Soccer-Inspirational Gervinho helps Roma close gap on Juventus


Jan 26 (Reuters) - Rejuvenated Gervinho produced another inspirational performance for Roma on Sunday, setting up one goal and scoring with a stylish effort of his own in a 3-1 win over Hellas Verona.

Adem Ljajic and Francesco Totti were also on target as second-placed Roma cut the gap between themselves and leaders Juventus to six points and re-ignited the Serie A title race.

Gervinho has been a different player following his close season move from English Premier League Arsenal, where his sometimes comical finishing and bizarre performances made him the object of criticism and sometimes derision.

The Ivorian, who scored the only goal in Wednesday's Coppa Italia win over Juventus, created Roma's first chance with a typical surging run down the left only to see his effort wasted by Mattia Destro who prodded the ball over from six metres.

Undeterred, Gervinho produced a similar run in first-half stoppage time and pulled the ball back for Ljajic, who had no trouble in tapping the ball in from close range.

Verona quickly got back into the game after the break when Roma lost possession and Emil Hallfredsson fired the equaliser.

Gervinho put Roma back in front on the hour when he collected the ball in the penalty area with his back to goal, skipped past two defenders and scored with a low shot through a crowd of players, his sixth goal of the season in all competitions.

The visitors wrapped up the three points with a controversial penalty after Alejandro Gonzalez was judged to have fouled Vasileios Torosidis, although the Uruguayan appeared to play the ball.

Stalwart Totti, who came on as a second-half substitute after being rested at the start, ignored the angry Verona protests as he converted his fifth league goal of the season.

Juventus, held to a 1-1 draw at Lazio on Saturday, have 56 points from 21 games, with Roma on 50 and Napoli 44. (Reporting by Brian Homewood; editing by Justin Palmer)

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