MILAN - Serie A leaders Inter Milan
shrugged off the suspensions of four players and the concession
of an early goal to win 3-2 at lowly Udinese on Sunday.
Three straight draws had slashed their advantage at the top
but their famed resilience coupled with some fantastic play kept
the champions four points above second-placed AC Milan, who beat
Inter were without the suspended Walter Samuel, Ivan
Cordoba, Esteban Cambiasso and Sulley Muntari following last
weekend's fiery 0-0 draw with Sampdoria and had coach Jose
Mourinho banned from the bench.
Midfielder Thiago Motta was forced to play in central
defence and Kenya winger McDonald Mariga was handed a first
start while struggling Samuel Eto'o was still only a substitute.
Udinese, four points above the drop zone, had a great start
when Simone Pepe rifled in after Antonio Di Natale's pass but
Inter were soon level thanks to Mario Balotelli's angled shot
from the edge of the area on six minutes.
Right-back Maicon then put the visitors 2-1 up after a fine
move midway through the first half and Diego Milito, who grabbed
the opener in the midweek Champions League win over Chelsea,
headed the third just before the break.
Serie A top scorer Di Natale scored a penalty early in the
second period after a handball to set up a nervous finale.
Milan fought off relegation-threatened Atalanta at the San
Siro after Alexandre Pato's first-half double but the striker
went off with a thigh injury and is a big doubt for next
Saturday's game at AS Roma.
The Brazilian produced a neat turn and finish on the half
hour before converting Ronaldinho's pass 11 minutes later. Jaime
Valdes netted for the visitors after the interval but Marco
Borriello was quick to restore Milan's two-goal advantage after
Ronaldinho's penalty was saved.
Injury-hit Roma in third slipped seven points behind Inter
after surrendering a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 at Napoli, who
equalised through Marek Hamsik's stoppage-time penalty.
Palermo surged up to fourth after Fabrizio Miccoli curled in
on the hour to set up a 2-0 win at former club Juventus, who
lost for the first time under Alberto Zaccheroni and are level
with Napoli in fifth with less than a third of the season to go.
A dreadful defensive mixup allowed Igor Budan to walk in the
second against a Juve side reminiscient of the demoralised team
which Ciro Ferrara left when he was sacked in January.
Genoa missed the chance to move level with Juve when they
were beaten 4-3 at home by strugglers Bologna, who triumphed
thanks to Adailton's hat-trick, while Sampdoria's push for the
fourth Champions League qualifying spot was hit by a 1-0 loss at
Mid-table Chievo overcame Cagliari 2-1 while bottom side
Siena boosted their outside hopes of avoiding the drop with a
last-gasp 2-1 win at relegation rivals Livorno in the Tuscan
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