MILAN, May 6 (Reuters) - Juventus clinched their first
Italian title for nine seasons on Sunday but not until Serie A
had dished up its customary climactic mix of chaos, drama and
Unbeaten Juventus comfortably dispatched Cagliari 2-0 in a
match which the Sardinians hosted in Trieste - closer to Zagreb
than their own island base - and featured a last minute change
in kickoff times.
The title was assured when AC Milan, the only team who could
catch them, lost 4-2 to bitter rivals Inter in a match which
featured three penalties, a hat-trick for Diego Milito, two
goals for Zlatan Ibrahimovic and yet another ghost goal.
The final whistle in Trieste was greeted by an unruly pitch
invasion by Juventus fans and the champions quickly re-ignited
the controversy over how many titles they had won.
Officially, it was Juventus' 28th Serie A title - an Italian
record - yet Juve players and officials were quick to bring up
the Calciopoli match-fixing scandal which resulted in them being
stripped of the 2005 and 2006 titles.
"It's our 30th Scudetto," Juventus sporting director
Giuseppe Marotta told television reporters after his team moved
four points clear of Milan with one game to play.
"We have 30 on all the champagne bottles and we have won 30
Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, one of several players who went
down to Serie B when Juventus were demoted as a result of
Calciopoli, joined in the debate.
"I won five titles on the field although they have only
awarded me three of them, well, what can I do about it?" said
the 2006 World Cup winner, who also won Serie A titles in 2002
Buffon has had a superb season, rediscovering the form which
made him one of the world's top goalkeepers as Juventus were
revitalized in the first season under the leadership of their
former midfielder Antonio Conte.
Milan were left to reflect on the possible turning point of
the title race in February, when they had a goal disallowed
against Juventus because match officials failed to see that it
had crossed the line.
Milan were leading 1-0 and in complete control when Sulley
Muntari headed the ball well over the line in the Juve goal
before Buffon clawed it away.
Juve hit back in the second half to draw 1-1.
A few weeks later, Milan had another goal disallowed in
similar circumstances at Catania, costing them another two
points after the game ended 1-1.
There was more refereering controversy in Sunday's derby at
San Siro as Inter, despite an unhappy season of their own,
completed a double over Milan.
Milito gave Inter a 14th minute lead and they nearly had a
second when Esteban Cambiasso header was clawed away by Milan
goalkeeper Christian Abbiati amid suggestions the ball might
have crossed the line.
A minute before the break Milan were awarded a hugely
controversial penalty after Inter Milan goalkeeper Julio Cesar
dived at the feet of Kevin-Prince Boateng and clearly got his
hand to the ball.
Julio Cesar tried to Ibrahimvoic with some playground antics
by sticking his tongue out distract penalty taker but it was to
no avail as the Swede fired home the equaliser.
The volatile forward then took his Serie A tally to 28 goals
with a superbly-taken second goal at the start of the second
half to hand the defending champions a lifeline.
Milito had other ideas as he won and converted a penalty to
level the scores, then fired home the third penalty of the night
in the 79th minute after Alessandro Nesta had been harshly
judged to have handled.
A brilliant fourth by Maicon completed the scoring and Inter
celebrated as if they had won the title.
That goal also kicked off the celebrations in Trieste, where
Cagliari have been forced to play their home games because of
safety problems at the intimidating Stadio Sant'Elia.
The game had been due to take place in the afternoon but
Juventus objected to playing earlier than Milan and the kickoff
time was switched on Thursday.
Juventus can now complete the season unbeaten if they avoid
defeat against Atlanta next Sunday and beat Napoli in the
Italian Cup final on May 20.
Even that statistic, however, is grounds for controversy.
Juventus won their two-leg semi-final against Milan 4-3 on
aggregate thanks to a 2-2 draw after extra-time in the second
Milan claim that because they were leading 2-1 at the end of
90 minutes in the second match, that should be considered a
defeat for Juventus.
(Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne; Editing by Nick
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