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Roma fume as Inter eye fifth successive Italian crown

Rome: Roma were left fuming after Inter
Milan`s 2-0 victory over bitter city rivals Lazio allowed Jose
Mourinho`s side to edge closer to a fifth successive Serie A
title.

Inter`s win was even cheered by Lazio fans, desperate to
see second-placed Roma fail in their title bid, inside the
Olympic Stadium yesterday.

"I never thought I would see with my own eyes what I saw
tonight," said Roma director Gian Paolo Montali, who
criticised both the Lazio players and fans for their
behaviour.

"I believe even Inter and their coach are embarrassed. I
believe that today it wasn`t only Lazio who lost but also
sport and, in particular, our football."

Inter followed up their passage into the Champions League
final with the victory and with just two games left, they
restored their two-point lead over Roma, who won 2-1 at Parma
on Saturday, and also stayed on course for a treble.

They face Roma in the Italian Cup final on Wednesday and
Bayern Munich in Madrid on May 22 in the Champions League
final.

Inter face lowly opposition in their last two league
games - Chievo (12th place) at home next weekend before a trip
to relegated Siena (19th).

Roma also face Chievo a week after welcoming 14th-placed
Cagliari. But Roma could have a `joker` to play because if the
two sides are level on points at the end of the season, the
capital city side would be champions thanks to their better
head-to-head record against Inter.

A 1-1 draw in Milan was followed by a 2-1 home win at the
Olympic Stadium. On Sunday, Lazio fans, with their team
languishing two places off the relegation zone, cheered when
Argentine defender Walter Samuel headed in the first goal on
the stroke of half-time from a Wesley Sneijder cross.

Inter, fresh from knocking defending champions Barcelona
out of the Champions League in midweek, piled on the pressure,
but found Lazio goalkeeper Fernando Muslera in inspired form.

Muslera saved well from Maicon, Thiago Motta, Sneijder
and Samuel Eto`o in the first half. But the home side`s
resistance crumbled in the 70th minute when Motta scored from
a Maicon corner.

At the final whistle, even Lazio fans, who had also
unfurled a banner in praise of Mourinho, celebrated Inter`s
win.

"We were motivated," said Lazio`s assistant coach
Giovanni Lopez. "But the atmosphere was surreal in the
stadium. It was against us and didn`t help.

Inter`s sporting director Marco Branca said: "There`s been
a bond between the Inter and Lazio supporters for many years.”

"But I stress that at the end of the match, our players
were very tired because they fought for the win."

Earlier, Sampdoria and Palermo remained locked in battle
for fourth place and the final Champions League qualifying
spot after both recorded wins.

Sampdoria, who lead Palermo by two points, at times
laboured to a 2-0 success at home to rock-bottom and already
relegated Livorno while the Sicilians held on to a 2-1 victory
at Siena.

Antonio Cassano scored the only goal of the game after
just five minutes as he got beyond the defence and beat
goalkeeper Alfonso De Lucia.

Cassano should have given Sampdoria breathing space six
minutes before the break but somehow contrived to fire wide
from a great position. Cassano was having one of his champagne
days on the pitch and twice set up Giampaolo Pazzini but he
couldn`t finish.

However, six minutes from time Swiss full-back Reto
Ziegler crashed home a free-kick to calm Sampdoria nerves.

They stay fourth, four points behind AC Milan. Siena
joined Livorno in Serie B next season after their relegation
was confirmed by the defeat to Palermo. Uruguayan forward
Edison Cavani gave the visitors the lead on 24 minutes
after converting a cross from Antonio Nocerino.

When Fabrizio Miccoli added the second just before the
hour mark, the game seemed over but 10 minutes from time
Emanuele Calaio headed home a cross from former Middlesbrough
forward Massimo Maccarone to set up a tense finish.

In other games Napoli and Juventus both ensured
themselves a place in the Europa League next season. Napoli
won 2-1 away to Chievo thanks to goals from Argentine pair
German Dennis and Ezequiel Lavezzi, sandwiching a Pablo
Granoche strike.

Juventus dropped to seventh, a point behind Napoli, but
secured their spot with a 1-1 draw at Catania due to Genoa`s
3-0 defeat at Bari.

Bologna boosted their survival hopes as they came back
from a goal down to draw 1-1 at 10-man Atalanta.

Bureau Report

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