Derby defeat leaves Inter title party on hold

THEY thought it was all over — but it’s not just yet. After yesterday’s Milan derby defeat, Internazionale are still favourites to retain their title, but their lead over Roma has been cut to three points and they will now be sweating to win their next match in a way that seemed unthinkable a few weeks ago.

For the blue and black half of the city, it was almost certainly just a celebration postponed. They only have to beat Siena at the San Siro next week to take the Scudetto for the third year running.

In the event that Roma finish level on points, Inter still take the title because of their 4-1 victory at the Stadio Olimpico last September.

Even after their 2-1 win, Milan remain 20 points behind the leaders. But after a season of disappointment, with the sole exception of the World Club Championship, it was a vital three points for the Rossoneri, coinciding with the announcement that they are signing Mathieu Flamini from Arsenal.

Now a point ahead of Fiorentina, Milan at last have their lifeline for Champions League qualification, after being down in 13th place back in December.

Until recently they could hardly buy a goal at home, and should they qualify they will owe a lot to the veteran Filippo Inzaghi, with 10 league goals this season, and to their youngest star Alexandre Pato, who has scored eight since coming into the side in January.

It was a sickening blow to Fiorentina, who dropped two points last weekend after conceding a 94th-minute goal against Sampdoria and then lost on penalties to Rangers on Thursday despite dominating the match.

Yesterday they lost 2-1 at Cagliari. “It’s in our hands now,” declared a jubilant Kaka, but Milan ‘s final two games look tougher than Fiorentina’s. They have to travel to Naples , always a difficult venue, and then face Udinese, who are also fighting for a place in Europe, and have a habit of upsetting top sides.

Udinese themselves moved into sixth place, after a 1-0 win at Empoli, ahead of Sampdoria who lost 3-0 at home to Roma. It was a deceptive scoreline, as the home side dominated the match, hit the woodwork twice, and then conceded three goals in the final 15 minutes.

Disappointment too for Juventus, who lost by a single goal in Siena, but relief for their great city rivals Torino, who ended a run of four defeats with a vital 2-1 win against Napoli that lifts them three points clear of the relegation zone.

It was an emotional day for the home club, with 3,000 people, including the players, attending a memorial mass before the game. May 4 is the anniversary of Italian football’s biggest tragedy — the 1949 air crash at Superga, when a plane returning from a match in Lisbon crashed on a hillside overlooking Turin, killing 31 people, including almost the entire Torino and Italy squad.

Bundesliga

Bayern Munich almost became champions in mid-air on Saturday during their flight to Wolfsburg.

With Werder Bremen and Schalke both drawing they would have taken the title without playing, but Bremen went on to beat Energie Cottbus 2-0. That left Bayern needing a point on Sunday, which they achieved with a goalless draw.

Bremen seem most likely to take the second automatic Champions League place, as they have a better goal difference than Schalke, as well as a two-point advantage.

Eredivisie

UNFAIR they may be, but Holland’s play-offs certainly produce some spectacular games. Twente finished in fourth place behind NAC, but won their home play-off leg 3-0, with two goals in the final 10 minutes, after NAC went down to 10 men. With NAC trailing 2-1 in Saturday’s return, the ref suspended the game because of crowd abuse before Twente scored three more for an 8-1 aggregate win. Ajax lead Heerenveen 2-1 in the other Champions League play-off, and will be confident of facing Twente in the decider.

Le Championnat

TITLE celebrations are again on hold in France, after Nice prevented Lyon from scoring for the second time this season, and Bordeaux beat Marseille to close the gap at the top to just two points. Lyon have only won twice in April and taken just three points from their other four games. Bordeaux by contrast have won six out of seven. A goal down in Marseille last night with just 10 minutes left, they struck an equaliser from Geraldo Wendel and a stunning winner from Pierre Ducasse two minutes into stoppage time.

La Liga

REAL MADRID have won the title for the second year running after an astonishing final 10 minutes in last night’s match against Osasuna.

Down to 10 men after Fabio Cannavaro’s dismissal, Madrid seemed to be heading for defeat when Francisco Punal scored from the spot. But Arjen Robben levelled, then a minute from time substitute Gonzalo Higuain scored.

In second place Villarreal beat Getafe 2-0 to stay four points clear of Barcelona. The Catalans beat Valencia 6-0.


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