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Inter's late winner takes it top
by Ian Plenderleith, November 10th, 2008 7AM
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[ITALY] It was a weekend of late drama in Italy's Serie A. Inter Milan went top after beating Udinese with a stoppage-time goal. Milan dropped points at Lecce when it conceded an equalizer in the 93rd minute. Roma likewise lost a lead in Bologna at the same stage thanks to a spectacular own goal, while there were late winners too for Torino and Catania.

The tense climaxes reflect the tight standings at the top. Only four points separate Inter at the top from Fiorentina in eighth.

Argentine striker Julio Cruz headed in from close range to give Inter an arguably undeserved three points at home to Udinese, with the visitors having created most of the best chances. "The team showed great character again today," said Inter coach Jose Mourinho. "Sometimes we have to be pragmatic. We earned the three points. Today we played well in defense, seeing as we have been criticized for the five goals conceded in three games. But we still have to work, we are a team in construction." Translation: we won the boring way.

Milan battered at Lecce's door for 78 minutes, missing chance after chance, but seemed to have clinched the points when Ronaldinho converted from eight yards out. Lecce then finally began to compete, and Andrea Esposito glanced in a 92nd minute header from a free kick to earn the newly promoted team a point and a respectable 12th position.

Another fine late header came from Roma's Brazilian defender Cicinho, but it was into his own net to the credit of host Bologna after Francesco Totti had put Roma in front. "We had difficulties playing our game but once we went ahead we had renewed energy," said Roma coach Luciano Spalletti after the 1-1 tie. He said his team did not play as well as when beating Chelsea in the Champions League in midweek, "and the players were not in great condition. We could have won but unfortunately we conceded an own goal and we have to accept it."

Juventus, however, was able to carry over its Champions League form into league play, scoring two goals for the third successive league game, this time on the road at Chievo Verona. Reborn Alessandro del Piero scored his fourth of the season, and Vicenzo Iaquinta followed up his own saved penalty kick to make it 2-0. Juve coach Claudio Ranieri marked a year in charge by saying "if I did well last year it does not mean that I suddenly became an idiot and now once again Einstein. It's certain papers who come up with such statements but I can't share their opinion. Mistakes are always committed, even when the team wins. In Italy we tend to praise a team when it wins and fire at it incessantly when it loses."

Napoli is in equal second position with Milan after beating Sampdoria, 2-0, the goals coming either side of the interval from Daniele Mannini and Uruguayan striker Marcelo Zalayeta. Lazio, one point behind them in fourth, eased to a 3-0 home over Siena thanks to goals from in-form Argentine forward Mauro Zarate, and a late brace from second-half substitute Tommaso Rocchi.

Argentine striker Diego Milito scored a hat trick, making his total nine for the season, as Genoa hit bottom-place Reggina with a second-half barrage of four goals to move up to seventh. Level on points, but just behind on goal difference, is Fiorentina, which edged Atalante Bergamo with two first-half goals from Felipe Celo and Alberto Gilardino, back after his two-game ban for deliberately scoring a goal with his arm.

Those other late wins? Austrian striker Jurgen Saumel scored his first of the season in the 89th minute to give Torino a 1-0 home win over Palermo. And defender Rocco Sabato scored three minutes from time to give Catania a 2-1 victory over Cagliari.

Goals scored: 23 in 10 games (2.3 per game)



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