Inter's lead cut to nine points after draw

February 24, 2008

MILAN, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Inter Milan's lead in Serie A was reduced to nine points on Sunday when the champions drew 1-1 at Sampdoria and second-placed AS Roma beat Fiorentina 1-0.

Hernan Crespo's diving header prevented a depleted Inter from suffering their first league defeat of the season after the superb Antonio Cassano had given the home side the lead.

Roma, who visit Inter on Wednesday, defeated Fiorentina thanks to a controversial second-half strike from Brazilian defender Cicinho.

AC Milan went above Fiorentina into fourth on goal difference after substitute Filippo Inzaghi headed home in stoppage time for a 2-1 win over Palermo in the late game.

Australian Mark Bresciano put the Sicilians ahead at the San Siro with a delicate finish before midfielder Massimo Ambrosini slid in Massimo Oddo's deep cross on 24 minutes.

Third-placed Juventus lost 2-1 at lowly Reggina on Saturday.

Parma, who drew 4-4 at Torino on Saturday, slipped back into the bottom three after Siena drew 2-2 at Atalanta.

Basement side Cagliari boosted their survival hopes with a 1-0 win over stuttering Lazio, as did Empoli, who defeated Catania 2-0 at home.

Livorno were sucked closer to the drop zone after going down 2-1 at home to Napoli but the game of the day was at Udinese where Genoa triumphed 5-3 and climbed to eighth after Italy striker Marco Borriello's hat-trick.

Inter boss Roberto Mancini, reeling from Tuesday's 2-0 Champions League defeat at Liverpool, travelled to former club Sampdoria without main strikers Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Julio Cruz because of injury.

Argentine striker Crespo showed their strength in depth, though, when he nodded in Dejan Stankovic's cross on 76 minutes after the in-form Cassano had expertly smashed home.

'We went into this game after the Champions League match and we were a bit tired. We suffered and battled after going behind, and a draw is a fair result,' Mancini told Sky.

Roma, now four points above Juventus on 51, were fortunate to take the three points after Cicinho scuffed home with Francesco Totti standing in an offside position in front of Fiorentina keeper Sebastien Frey.

Fiorentina also lost top striker Adrian Mutu to injury in the first half and hit the bar through Zdravko Kuzmanovic.

Cicinho was dismissed in stoppage time for two quick bookings and will miss Wednesday's big game at Inter.

'The San Siro game will determine everything. It will be a fundamental match,' Roma coach Luciano Spalletti told reporters.

Juve take on Torino in the Turin derby on Tuesday.