Roma beat Livorno to close gap on Juve
AS Roma's forward Mattia Destro (C) celebrates after scoring a goal during their Italian Serie A football match against Livorno at Olympic stadium in Rome on January 18, 2014 - by Vincenzo Pinto
Roma's 14th win helped reduce the gap on leaders Juventus to five points although the champions can restore their eight-point cushion with a win at home to Sampdoria in Saturday's late game.
Livorno, who won promotion from Serie B last season, responded to their struggles in the first half of the campaign by sacking coach Davide Nicola last Monday after the side had taken just a point in their last eight games.
Successor Attilo Perotti, however, failed to come up with a magic formula at the Olympic Stadium, where Roma coach Rudi Garcia felt confident enough of a win to rest a host of regulars.
Striker Francesco Totti, defender Douglas Maicon and midfielder Radja Nainggolan all started on the bench but it took only six minutes for Roma to pull ahead, Destro pouncing on a backheel flick from Gervinho to beat Francesco Bardi in the visitors' net.
Mehdi Benatia then came close to doubling the scoreline but the Moroccan defender's overhead kick from a corner sailed over.
Roma piled on the pressure and when Ljajic and Daniele De Rossi combined, Bardi, celebrating his 22nd birthday, pulled off a great save from point-blank range.
It was only a matter of time before the Livorno net bulged again and although Destro came close, it was Strootman who had the pleasure after he picked up the rebound from the striker's chip after it had been denied by a Nahuel Valentini clearance.
Gervinho came close again but saw his close-range header from Vasilis Torosidis's cross go wide while a Destro goal just before half-time was ruled offside.
Roma continued to pile on the pressure in the second half but it took until the 78th minute for Ljajic to add his name to the scoresheet with a fine daisycutter after collecting from Radja Nainggolan.