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Sunday, January 21, 2007
Serie A: Inter march on with 13th-straight win

ROME, Jan 21 (Reuters) - Inter Milan marched 11 points clear at the top of Serie A when they beat Fiorentina 3-1 at the San Siro on Sunday.

Trailing to an early header by visiting striker Luca Toni, Inter hit back with goals from Dejan Stankovic, Adriano and Zlatan Ibrahimovic to move up to 54 points from 20 matches and rack up a record-breaking 13th successive win in the division.

Second-placed AS Roma lost more ground on Inter as captain Francesco Totti was sent off in a 1-1 draw at Livorno. Palermo, in third place on 39 points, also drew, 0-0 with Reggina on Saturday.

Empoli climbed to fourth on 28 points after beating Sampdoria 2-0, but AC Milan's rapid rise up the standings after winning their last three matches was halted at Rome's Olympic stadium where they were outplayed in a 0-0 draw with Lazio.

Inter, who are unbeaten in Serie A this season, were caught cold in the fifth minute when Fabio Liverani swung a free kick in from the left and Toni muscled in front of his marker to head in from close range.

Two goals in five minutes, however, put the league leaders back in control.

Brazilian striker Adriano was crucial to both of them, first providing the layoff for Stankovic to sidefoot the ball powerfully past visiting keeper Sebastien Frey, then curling a low free kick round the wall to give Inter the lead after 24 minutes.

Fiorentina ended the first half in attack and came out aggressively after the break, but were punished by an opportunistic piece of finishing by Ibrahimovic midway through the second half.

Stankovic swung a free kick into the area, Frey palmed away the Swedish international's initial header, but could not prevent him pouncing on the rebound to make sure of the points for Inter.

"Whether it is a nine or an 11-point advantage makes no difference. There were more important things about today's win against a very determined Fiorentina side," Inter coach Roberto Mancini said.

"We conceded Toni's goal because of a lapse in concentration, but reacted well to that situation, and that's what makes me happy."

Roma, meanwhile, travelled to Livorno knowing they could ill afford a repeat of last weekend's performance, when they conceded a stoppage-time penalty in a 2-2 draw at Messina.

A needless foul, however, again let them down, when Philippe Mexes tugged on Cristiano Lucarelli's shirt to give away a 22nd-minute penalty, which Lucarelli converted.

Francesco Totti's 74th-minute equaliser rewarded a bright second half performance.

The goal - Totti's 138th in Serie A - made the Roma captain the most prolific scorer currently playing in Serie A alongside Siena striker Enrico Chiesa.

But he made a premature exit in stoppage time, when he kicked out at Livorno defender Fabio Galante to earn a straight red card.




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