo Pellegrini almost leveled in the final minute but hit the crossbar.

Sassuolo hadn’t won since February but took a surprise lead in the 26th when Domenico Berardi was tripped by Thomas Strakosha, and he sent the resulting penalty straight down the middle for his first goal since August.

Gregoire Defrel almost doubled Sassuolo’s lead immediately but sent his effort just wide of the left upright.

Lazio leveled three minutes from the break when Ciro Immobile beat the offside trap to run onto Felipe Anderson‘s through ball and fire across into the bottom right corner.

Lazio could have taken the lead on the stroke of halftime but Paolo Cannavaro hooked Immobile’s effort off the goal-line.

Pochettino: “Challenge is to keep going” ahead of North London Derby

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Mauricio Pochettino was thrilled to see Tottenham Hotspur’s title push continue with a win over in-form Crystal Palace on Wednesday.

Spurs won 1-0 on a beautiful Christian Eriksen goal from distance, moving back to within four points of Premier League leading Chelsea.

[ RECAP: Palace 0-1 Spurs ]

Pochettino’s men didn’t stop fighting for the winner despite relentless fight from the home side, with improving mettle on display this season.

“Unbelievable. Very good performance. I think second half we played much better than in the first half. It was difficult in the first half for us to move the ball and find the space but we changed the shape at half time and it was more fluid, we started to find the space and started to push Palace deeper and deeper.”

After two tough London Derbies — Spurs fell 4-2 to Chelsea in Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal — Tottenham now has the big one: a visit from Arsenal in the North London Derby.

“It was good to get the three points and be alive in the race for the title. The challenge is to keep going. It is always better to win but it is true [the Arsenal game] is a big derby, perhaps the last at White Hart Lane and I think it will be an exciting game.”

We’re ready for it. Spurs will be favored to pick up all three points, but all bets are off when it comes to the NLD. That’s especially true considering the ticking Top Four clock for Arsenal and the title fight for Spurs.

Palace 0-1 Spurs: Eriksen saves the day

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  • Sakho stretchered off
  • Eriksen rescues title hope
  • Spurs four back of Chelsea

Palace made them work for it.

Tottenham Hotspur didn’t exactly sends chills down the spine of Chelsea with its performance, but Spurs found a way past tricky and in-form Crystal Palace on Wednesday at Selhurst Park.

Christian Eriksen‘s pretty goal sealed the three points for Spurs, who have five matches to chase down four points from the Blues.

Palace sits 12th, seven points clear of 18th place Swansea City.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Two in-forms started with confidence, Harry Kane lashing wide of the frame for Spurs and Wilfried Zaha driving Palace on the right wing.

Another in-form Eagles attacker, Christian Benteke, did well to create space and hit a low shot that forced Hugo Lloris to ground.

Victor Wanyama was on yellow when he slid to intercept Andros Townsend, taking the Englishman to the turf. Jon Moss gave Wanyama a harsh warning, but did not produce the red card.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Moussa Sissoko and Son Heung-min were called upon soon after the break to liven up Spurs attack.

The substitution that stood to shake up the match was Palace center back Mamadou Sakho, who was hurt with about 40 minutes to play.

Eriksen stung a shot across goal for the eventual winner, a rare moment of class from a three-match day that didn’t quite fit the standard of the Premier League.

Arsenal 1-0 Leicester City: Only an own goal

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  • Chances at a premium
  • Monreal forces Huth own goal
  • Arsenal moves sixth
  • Foxes six clear of drop

Nacho Monreal‘s desperate shot ricocheted off Robert Huth‘s chest and gave Arsenal a 1-0 win over Leicester City at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday.

Entertainment value wasn’t high over the course of the match, as Arsenal had trouble piercing Leicester’s congested back four.

Arsenal is now three points back of Manchester United and four behind Man City before Thursday’s Manchester Derby.

Leicester is six points clear of 18th and has played one less game than most of the teams chasing them.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Arsenal had most of the ball to start the match, but needed to make the first big stop. Petr Cech kept the match goalless when he flew to stop a left-footed whip from Riyad Mahrez.

At the other end, Mesut Ozil set up Theo Walcott for a chance that prodded a solid save from Kasper Schmeichel.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Wilfried Ndidi was again a monster in the middle third for Leicester, arguably the main reason the Foxes have rebounded from their relegation plight.

Arsenal had a chance pushed away from danger by Robert Huth after Alexis Sanchez misjudged his time on the ball in front of goal in the 56th minute.

Schmeichel then dove to slap away a deflected Francis Coquelin shot.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Laurent Koscielny went down in pain after landing awkwardly in the 79th minute, leaving a gap in space that Shinji Okazaki would’ve exploited were it not for a block from Gabriel Paulista.

Leicester’s Yohan Benalouane should’ve seen red with 10 minutes to play following a leaping boot to the back of Olivier Giroud, but only a foul was given.

Ndidi made a sliding intervention on Mesut Ozil in the 85th minute, another terrific bit of work from the Nigerian.

That’s when Huth’s unlucky moment lifted Arsenal to the lead.

Middlesbrough 1-0 Sunderland: Derby honors and a bit of life

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  • Boro’s first PL win since Dec. 17
  • Smoggies move within six of 17th
  • Sunderland on verge of relegation

Marten De Roon snared Middlesbrough new hope at safety and a derby win as Boro scored early to complete a season sweep of Tees-Wear Derby rivals Sunderland on Wednesday.

The 1-0 win means Sunderland is 12 points back of 17th place Hull City with five matches to play. Hull has four matches left.

For Boro, it’s six points back of Hull but a devastating run-in that includes Man City, Chelsea, Southampton, and Liverpool.

The win was USMNT backstop Brad Guzan‘s second of the Premier League season, the first coming in the reverse fixture.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

De Roon tilted the Tees-Wear Derby to Boro’s side with an opening goal that could signal the end of Sunderland’s slim safety hopes.

Stewart Downing tempted 2-0 with a hard low shot that Jordan Pickford did very well to save with a leg.

Sunderland did find a bit of danger when Didier N’Dong forced Brad Guzan into a save, but Billy Jones nodded over the frame.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]