Serie A: Inter win restores four point lead

April 6, 2008

MILAN, April 6 (Reuters) - Inter Milan restored their four-point lead in Serie A after goals from Patrick Vieira and Mario Balotelli secured a 2-0 win at Atalanta on Sunday.

Second-placed AS Roma's 3-2 win over Genoa on Saturday had cut the gap to a point but champions Inter returned to form with a clinical display after three league games without a win.

Vieira's 21st-minute header was controversial however, after he climbed all over Atalanta defender Maximilano Pellegrino to convert Balotelli's corner.

'I see no foul,' Inter coach Roberto Mancini said. 'It was good match at a difficult venue. Patrick has scored a very important goal.'

Balotelli, 17, scored his first league goal when he rounded the keeper in the second half following a counter-attack. The forward, who has impressed in the Italian Cup this season, was given a surprise start with Zlatan Ibrahimovic out injured.

Atalanta, who won 2-1 at AC Milan last weekend, troubled Inter at times but their day was summed up by Cristiano Doni's dismissal late on after two bookings for dissent.

FIORENTINA WIN

With six games remaining, Inter have 72 points and Roma are on 68. Juventus, with a game in hand, are 10 points adrift of Roma in third after losing 3-2 at Palermo in a thrilling late game.

Mattia Cassani lashed home from distance late on after Juve had fought back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 thanks to a brace from Alessandro Del Piero, who also hit the post.

Palermo forward Amauri, a Juve transfer target, had opened the scoring for the hosts after Del Piero gave the ball away and doubled their lead with a powerful header on half-time.

Fourth-placed Fiorentina are two behind Juve and four clear of AC Milan in the race for the final Champions League spot after Giampaolo Pazzini's header and Adrian Mutu's strike sealed a 2-0 win over Reggina, who drop to the bottom, two points from safety.

The Florence club drew 1-1 at home to PSV Eindhoven in a UEFA Cup quarter-final first leg on Thursday but they are now a step closer to reaching the qualifiers for Europe's more prestigious competition.

Milan beat second-bottom Cagliari 3-1 on Saturday but are running out of games to make the Champions League, which they won last season.

Udinese slipped to seventh after a 1-1 draw at Siena with Sampdoria moving above them into sixth, level on points with Milan, after Antonio Cassano returned from a five-game ban to inspire the home side to a 2-0 victory over lowly Livorno.

Empoli, who reappointed Luigi Cagni last week, moved off the bottom after a late Ighli Vannucchi goal snatched a 1-0 win at Torino. Catania were also big winners in the relegation fight, beating Napoli 3-0 in Walter Zenga's first game in charge.