Sunday 11 May 2008

Serie A Week 37: Sunday Review

Roma have taken the Serie A title race down to the wire after cutting Inter's lead at the top to one point while, the Nerazzurri were held by Siena. The Champions League race also goes to the final day after Fiorentina leapfroged AC Milan into fourth spot. At the other end, Livorno have been relegated to Serie B and three other sides are sweating to avoid the final two spots.

Inter missed the chance to claim their third consecutive Serie A title for the second weekend in succession after they were twice pegged back to draw 2-2 with Siena. An expectant sell-out crowd saw Inter claim an 11th-minute lead when Patrick Vieira powerfully headed home from a Mario Balotelli corner. Siena pulled a goal back through Massimo Maccarone on the half-hour mark before Balotelli restored his side's lead on the stroke of half-time. Inter controlled proceedings in the second half but were stunned by Houssine Kharja's long-range strike. And the home fans' feelings of anxiety were not helped when Marco Materazzi won a dubious penalty 10 minutes from time, only to see his spot kick saved by Alex Manninger. Inter visit relegation-threatened Parma next Sunday. A win for the Nerazzurri will secure the title.

Roma beat Atalanta 2-0 to move to within one point of Serie A leaders Inter going into the last game of the season. The Giallorossi's victory coupled with Inter's 2-2 draw against Siena has kept Roma in contention for the Scudetto. Veteran defender Christian Panucci opened the scoring midway through the first half before Daniele De Rossi's stunning 67th-minute free-kick made it 2-0. Atalanta, who were denied by the crossbar before the break, reduced the deficit two minutes from time with a Gianpaolo Bellini strike. But Roma held on for a crucial triumph. Roma travel to relegation-threatened Catania on the final day. Luciano Spalletti's side must win and hope the Nerazzurri fail to win at Parma.

Napoli dealt a crushing blow to AC Milan's hopes of UEFA Champions League qualification after goals from Marek Hamsik, Maurizio Domizzi and Gyorgy Garics earned a 3-1 victory. Hamsik opened the scoring eight minutes before half-time and Domizzi added a second from the penalty spot. Substitute Garics added a third in stoppage time before Clarence Seedorf's even later consolation as the visitors were dumped unceremoniously out of the top four. Carlo Ancelotti's side are now two points adrift of fourth place after Fiorentina leapfrogged them in the table by beating Parma. Milan must beat Udinese at home next week and hope La Viola fail to win at Torino.

Fiorentina moved back up to fourth spot to boost their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League with a 3-1 victory over 10-man Parma. The visitors, who sit two points adrift of safety in the relegation zone, took an early lead through Igor Budan but the hosts fought back strongly with goals from Mario Alberto Santana, Franco Semioli and Pablo Daniel Osvaldo. The Gialloblu cause was not helped by the dismissal of defender Marco Rossi 10 minutes from time. The Florence outfit will secure fourth spot by winning at Torino next week. Parma, meanwhile, have to beat Inter at home and hope Catania fail to pick up anything against Roma.

Livorno's relegation to Serie B was confirmed as they went down 1-0 at home to Torino - a result that ensures the Turin club's top-flight survival. Fernando Orsi's team entered the penultimate weekend of the season knowing only victory would save them from the drop, but a Alessandro Rosina goal just before the half-time break sealed their fate.

Reggina secured Serie A football for another season after beating Empoli 2-0 in a tense relegation battle. Edgar Barreto and Nicola Amoruso provided the all-important goals in the second half to move their side up to 39 points in the table, five clear of the drop zone with one game remaining. Empoli, meanwhile, now have a tough task ahead of them as the defeat leaves them three points adrift of Catania and safety. However, they have a better head-to-head record with the Catania this season, meaning a win against already-relegated Livorno coupled with defeat for the Sicilians against Roma and Parma failing to beat Inter would see Luigi Cagni's team survive.

A last-gasp Alessandro Del Piero strike denied Catania the chance to secure their Serie A future as Juvenuts earned a 1-1 draw. Jorge Martinez fired the relegation-threatened side ahead three minutes into the second half and Catania looked certain to have bagged the three points which would have seen them maintain their top-flight status. But Del Piero pounced in the dying seconds, moving him level with team-mate David Trezeguet at the top of the goalscoring charts, to ensure that Catania's battle with Parma to avoid the drop goes right down to the wire. The Sicilians, two points above the relegation zone, only need a draw at home to Roma to secure safety.

Cagliari secured their survival as they defeated high-flying Udinese 2-0 at the Stadio Friuli. Robert Acquafresca fired the visitors into the lead three minutes into the second half before Andrea Cossu doubled their advantage eight minutes later. Pasquale Marino's Udinese, who have already guarenteed a top seven spot in Serie A, are appealing the decision this week not to award them a UEFA club licence. If they fail, it would see them banned from taking part in European competitions next season and their place going to the next highest available club in the table.

Lazio salvaged a touch of pride from a disappointing season by winning 2-0 at Genoa, condemning their hosts to a third consecutive league defeat. Goran Pandev put the Biancoceleste ahead in the 32nd minute before Tommaso Rocchi sealed the win in first-half stoppage time.

Sampdoria triumphed 2-0 at Palermo to continue their impressive season which has seen them already secure a UEFA Cup spot. Second-half goals from Antonio Cassano and Cristian Maggio saw off the challenge of midtable Palermo.

[Sunday 11 May]

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