Cassano rescues Milan, Totti decides Rome derby

Antonio Cassano saved leaders AC Milan`s blushes with a late equaliser.

Rome: Antonio Cassano saved leaders AC Milan`s blushes with a late equaliser in a 1-1 draw against bottom side Bari while Francesco Totti scored twice as Roma beat nine-man Lazio 2-0 in a bruising Rome derby in Serie A on Sunday.

Cassano headed home eight minutes from time after a frustrated Milan had gone behind to a Gergely Rudolf goal in the first half and then had striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic sent off with 17 minutes to play.
With nine matches of the season to go, Milan remain five points clear of rivals Inter, who drew 1-1 with Brescia on Friday, with a potentially decisive derby coming up on April 3.

"There is some bitterness about this week," said Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri, whose side was also knocked out of the Champions League on Wednesday. "But we have to look on the bright side. We didn`t lose even with 10 men and are still the same number of points clear of Inter."

In Rome, Totti`s late goals gave the Giallorossi tifosi some relief after their midweek Champions League exit to Shakhtar Donetsk.

David Pizarro struck the bar for Roma with a 25-yarder on four minutes but there were precious few chances in a tense first half.

Lazio, who had lost the previous four matches against their rivals, stepped up the pace in the second half and should have gone ahead when Stefano Floccari missed a close-range header on 66 minutes.

Four minutes later Totti lit up the stadium, lashing a touched free-kick through the wall and through Fernando Muslera for his first goal in the derby since 2005.

Stefan Radu and Cristian Ledesma were sent off as tempers flared in the final minutes before Totti provided the finishing touch, blasting in a penalty to take sixth-placed Roma two points behind Lazio, who slip to fifth.

In Sardinia, Udinese kept up their amazing scoring record away from home to defeat Cagliari 4-0 and leap to third in Serie A ahead of Sunday`s late match between Parma and Napoli.

Medhi Benatia, Alexis Sanchez and two from Antonio Di Natale -- his 23rd and 24th of the season -- scored the goals in a 10-minute spell either side of half-time. Francesco Guidolin`s side have scored 32 goals in 15 matches on the road.
In Milan, Bari, 10 points adrift at the bottom of Serie A at the start of play, took a shock lead on 39 minutes. Instead of striking a 35-yard free-kick goalwards, Sergio Almiron slipped in Rudolf, who controlled, turned and shot in one movement past Christian Abbiati and into the far corner.

Milan piled on the pressure after the break but found a well-organised Bari defence difficult to break down. Jean Francois Gillet saved from Robinho on 50 minutes before Ibrahimovic had the ball in the net but was cautioned for handling in the action.

The Swede missed a glorious chance to equalise with 18 minutes to go, firing wide after being picked out by substitute Cassano. A minute later, the frustrated Ibrahimovic was sent off after being handed a second yellow card for another push on a defender.
Bari almost doubled their lead on 78 minutes after a quick counterattack but Almiron shot wide from 15 yards. And they were made to pay as Luca Antonini crossed from the left for Bari-born Cassano to head home.

Fiorentina kept up their good recent form with a 1-0 win at Chievo Verona. Peruvian Juan Vargas grabbed the goal three minute after the break to send the Viola eighth, two points behind Juventus.

Elsewhere, Genoa beat Palermo 1-0 and improving Bologna defeated Lecce by the only goal to move into midtable positions, while Christian Llama gave Diego Simeone`s Catania a precious three points in a 1-0 win over struggling Sampdoria as they climbed four places above the drop zone.

On Saturday, Cesena came back from two goals down to draw 2-2 with 10-man Juve, leaving more pressure on coach Gigi Delneri.

Bureau Report