AS Roma stunned by Samp, Inter in pole position
Milan: AS Roma handed the Serie A title initiative back to leaders Inter Milan after losing 2-1 at home to Sampdoria, their first league defeat in 25 games.
Claudio Ranieri`s side looked to be returning to the summit after Francesco Totti`s 14th-minute goal but a second-half double from Giampaolo Pazzini sent Samp back up to the fourth and final Champions League qualifying spot.
Inter, who had let slip a nine-point lead from February, beat Atalanta 3-1 on Saturday and lie two points ahead of Roma with three games left as they seek a fifth straight scudetto.
The visit of Samp had looked the toughest-remaining hurdle in debt-laden Roma`s fairytale route to a surprise fourth Serie A title and so it proved.
Totti, substituted in last weekend`s derby win over Lazio because he was over-excited, expertly turned in Mirko Vucinic`s pass to boost calls for the Italian to come out of international retirement at June`s World Cup.
But it was another Azzurri striker hoping to be in South Africa who produced stunned silence in the Stadio Olimpico.
First Pazzini headed in former Roma forward Antonio Cassano`s cross early in the second half before poking in the winner five minutes from time.
"First half that wasn`t us," Pazzini told reporters. "Then we sorted it out in the second half. It was a great match and our Champions League dream continues."
Roma, who also face Inter in the Italian Cup final on May 5, probably did enough to claim a draw, with Totti hitting the post and a strong penalty appeal being turned down.
Sampdoria moved two points above Palermo, who beat third-placed AC Milan 3-1 on Saturday, and six above Juventus.