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Inter Milan loses to Napoli, AC Milan wins

INTER Milan's lead in the Italian league was trimmed to seven points yesterday after Jose Mourinho's side lost 1-0 at Napoli and city rivals AC Milan beat Palermo 3-0.

Napoli's Marcelo Zalayeta scored the only goal of a high-tempo, but uninspiring match in which both sides failed to create many chances.

Earlier Kaka converted two penalties to lead Milan to victory over Palermo, while Juventus was held to a 2-2 draw by last-place Reggina.

Reigning champion Inter remains top of Serie A with 74 points, while AC Milan is second with 67, Juventus has 65 and Fiorentina 58.

"It was a victory we had to work for and weren't expected to get," Zalayeta said. "We've failed to win matches that were easier than that this season."

Inter lacked imagination and was outmuscled by a more determined Napoli side, who won its first match since January and the first since ex-Italy coach Roberto Donadoni took over in February.

"Obviously it is emotional to win, especially against a team like Inter, who is top of the table," Donadoni said. "I think our defense did great, especially with rebounds and the second ball into the box."

Striker Ezequiel Lazezzi was the main danger for Napoli and his direct running was a constant problem for Inter's defense, though it wasn't until Zalayeta came on for the ineffectual German Denis, that Napoli made the breakthrough.

Lavezzi ran at the defense before rolling the ball across the face of the penalty area for his strike partner Zalayeta to curl past Julio Cesar.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic appeared tired in Inter's attack while the team's only tactic was to hit the ball long and try to use the pace of Mario Balotelli or the height of Julio Cruz.

"It seemed to me to be a typical 0-0 match. In the first half Inter had most of the ball, but we didn't threaten," Mourinho said. "In the second half it was a different game and without threatening we lost control of the game.

"We are seven points ahead and need three wins from five matches. We have to look at ourselves and win the nine points we need to be champions."

Milan had no such problems going forward and took a 10th minute lead after Palermo defender Mattia Cassani fouled midfielder Massimo Ambrosini and Kaka stroked home the penalty.

"We started the match well with a good rhythm," Ancelotti said. "Palermo always make it difficult for you in midfield, but it was a good day and our midfield competed well.

"Kaka has returned well after two months out, and now the defense is also back to its best as players have returned and it is much more solid."

Ambrosini then helped to increase Milan's lead 10 minutes later, when Filippo Inzaghi headed in his cross from close range.

Early in second half, Palermo defender Cesare Bovo was sent off for a foul on Kaka. Shortly afterward, Federico Balzaretti bundled over the Brazilian in the area and Kaka got up to score with his second spot-kick of the match.

Juventus continued its run of poor form, needing a dubious penalty from Alessandro Del Piero and a scrappy goal from midfielder Cristiano Zanetti.

Having been knocked out of the Italian Cup in midweek, Juventus' season appears to be limping to a finish and Claudio Ranieri's side was fortunate to leave Reggina with a draw.

The bottom side went ahead in the 27th when defender Antonio Barilla was left unmarked to head home midfielder Daniel Adejo's cross.

Shortly after halftime, though, Adejo brought down striker Vincenzo Iaquinta and Alessandro Del Piero brought his team level with the penalty.

Midfielder Emil Hallfredsson put the home side in the lead again when he scored from long range, but Cristiano Zanetti equalized two minutes later after the ball came to him in the box.

"The first half an hour, I can't say I'm surprised we struggled because everyone knows about Reggina's pressing, but after that we recovered well," Ranieri said. "It was an intense match and we had to fight to the end. It certainly wasn't a beautiful match.

"We've welcomed back some players, such as (Mauro) Camoranesi and (Cristiano) Zanetti, but it takes them time to get back to their best."

Genoa's hopes of returning to the Champions League places were hit when it slipped to a 2-0 defeat away to Bologna.

Also yesterday, it was: Lecce 2, Catania 1; Sampdoria 3, Cagliari 3; Lazio 0, Atalanta 1; and Torino 1, Siena 0.


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