ROME - Inter Milan landed a massive blow
in the Serie A title tussle on Sunday, going nine points clear
when they beat AC Milan 2-0 in a high voltage derby which they
finished with nine men.
Argentine forward Diego Milito set the champions on their
way with a diagonal strike on 10 minutes.
They then spent long periods under intense pressure in their
own half after Dutch playmaker Wesley Sneijder was sent off for
dissent in the 27th minute before Goran Pandev doubled the lead
with a free-kick in the 65th.
Inter keeper Julio Cesar saved a generous stoppage-time
Ronaldinho penalty for handball by Lucio, who was also shown a
Victory gave Inter 49 points from 21 matches, while Milan
are on 40 having played one game less.
"I'm happy to have given my contribution," Julio Cesar told
Sky television. "It's not easy to play practically the whole
game with 10. My team mates showed how strong this group is
Milan went into the game as slight favourites even without
injured defender Alessandro Nesta thanks to their strong revival
from a poor start in which they lost the early season derby 4-0.
But Inter surprised them with an aggressive opening.
Sneijder, who recovered from a high temperature to make
their starting XI, hit the far post with a long-range effort
before blasting a good chance straight at Milan keeper Dida.
Milito took advantage of a blunder by Milan's Ignazio Abate,
who headed the ball into his path when trying to cut out a
cross, to give them a deserved lead.
Sneijder was shown a red card for giving the referee
sarcastic applause when his team-mate Lucio got booked for
diving after a challenge by Massimo Ambrosini and an already
intense clash became bad tempered.
Milan pressed hard after the break when substitute Clarence
Seedorf had a header saved from short range. Ronaldinho came
close with a shot from the edge of the box and Marco Borriello
nodded a splendid David Beckham cross over the bar.
Inter were dangerous on their rare forays forward though and
Pandev had struck the woodwork at the end of a counter-attack
before scoring his side's second. Cesar capped off a great night
for Jose Mourinho's men with a superb penalty save.
Palermo climbed to fifth with a 3-0 home win over Fiorentina
thanks to a first-half double by 19-year-old Uruguayan forward
Abel Hernandez and Igor Budan's acrobatic effort just before the
The Sicilians' victory means Juventus drop to sixth after
their miserable run continued with a 2-1 home defeat by
third-placed AS Roma on Saturday, leaving coach Ciro Ferrara in
danger of losing his job.
Napoli consolidated fourth place with a 2-0 win at lowly
Livorno. The Tuscan side's coach Serse Cosmi quit after the
game, citing differences with the club president.
Sampdoria boss Luigi Del Neri's surprise decision to drop
out-of form- forward Antonio Cassano seemed to pay dividends as
the early pacesetters twice came from behind to beat struggling
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