Serie A: Inter up to second after win over Fiorentina

September 25, 2005
By James Eve

ROME, Sept 25 (Reuters) - Inter Milan climbed to second in Serie A when a goal by Obafemi Martins earned them a well-deserved 1-0 win over Fiorentina on Sunday.

That gave Inter 12 points from five matches, three behind leaders Juventus, who won 2-1 at Parma on Saturday.

There was also success for Inter's city rivals AC Milan, whose captain Paolo Maldini celebrated his record 571st appearance in Italy's top flight by helping his side to a 2-0 win over bottom side Treviso.

Milan's victory moved them into a share of fourth place, level with Fiorentina, Palermo and Lazio on 10 points. Livorno are third on 11 points after a 2-0 win over Ascoli.

The scoreline failed to reflect Inter's dominance over an in-form and undefeated Fiorentina side, though it was a clear signal that they are ready to mount a serious challenge for their first Serie A title since 1989.

They began aggressively, penning the visitors back and taking the lead in the seventh minute when Nigerian international Martins swept Luis Figo's low cross past keeper Sebastian Frey.

At times Fiorentina were limited to mounting an extended rearguard action and had to wait until Inter started to tire at the end of the half before getting their first scoring chance, a Luca Toni snapshot that Julio Cesar did well to tip over the bar.

Their defeat would have been a lot heavier but for Frey, who twice pulled off reflex saves to deny Stankovic. Midfielder Cristian Brocchi cleared an Adriano header off the line.

Treviso's chances of picking up their first point of the season seemed remote as Milan midfielder Andrea Pirlo forced a diving save from keeper Adriano Zancope with a long-range effort after less than two minutes.

After a stuttering start, however, the home side found their rhythm and Brazilian striker Reginaldo narrowly failed to connect with a cross that flashed across the box.

It needed a moment of brilliance by another Brazilian, Kaka, to put Milan ahead a minute before the interval.

Receiving the ball in his own half, the 23-year-old playmaker set off on a mazy run through Treviso's midfield.

His through ball picked out Alberto Gilardino, the Italy international was up-ended by Zancope and Andriy Shevchenko converted the penalty.

Milan looked more comfortable after the interval but had to wait until the 73rd minute before Gilardino's diving header put the result beyond doubt.

Maldini's appearance took him past Dino Zoff's record of 570 games.

Palermo seemed to be cruising towards a fourth successive Serie A victory as goals by Andrea Caracciolo and Mariano Gonzalez gave them a two-goal lead over Lazio.

Their collapse began in the 58th minute after a defensive mix-up between Nicola Santoni and his defenders allowed Tommaso Rocchi through to roll the ball into an empty net.

The striker then set up Goran Pandev to score Lazio's second barely 60 seconds later.

Lazio midfielder Christian Manfredini gave Palermo's fall a comical aspect, when a 65th-minute free kick deflected off his backside to give his side the lead.

Rocchi's second goal, on the break five minutes from the end, capped a dreadful second half for Palermo, who had been unbeaten in Serie A this season.