MILAN, Oct 22 (Reuters) - A hat-trick by Italy international Luca Toni inspired a 4-1 victory over Parma on Saturday which moved Fiorentina level on points with second-placed AC Milan in Serie A.
Parma were badly weakened by injury and were swept aside by hosts Fiorentina, who led 3-0 by halftime after two goals from Toni and a spectacular strike by Stefano Fiore.
Toni opened the scoring in the second minute with a header from a Martin Jorgensen cross before doubling the lead after a dreadful error by Portuguese defender Fernando Couto.
Couto's weak back-pass was intercepted by Toni, who rounded Parma keeper Luca Bucci to slot the ball into an unguarded goal in the 24th minute.
Nine minutes before the break Fiore effectively wrapped up victory with a brilliant individual goal, picking the ball up in midfield and heading goalwards before unleashing a 25-metre drive with his less-favoured left foot.
SLOW TO REACT
Toni completed his hat-trick on 59 minutes when he chested the ball down in the area and lobbed Bucci, who was slow to react.
Australian Vincenzo Grella pulled a goal back for Parma with a low drive through a crowded area in the 66th minute.
The win put Fiorentina on 16 points, one point ahead of fourth-placed Inter Milan who play at Udinese on Sunday.
Gianluca Comotto headed an injury-time equaliser to earn Ascoli a 1-1 draw at Messina.
Messina went ahead in the 28th minute with a Riccardo Zampagna penalty after Maurizio Domizzi was ruled to have brought down Serbian striker Ivica Iliev.
Domizzi was sent off for a second bookable offence three minutes from the end but deep into injury time Comotto rose in the area to bullet home a header.
Messina were left in the relegation zone with four points, all from draws, from eight games. Promoted Ascoli have 10 points.
The highlight of Sunday's fixtures is the derby between AS Roma and Lazio. Leaders Juventus travel to Lecce.