Sunday 4 May 2008

Serie A Week 36: Sunday Review

A dominant AC Milan beat Serie A leaders Inter 2-1 in the derby to blow open the title race with second-placed Roma winning 3-0 at Sampdoria to cut Inter's lead to three points. Fiorentina dropped out of the top four with defeat at Cagliari while there were crucial wins for Parma, Reggina, Siena and Torino.

A brilliant Ricardo Kaka tore apart Inter in the Milan derby to lift the Rossoneri into fourth place and re-open the title race. After a goalless first half, Kaka set up Filippo Inzaghi and then beat Julio Cesar for AC Milan's second. A curling free-kick from outside the area by Julio Cruz gave Inter a lifeline but Roberto Mancini's men were unable to find the equaliser. With second-placed Roma winning, Inter's defeat has left them with just a three-point lead over the capital side with two games remaining. Milan, meanwhile, climbed into the final qualifying place for the UEFA Champions League, leapfrogging Fiorentina who lost.

Roma roared back into title contention as they stunned Sampdoria 3-0 courtesy of three late goals to move just three points behind leaders Inter. Defeat for the Giallorossi would have handed the title to the Nerazzurri, and following a first half dominated by Samp it looked as though the capital club's challenge would end this weekend. Three goals in the final 15 minutes from Christian Panucci, David Pizarro and Cicinho downed Sampdoria. Defeat meant the Genoa side slipped outside of the UEFA Cup spots and into seventh.

The week from hell for Fiorentina ended with them losing their grip on fourth place after a 2-1 defeat at relegation-threatened Cagliari. The Viola found themselves 2-0 down in under an hour, Jedaias Jeda and Daniele Conti on the scoresheet. The Tuscan visitors pulled a goal back thanks to Mario Santana but it was not enough, with Adrian Mutu later sent off. After losing the UEFA Cup semi-final to Glasgow Rangers on Thursday, Cesare Prandelli's side now find themselves fifth after AC Milan's derby win. Cagliari take a step closer to safety - four points now separate them from the drop zone with two games left to play.

Any hopes Juventus had of snatching second place in Serie A disappeared as they slumped to a 1-0 defeat at Siena, a result that secured safety for the home side. It was backs-to-the-wall stuff from Siena as they were forced to hang on for 84 minutes following Houssine Kharja's early strike. But that was to prove the only goal of the game and, with Roma winning 3-0, Juve must now be content with third in their first season back in Serie A.

Udinese retook sixth place and improved their UEFA Cup qualifying chances while denting Empoli's survival hopes with a 1-0 win at the Stadio Castellani. Fabio Quagliarella's first-half strike ensured the visitors took all the spoils on a miserable afternoon for the unlucky hosts who hit the woodwork twice and missed a penalty through Sebastian Giovinco. The Tuscans sit second-from-bottom, two points from safety.

Reggina gave themselves an important advantage over relegation rivals Catania by taking all three points in their game with the Sicilian side, winning 2-1. Nicola Amoruso opened the scoring late in the first half before sealing the win with a penalty two minutes from time. Jorge Martinez scored a consolation effort deep into stoppage time but it was not enough to prevent Reggina from climbing above their hosts in the Serie A table. With the win Reggina rise to 16th, one place above Catania and two points clear of the final relegation spot. Catania are just one point above the drop zone.

Parma ended a run of three successive defeats and boosted their hopes of Serie A survival with a 1-0 victory over Genoa. Cristiano Lucarelli scored the only goal in the second half to move Hector Cuper's men to within a point of safety. However, with meetings against Fiorentina and league leaders Inter in their last two fixtures, Parma fans can expect a nervy and testing end to the season. Defeat for Genoa saw their slim UEFA Cup hopes finally brought to an end with the Intertoto Cup now their only realistic chance of playing European football next season.

Gianni De Biasi's hopes of guiding Torino to Serie A safety for a second consecutive season received an important boost as they defeated Napoli 2-1 in Turin. The 51-year-old was recalled for a third spell in charge of the club last month after helping Toro avoid the drop during his brief spell in charge last season. Alessandro Rosina gave them a 27th-minute lead from the penalty spot, but when Matteo Contini equalised in the 53rd minute the home fans could have been excused for feeling some anxiety. David Di Michele provided almost immediate relief, however, as he struck three minutes later to secure three vital points on the 59th anniversary of the Superga air disaster. The result moves Toro three points clear of the relegation zone.

Livorno's Serie A future looks bleak after they were beaten 3-2 by Atalanta in Bergamo. Five goals in a frantic second half had everyone on the edge of their seats. Livorno looked to have done enough for a draw after trailing to goals from Cristiano Doni and Adriano Pinto. A quickfire fightback through goals from Fausto Rossini and Simone Pavan restored parity, before the killer blow from the boot of Simone Padoin two minutes from time saw the visitors slip to their 12th defeat in 18 games. And it is a defeat which leaves new coach Fernando Orsi five points from safety after his first game in charge.

Palermo came from behind to beat Lazio 2-1 in stoppage time in a game that will decide little in this season's Serie A table. Goran Pandev opened the scoring for the hosts from the penalty spot in the first half, before Carvalho Amauri made up for a first-half penalty miss with two late headers to steal all three points for Stefano Colantuono's men. With both sides reasonably comfortable in mid-table, and with neither European football nor relegation a real possibility for either side, there was never much more than pride at stake in Rome.

[Sunday 4 May]

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