Inter wave goodbye to title hopes as Milan roll on
Rome: AC Milan kept their Serie A title challenge going full throttle, strolling past relegation-haunted Sampdoria 3-0 at San Siro.
But deposed European champions Inter Milan can all but wave their title hopes goodbye after slumping at lowly Parma on Saturday.
Goals from veteran Clarence Seedorf, Antonio Cassano -- from the penalty spot -- and Robinho saw Milan coast home against Samp as the hosts motored six points clear of second-placed Napoli, who host Udinese on Sunday.
Inter, already smarting from their Champions League exit at the hands of Schalke, are eight points off the pace and surely out for the championship count.
Sebastian Giovinco and Amauri scored the goals for Parma, late on in either half, to give their side a three-point cushion over Sampdoria.
If Milan can hold on to top spot they will lift their first crown since 2004, although Napoli coach Walter Mazzarri insists that he will "keep on dreaming" until the championship is mathematically beyond his men.
Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri struck a note of caution. "Five matches still remain. It`s true that eight points (on Inter) is a lot but you also have to think about Napoli," Allegri said.
"We have to stand up and be counted in matches as we are doing at the moment and hang right in there to the end."
The Rossoneri were in the driving seat once Seedorf fired them into a 20th-minute lead from a free-kick, banishing any doubts about the effect of the absence of Sweden striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who is suspended for three matches for swearing at a linesman.
Milan had to overcome further challenges as goalkeeper Christian Abbiati went off injured on 19 minutes, Marco Amelia coming on in his place.
Then forward Alexandre Pato also had to leave the fray, with Cassano coming on. The latter promptly netted from the spot nine minutes after the break after a handball by Daniele Gastaldello following a Mario Yepes header. Cassano was also at the heart of the build-up for Robinho`s headed third on the hour.
Inter, meanwhile, had an evening to forget as they all but abdicated their domestic title.
The treble-winning era of Jose Mourinho now seems a long time in the past as the side now coached by former Milan coach Leonardo limply went down at Parma in the absence of the dropped Maicon and Thiago Motta.
"We need points -- eight behind, that`s a lot," said Leonardo.
"Five behind, you can still believe, but the problem is getting over the tiredness."
All that can save Inter now is to rescue a crumb of comfort via the Coppa Italia. They have a semi-final first leg on Tuesday against Roma.
Roma will also see that tie as a route to silverware salvation after they saw their hopes of bagging a Champions League qualifying spot suffer a big blow following a 3-2 loss at home to Palermo.
The defeat gave neighbours Lazio a boost as it allowed the Biancocelesti to maintain a four-point lead over their rivals from the capital prior to Sunday`s match at Catania. Roma appeared to be on course to stay in touch with the leading pack when Francesco Totti gave them a 20th-minute lead from the penalty spot after Armin Bacinovic fouled Jeremy Menez.
But two minutes before the break Palermo levelled with a spot-kick of their own, Chilean Maurizio Pinilla, fouled by Nicolas Burdisso, dusting himself down before dispatching the kick.
Roma tried to force the pace after the re-start but were caught on the hop as Uruguayan Abel Hernandez netted twice in the final seven minutes.
Mirko Vucinic, having earlier missed a sitter when set up by Menez, pulled one back in a frantic finale but there was no time for the hosts to try to rescue a point.
The loss was a bitter blow, coming hours after the club`s sale to American equity tycoon Thomas DiBenedetto. Palermo, despite the win, stay eighth, four points adrift of Juventus.