Rome: Inter Milan`s title charge gained
momentum as the champions squeezed past Cagliari 1-0 to close
the gap on leaders AC Milan.
Inter`s bitter city rivals can push their lead over their
neighbours back out to five points with victory today at
Chievo but the nerazzurri`s ninth win in 11 league games
ensured they kept up the pressure ahead of their Champions
League clash with Bayern Munich on Wednesday.
Centre-back Andrea Ranocchia scored the only goal of the
game in contentious manner as he appeared to be offside. The
game began at break-neck speed with Cagliari goalkeeper
Michael Agazzi plunging to his right to save a vicious Goran
Pandev stike after just two minutes.
The visitors went straight up the other end and Inter
shot-stopper Julio Cesar tipped over an Andrea Lazzari volley
after a clever chip forward from Alessandro Agostini.
From Andrea Cossu`s resulting corner Cesar tipped over a
Daniele Conti header.
Inter took a controversial lead on seven minutes as
Samuel Eto`o took advantage of Cagliari players arguing with
the referee to take a quick free-kick.
He played in Houssine Kharja behind the defence and his
deflected cross was kept out by Agazzi`s leg only for the ball
to rebound to the Morocco midfielder, who fired in a cross
that hit Ranocchia and a defender on it`s way in.
However, television replays showed Ranocchia had been
offside as Kharja struck his shot.
Cagliari were straight back on the attack and Cesar tiped
a skimming Davide Biondini shot around the post.
After that blistering first 10 minutes, the game settled
a little, not in terms of pace but in terms of clear-cut
On 21 minutes quick feet from Eto`o created a chance
after a flowing Inter move but Agazzi got down well to stop
The Cameroon captain enjoyed the best of the rest of the
half`s chances but sent a free-kick over the bar before he had
another shot comfortably saved by the Sardinians` goalkeeper.
The second period struggled to live up to the promise of
the first and it wasn`t until the 70th minute thata clear
chance came by as Conti`s strike from range deflected off
Thaigo Motta and wrong-footed Cesar, only to plop the wrong
side of the post.
By now Inter seemed to be paying for the efforts of their
midweek win over Fiorentina and Cagliari were pushing hard for
an equaliser, with Lazzari`s rasping drive sailing just wide.
However, coach Leonardo moved to hold onto what he had
and brought on Esteban Cambiasso, Dejan Stankovic and McDonald
Mariga to shore up his midfield. Earlier, Daniele Paponi
scored a last-minute winner to earn Bologna a 1-0 victory
against 10-man Palermo.
The visitors, who had Santiago Garcia sent off early in
the second half, slumped to a second straight defeat and their
Champions League hopes are now hanging by a thread after a
second uninspiring performance in a row.
They sit seventh ahead of Sunday`s games and already five
points off a top four-finish. Bologna, on the other hand, look
to be safely in the mid-table comfort zone despite having been
deducted three points for financial irregularities earlier in