Francesco Totti made his 600th Serie A appearance as Roma heaped the pressure on Napoli by moving up to second spot with a festive 3-0 home win over Chievo on Sunday.
One-club man Totti has yet to settle his future despite reports in midweek claiming Roma is finally warming to his request for a 24th and final year’s contract.
But with some believing this could be the 39-year-old’s final season in Italy’s top flight, fans, including ultras who had boycotted the Curva Sud for most of the season, flocked to the Stadio Olimpico with banners, t-shirts and flags all paying tribute to the longevity and loyalty of ‘Il Re de Roma’ (the King of Rome).
Some declared they had grown up on ‘Bread and Totti’, as opposed to bread and water, but the veteran playmaker was left on the bench as Luciano Spalletti’s men went about staking their claim for the league’s second automatic Champions League qualifying spot.
Roma’s 22nd win of the campaign moved them one point above Napoli into second place, and has piled the pressure on Maurizio Sarri’s men before a tough away fixture at Torino later Sunday.
“I wouldn’t say no to them (Torino) getting a result for us, but no stress, we’ve done what we had to do today,” said Spalletti.
“Today we showed how much we wanted to win and it was great to see a stadium full of fans. Their support is precious.”
Reported Chelsea target Radja Nainggolan got the party started when he fired home from the edge of the area to beat Albano Bizzarri on 18 minutes.
Germany defender Antonio Rudiger doubled Roma’s lead six minutes before half-time when he headed Miralem Pjanic’s curling free-kick past the stranded keeper at the back post, although there was more than a hint of offside.
Chievo earned more than its fair share of chances but Paul Jose M’Poku smacked the near post on the half-volley just after the restart.
Totti was given a standing ovation before he even kicked a ball in anger when he replaced Egyptian winger Mohamed Salah on the hour.
Only Inter Milan legend Javier Zanetti (615) and AC Milan great Paolo Maldini (647) have made more appearances in Serie A.
Again, Chievo threatened, Antonio Floro Flores nodding just wide before Wojciech Szczesny was forced to bat away Sergio Pellissier’s effort when the towering striker got his head to M’Poku’s cross on the edge of the box.
Yet Roma was a constant threat and Stephan El Shaarawy twice came close to adding to the scoreline, curling one effort just wide and seeing Bizzarri fingertip an even better chance just past the post.
Totti has scored several goals for Roma recently after coming off the bench but this time settled for an assist, his one-touch pass allowing Pjanic to run clear and prod past Bizzarri with five minutes to play.
Elsewhere, Frosinone saw its top-flight survival hopes ended by Matteo Politano’s 85th minute strike in a 1-0 defeat to Sassuolo that, in turn, sent the Tuscans up to sixth place and back in the hunt for a Europa League place.
The defeat, along with Palermo’s surprise scoreless draw at Fiorentina, left Frosinone second from bottom at five points from safety with one game to play.
Frosinone now join Verona in Serie B next season although Carpi, which lost 3-1 at home to Lazio, or Palermo will suffer the same fate next week.
Coach Roberto Stellone is being tipped to take over a Serie A club, but he told Sky Sport: “I want to thank the fans because they’ve stuck with us throughout, even in the most difficult times.
“We go back to Serie B with our heads held high. I’m proud of the players, and of the club.”
In the final city derby of the season, Sampdoria were on the wrong side of a 3-0 thumping by Genoa.
Leonardo Pavoletti turned in at the near post after just three minutes and a brace either side of the interval from Suso wrapped up an emotional win at the Luigi Ferraris stadium.
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