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Inter Milan snatches 3-3 draw with AS Roma

LEAGUE leader Inter Milan needed a late goal from substitute Hernan Crespo to salvage a 3-3 draw at home to AS Roma in Italy's Serie A yesterday.

The result means Inter's lead has been trimmed by two points over the weekend. Jose Mourinho's side has 60 points, Juventus, which beat Napoli 1-0 on Saturday, is second with 53, AC Milan has 48 in third place and Fiorentina is fourth with 46.

It was an important goal for Crespo, who has had his differences with coach Mourinho this season and was left out of the squad for the Champions League.

"There was a bit of rage and a bit of pride," Crespo said. "It was a chance for me to show the manager what I can do. I can only do my best."

"We showed our ability for an hour or more and I thought we provided a great spectacle with our style of play. But it was difficult to maintain this intensity, this style, this speed," Roma coach Luciano Spalletti said.

Roma began strongly and took the lead in the 23rd minute when Daniele De Rossi headed in Marco Motta's cross.

Three minutes later, Roma doubled its lead. Juan hit a long pass over Maicon and John Arne Riise outmuscled the Brazilian and poked the ball past the onrushing Cesar.

Mario Balotelli brought Inter back into the match five minutes into the second half. Adriano held the ball up in the Roma box, before picking out Balotelli whose low shot beat Roma goalkeeper Doni.

Roma restored its two-goal lead on 57 minutes when Mirko Vucinic and Julio Baptista linked up to put Matteo Brighi into space and the midfielder raced into Inter's box before slotting low past Cesar.

Balotelli then grabbed his second from the penalty spot, holding his nerve after being felled by De Rossi on 63 minutes.

Inter drew level when Crespo headed in a Luis Figo cross at the near post for his first goal of the season. He nearly added his second moments later, but could only head Maicon's cross over the bar.

Riise came close to scoring a second five minutes from time, but Cesar pushed his powerful free kick away for a corner. De Rossi then had a fantastic opportunity to win the match in the last minute, but dragged his shot wide.

"There was a lack of intensity and concentration, but coming back with three goals showed the strength of a team that can come back from difficult periods," Mourinho said.

"We drew the match because of the character we showed. Roma thought it was enough to defend and waste time. Only we went out to win, they were happy to play for the draw."

Earlier in the day AC Milan slipped even further behind Inter and Juventus in the title race after losing 2-1 to Sampdoria.

Antonio Cassano gave the Genoa side the lead in the first half, and Gianpaolo Pazzini doubled it early in the second. Alexandre Pato scored in the 80th minute to give Milan some hope, and Emerson had a goal disallowed.

"It isn't a worrying moment," Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti said. "Quite simply it is a moment that will pass. I'm certain that in two weeks when some players return and we are in better condition, things will go differently."

Cassano gave Sampdoria the lead in the 33rd minute. He tapped in the ball at the far post after Marius Stankevicius headed on Angelo Palombo's corner. Milan claimed that the ball had failed to fully cross the line.

Milan put four men across midfield and had Clarence Seedorf alongside Pato in attack. Filippo Inzaghi came on at halftime to bolster the front the line.

However, Pazzini made it 2-0 in the 51st minute after he had beaten Daniele Bonera in the penalty area and shot past Milan goalkeeper Christian Abbiati following a clever pass by Cassano.

Pato scored his 12th goal of the season after linking up with Giuseppe Favalli on the left flank, and while Andrea Pirlo threatened from free kicks, Emerson's disallowed header was the closest Milan came to drawing level.

Fiorentina and Genoa, the two teams chasing the fourth Champions League qualification place, both failed to win.

Fiorentina drew 1-1 at last-place Reggina, with Emiliano Bonnazzoli's goal equalizing Alessio Sestu's opener for Reggina.

In the 21st, Sestu lobbed Fiorentina goalkeeper Sebastien Frey from the edge of the penalty area following a long ball out of defense. Bonnazzoli drew Fiorentina level two minutes later. Franco Semioli fought to keep the ball in play, cut it back to Adrian Mutu and when Mutu's shot was blocked by Reggina stopper Christian Puggioni, Bonnazzoli tapped in from close range.

Neither side came close to scoring in the second half.

"It is the fifth match in two weeks and it is impossible to always be brilliant, but the team responded well and were motivated," Fiorentina coach Cesare Prandelli said. "We need to hold onto fourth place and then push toward third."

Genoa was unable to breakdown stubborn defending by Siena in their 0-0 draw, though Diego Milito had a goal ruled out for offside.

"It was really harsh to ruled this goal out. At normal speed you could tell that Milito arrived from behind, but these things happen," Genoa coach Gian Piero Gasperini said. "It is a shame because we played a bit slowly at the start, then we did better. It was a hard, intense match and in the second half we had some difficulties in containing Siena."

Also yesterday, it was: Atalanta 0, Chievo Verona 2; Cagliari 0, Torino 0; Palermo 0, Catania 4; and Udinese 2, Lecce 0.


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