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Sunday, January 22, 2006
Serie A: Juve maintain eight-point lead

ROME, Jan 22 (Reuters) - Defender Fabio Cannavaro scored twice for Serie A leaders Juventus who came from behind to beat Empoli 2-1 and maintain their eight-point cushion on Sunday.

Empoli took an early lead through Sergio Almiron, but Italy international Cannavaro twice converted headers to seal Juve's 14th consecutive Serie A win at the Stadio delle Alpi.

Juve have 56 points from 21 matches. Inter Milan are second on 48 points after beating Palermo 3-0 on Saturday.

AC Milan consolidated third place on 46 points with a 3-0 victory over Siena, Brazilian Kaka scoring twice.

The division's top scorer Luca Toni also got a brace to lead Fiorentina to a 2-0 win over Messina, giving them 43 points and completing a clean sweep of wins for the top four.

Strugglers Empoli, who sacked coach Mario Somma in midweek and replaced him with Luigi Cagni, took a third-minute lead when Almiron blasted a free kick into the top corner of Gianluigi Buffon's goal.

Juve responded quickly, with Cannavaro dropping his marker to head in Mauro Camoranesi's free kick at the far post.

The hosts turned up the pressure in the second half but had to wait until 13 minutes from time for the winner, Cannavaro heading in a corner from the edge of the box.

Alessandro Del Piero almost grabbed a third late in the game, when he spun and volleyed against the bar.

Siena's tactics of sitting back against Milan and trying to repel relentless attacks did not pay off. They soon fell behind, Kaka tapping in Jaap Stam's header from a corner.

After that, Siena played a little more positively and Enrico Chiesa forced Milan keeper Dida into a diving save with a neat half-volley. At the other end Andriy Shevchenko twice had shots cleared off the line.

Chiesa went even closer to equalising when he fired against the post at the start of the second half, but Milan continued to create chances.

Antonio Mirante pulled off a superb reflex save to keep out Filippo Inzaghi's close-range header, but then fumbled an innocuous-looking Serginho cross into the path of Shevchenko, to leave the Ukrainian with an easy finish.

Kaka scored his second goal six minutes from the end to ensure Milan kept up the pressure on the top two.

At Florence's Franchi stadium Messina goalkeeper Marco Storari pulled off a series of superb saves to prevent Fiorentina taking the lead until Toni pounced on Giampaolo Pazzini's nod-on to hook the ball into the bottom corner just before halftime.

Pazzini wasted a good chance to extend the home side's advantage early in the second half when he went through one-on-one against Storari only to hesitate and lose possession.

Toni sealed the win in the 72nd minute, lashing a right-footed shot past Storari from the edge of the area to take his tally to 21 goals in 21 Serie A matches this season.

In other matches, Livorno defender Fabio Galante scored with the last kick of the game to secure his side a 1-1 draw with Treviso that allowed them to hang on to fifth place on 37 points.

AS Roma lie one point further back in sixth after notching up their fifth consecutive win -- a 4-1 victory over Udinese, who played most of the match with 10 men after Giampiero Pinzi was sent off for punching Leandro Cufre in the face.




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