Ciro Immobile struck twice as Lazio took advantage of an Atalanta slip-up with Sunday’s 2-0 win at Salernitana which moved his team provisionally into Serie A’s Champions League places.
Italy forward Immobile tapped in Lazio’s opener from Adam Marusic’s cross on the hour mark in Salerno and nine minutes later slotted home a perfect penalty after being fouled by the hosts’ goalkeeper Luigi Sepe.
Lazio moved up to fourth on 42 points thanks to Immobile’s brace, which came after his winner against Cluj in the Europa League on Thursday.
Immobile has struggled with injuries but is on eight league strikes for the season, taking his career Serie A total to 191 and eighth in the Italian top flight’s all-time scoring charts.
The 32-year-old needs another 14 strikes to draw level with icon Roberto Baggio.
“Ciro scored twice because he scored on Thursday. Strikers live for the goal, get down if they don’t score and fired up when they do,” said Lazio coach Maurizio Sarri.
“Our feeling in training over the last few days was that Immobile was improving physically. Thursday gave him a mental boost so now we need to get the best out of him.”
Sarri’s side were missing star midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic to a stomach bug but didn’t miss the Serb in a comfortable win against a team sliding closer to the relegation zone.
Salernitana, playing their first match under new coach Paulo Sousa after sacking Davide Nicola, have won just one game since the end of October.
They are four points above Verona who sit just inside the drop zone and are at fifth-placed Roma on Sunday night.
Lazio are one point above both Roma and Atalanta, who drop down to sixth after falling to a shock 2-1 home defeat to promoted Lecce.
Assan Ceesay opened the scoring in the fourth minute in Bergamo with a thumping low strike from distance and Alexis Blin headed in the crucial second in the 74th minute.
Young gun Rasmus Hojlund pulled one back late on with his second in as many weeks, but Atalanta couldn’t make the most of the seven minutes of added time to snatch a point.
“We keep conceding these early goals and if it keeps happening then it’s obviously our fault,” said Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini.
“Top teams don’t do this on a regular basis.”
Marco Baroni’s Lecce are 13th and 10 points above Verona while Atalanta are three points behind third-placed AC Milan, where Gasperini’s team play next weekend.
One place behind Atalanta are Juventus, who are now nine points away from the European spots after their third league win on the bounce, 2-0 at struggling Spezia.
Juve would be second, level on 47 points with Inter Milan had they not been slapped with a 15-point penalty last month for what the Italian Football Federation ruled was illicit transfer activity designed to artificially boost their balance sheet.
Instead they are seventh and awaiting a decision on their appeal against that punishment, Moise Kean and Angel Di Maria scoring the goals in each half which claimed the points at the Stadio Alberto Picco.
Defeat was harsh on Spezia, who are waiting for Leonardo Semplici to become their new coach after sacking Luca Gotti, as they had Juve on the back foot for large chunks of the match and were twice denied by super Mattia Perin saves in the second half.
A fifth defeat in four matches has Spezia two points above Verona and at risk of dropping into the bottom three.
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