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Beckham injured as Inter stretches lead

DAVID Beckham limped off the field yesterday in AC Milan's 2-1 loss to league leader Inter Milan, which pulled further away from its rivals with the win.

Beckham played for 56 minutes in his first Milan derby before being replaced by Filippo Inzaghi after aggravating a hamstring injury.

The England midfielder failed to make an impact and appeared to be fatigued following the 45 minutes he played for England in a friendly against Spain on Wednesday and the announcement by the Los Angeles Galaxy that it won't let him make a permanent move to Milan.

"I had a kick on it on Wednesday which never really cleared up," Beckham said. "I got another kick on it tonight. It's one of those things."

Adriano and Dejan Stankovic gave Milan a 2-0 lead by halftime, and the team held on to take advantage of Juventus' 1-1 draw with Sampdoria to increase its lead to nine points with 56. Milan is third with 45 points, two less than Juve's 47.

"It is an important win. They were very good opponents who caused us lots of problems until the end," Inter coach Jose Mourinho said. "We missed a few chances to finish the match and make it 3-0. We needed the goalkeeper to play well and give us the three points.

"It's 11 points. It seems easy. Football is like this, but there's 33 points to play for and there's lots of time left in the season."

Alexandre Pato scored for Milan in the second half, but the team was unable to find a second, although Filippo Inzaghi had a volley ruled out for offside.

In the 18th minute, only a last minute tackle by Massimo Ambrosini stopped Inter from taking the lead. Cambiasso picked out the unmarked Stankovic in the box, but he paused before shooting from close range and the delay allowed Ambrosini to make the tackle.

The incident opened up the match and Inter took the lead in the 29th when Adriano scored his third goal of the season by heading in Maicon's right-wing cross, though replays appeared to show it had come off his arm.

Just before halftime, Stankovic made up for his earlier mistake by doubling the lead. Ibrahimovic flicked on a long ball and the Serb ran onto the header to lash a shot past Abbiati.

Inter should have made the score 3-0 at the start of the second period when Milan central defender Kakha Kaladze took too long to clear and Adriano tackled him, raced into the area, but shot wide when he only had goalkeeper Christian Abbiati to beat.

Adriano, Ibrahimovic and Sulley Muntari all came close to adding a third, their quick movement and strong running causing problems and opening holes in the Milan defense, but they were unable to find the target.

Inzaghi came on for Beckham to try and relieve the attacking burden on Pato, and the young Brazilian brought Milan back into the match in the 70th.

Ronaldinho threaded a pass through the defense for Marek Jankulovski and his pullback reached the unmarked Pato, who scored his 11th goal of the season.

Adriano missed another chance to score his second. He muscled past Maldini, but the veteran defender stayed with him and Abbiati pushed his shot to safety.

It appeared that it would be a costly miss when Inzaghi's volley seemed to have drawn Milan level. However, it was ruled out for offside.

"It was a tough game in the first half," Beckham said. "We conceded two goals and that was tough to come back from. But we played better towards the end. In the second half, with two men upfront, we caused them more problems.

"The pressure they put on in the first 20 to 25 minutes set the tempo, but we came back in the last 25 minutes and had a few decisions that went more their way than anything else. But nothing should be taken away from them. They have some great players and are a very good team."

Juventus needed Amauri to score an equalizer in the second half after Giampaolo Pazzini gave Sampdoria the lead in the 10th.

Juventus struggled to find any continuity in their play, with Alessandro Del Piero and Pavel Nedved well contained by the Sampdoria defense.

"We created a lot, but we couldn't score," Juventus coach Claudio Ranieri said. "On certain occasions we looked like losing this match and we were lucky to draw. The 1-1 is bad when you consider the Milan derby, but we have to be positive and carry on with our work because we are nearing the climax of the season."

Del Piero later hit the bar from a free kick, but Juventus failed to create any further chances before the final whistle.

Genoa let slip a three-goal lead against Fiorentina, which got a hat trick from Romania striker Adrian Mutu in the final half hour, including a 90th-minute equalizer, to earn a 3-3 draw.

A victory would have seen Genoa move ahead of Fiorentina and into the fourth Champions League qualification place, but the team lost concentration once Gabriel Milito had scored a third goal from a penalty in the 56th.

Thiago Motta and Raffaelle Palladino had put Genoa ahead 2-0 at halftime, but Mutu gave Fiorentina hope in the 60th when he scored a penalty.

The Romanian then scored his second in the 80th with a free kick, and equalized in injury time following a goalmouth scramble.

AS Roma's revival was stopped when it lost 3-0 at Atalanta.

Atalanta gave its own chance of qualifying for Europe a boost when two goals from Cristiano Doni and one from Daniele Capelli within a seven-minute span secured a 3-0 win over an uninspired Roma side.

Capelli gave the home side the lead by tapping in after a defensive mix-up in the 52nd.

"Thinking about second place you lose sight of reality and it makes you presumptuous," Roma coach Luciano Spalletti said. "Every now and then you get a bad result when you let in a lot of goals after a run of good results."

Despite starting with their first-choice strike pair of Francesco Totti and Mirko Vucinic, Roma was unable to find a way past a strong and determined Atalanta back four.

Also yesterday, it was: Cagliari 2, Lecce 0; Chievo Verona 1, Catania 1; Reggina 0, Palermo 0; and Siena 1, Udinese 1.


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