MILAN - AC Milan debutant Antonio Cassano
set up a late winner to give the Serie A leaders a 1-0 victory
at Cagliari while Leonardo's Inter Milan reign began with a win
as the league returned from its mid-season break on Thursday.
Leonardo replaced Rafael Benitez two weeks ago, despite
managing Milan last season, and soon started to win over the
Inter fans with Thiago Motta firing home after three minutes in
an entertaining 3-1 home win over third-placed Napoli.
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Inter, without suspended striker Samuel Eto'o and injured
duo Julio Cesar and Wesley Sneijder, buckled midway through the
first half when Michele Pazienza nodded in a corner but superb
headers from Esteban Cambiasso and Motta sealed matters.
Seventh-placed champions Inter have two games in hand but
are 13 points behind Milan, who extended their advantage at the
top to five points with Lazio in second drawing 0-0 at Genoa.
Cassano, bought from Sampdoria to replace the soon-to-depart
Ronaldinho, came on in the second half and played in Sierra
Leone youngster Rodney Strasser for a vital 86th-minute winner
which had a hint of offside.
"After a tough win, above all with a goal from a lad from
the youth team, I think there's reason for the club to be
satisfied," Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri, whose side next
host Udinese on Sunday, told Sky.
"Definitely Cassano is not in top condition, it's enough to
look at him, but it's normal as he has not trained for two
months. He is already more in form than he ought to be."
Milan were much changed because of injuries and Zlatan
Ibrahimovic's suspension but teenage debutant Alexander Merkel
made a bright start alongside returning striker Alexandre Pato.
Allegri's ex-club Cagliari, now bossed by former Milan
stalwart Roberto Donadoni, hit the post through Michele Cannini.
Juventus slipped eight points behind Milan in the race for
the scudetto after on-loan Parma winger Sebastian Giovinco
scored twice in a shock 4-1 success at his parent club.
The defeat was the first in 19 games in all competitions for
fifth-placed Juve, who were down to 10 men when Felipe Melo was
sent off after 17 minutes for kicking Massimo Paci in the face.
The home side's woes began after three minutes when in-form
forward Fabio Quagliarella was carried off with a knee problem,
further highlighting the club's need for a new striker.
Giovinco struck either side of the break before Nicola
Legrottaglie halved the deficit with a header.
However, Hernan Crespo immediately secured victory from the
spot after being fouled by Giorgio Chiellini on 61 minutes and
former Juve man Raffaele Palladino scored on his debut late on.
AS Roma moved above Juve into fourth after Marco Borriello
and Mirko Vucinic scored doubles in a 4-2 comeback win at home
to Catania while Palermo overpowered Sampdoria 3-0.
Udinese continued their surge up the table with a 2-0 home
victory over Chievo and Cesena won 2-1 at strugglers Brescia.
Bologna managed a 1-1 draw for their new owners against
faltering Fiorentina, without the dropped Adrian Mutu, while
bottom side Bari won 1-0 at lowly Lecce in the big local derby.
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