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Saturday, January 26, 2008
Serie A: Mancini's header seals AS Roma win

ROME, Jan 26 (Reuters) - AS Roma cut the gap on Serie A leaders Inter Milan to four points after a header by Brazilian Mancini secured a 1-0 home victory over 10-man Palermo on Saturday.

Inter, on 49, can re-establish their seven-point advantage over second-placed Roma if they win at Udinese on Sunday. Roma were on top from the start, with Simone Perrotta shooting narrowly wide early on.

Midfielder David Pizarro then appealed for a penalty after going down but television replays showed no contact.

Palermo, who have now lost four in a row in all competitions, were hanging on until defender Leandro Rinaudo was dismissed 12 minutes into the second half for a studs-up challenge on Matteo Brighi.

Two minutes later Mancini rose highest to head in Rodrigo Taddei's corner to the relief of the home crowd.

Roma captain Francesco Totti, who missed the previous two games with flu, celebrated his 200 career goals for the club in a ceremony before kickoff but rarely threatened a 201st.

Sampdoria jumped above Atalanta into sixth place in Serie A after sweating their way to a 1-0 win over Siena on Saturday.

Despite the visitors' overall supremacy, a goal from Antonio Cassano in the 44th minute was enough to earn a fortunate three points for Walter Mazzarri's men.

It also ensured a double over Siena, following Samp's 2-1 win on the opening day of the season.

But the Tuscan side will feel a little hard done by after once again playing well in Genoa, but coming away with a defeat which leaves them on the brink of the bottom three - into which they could drop on Sunday.

Siena seem comfortable in the surroundings of the Stadio Luigi Ferraris.

Last month they demolished Genoa here 3-1, and they were the dominant team against Sampdoria, playing some of their best football of the season - except for in the final minute of the first half.

Cassano made his impression on the game for the home side at both ends of the first 45 minutes, hitting the crossbar from 25 yards in the third minute and then finding the corner from closer range in the 44th.

Between those moments, though, it was constant possession and pressure from Siena.

Tomas Locatelli was their main threat behind attackers Massimo Maccarone and Mario Frick.

He went close to opening the scoring in the ninth minute when his low shot from the edge of the area just missed the far post.

However, he was forced to leave the field on the half-hour mark with a hamstring injury, leaving Fernando Forestieri to take his place.

The former Genoa player almost got the chance score against his old club's arch-rivals when Luca Castellazzi fumbled Frick's low shot, but the Sampdoria stopper was able to collect the ball at the second attempt before Forestieri could slot it into an empty goal.

Siena kept the home side pegged back inside their own half and Samp appeared happy to stand off and defend, although this only invited more pressure and Maccarone took advantage of the space with his 25-yard drive fizzing past the post.

Samp would have been happy to go in at the break level, but that was not enough for Cassano.

Daniele Franceschini's better instincts told him to lay the ball off to his more prolific team-mate rather than shoot himself, and he was right to do so as Cassano composed himself and curled the ball delicately into the far corner.

Fortune appeared to be on Samp's side, and so it continued in the second half as Castellazzi tipped a shot from Siena substitute Christian Rigano round a post.

Rigano had an even better opportunity midway through the half, but he could not get the ball under control inside the penalty area and four Sampdoria players converged on him.

Samp defended desperately for the final 20 minutes and managed to hold out with Cassano's fourth goal of the season enough to claim all three points.

AS Roma cut the gap on Serie A leaders Inter Milan to four points after a header by Brazilian Mancini secured a 1-0 home victory over 10-man Palermo on Saturday.

Inter, on 49, can re-establish their seven-point advantage over second-placed Roma if they win at Udinese on Sunday.

Roma were on top from the start, with Simone Perrotta shooting narrowly wide early on. Midfielder David Pizarro then appealed for a penalty after going down but television replays showed no contact.

Palermo, who have now lost four in a row in all competitions, were hanging on until defender Leandro Rinaudo was dismissed 12 minutes into the second half for a studs-up challenge on Matteo Brighi. Two minutes later Mancini rose highest to head in Rodrigo Taddei's corner to the relief of the home crowd.

Roma captain Francesco Totti, who missed the previous two games with flu, celebrated his 200 career goals for the club in a ceremony before kickoff but rarely threatened a 201st.




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