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Inter held to 1-1 draw by Cagliari, Genoa shuts out Torino 3-0

SERIE A leader Inter Milan was held to a 1-1 draw by Cagliari yesterday in its first match of 2009, snapping its eight-match winning streak.

Robert Acquafresca put Cagliari in front in the 65th minute at the San Siro but Zlatan Ibrahimovic equalized in the 77th off a pass from Hernan Crespo.

"Cagliari played very well on the counterattack," Inter coach Jose Mourinho said. "We have problems when we play against teams with a lot of intensity. We didn't play well in the first half. We played our best after Cagliari scored."

Inter has 43 points, Juventus is second with 36 and AC Milan is next with 33.

Juventus hosts Siena and Milan is at AS Roma on Sunday in what could be David Beckham's first game since joining Milan for three months.

In yesterday's other game, Genoa shut out Torino 3-0 and joined Fiorentina in fourth place - at least temporarily.

In the first Italian league match following a three-week holiday break, Genoa got headed goals from Giuseppe Biava, Basko Jankovic and Thiago Motta.

Genoa and Fiorentina, which hosts Lecce on Sunday, have 32 points each.

Torino remained one point above the relegation zone with 15 points.

Cagliari is near the middle of the table with 22 points.

Luis Figo lined up behind Julio Ricardo Cruz and Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Inter's attack created numerous chances, but could not convert early on.

Ibrahimovic's shot went directly at Cagliari goalkeeper Federico Marchetti in the 13th, Cruz slipped through the defense in the 26th to meet a free kick with a header that went wide and Inter captain Javier Zanetti had two long shots pushed aside by Marchetti in the 42nd and 43rd.

Mourinho sent on another attacking player, Ricardo Quaresma, for defender Ivan Cordoba to start the second half and Quaresma sent a long shot wide in the 52nd. Ibrahimovic had another good opportunity in the 54th but missed wide with a poor shot.

Acquafresca was left wide open to score his seventh goal of the season when defender Walter Samuel slipped inside the area.

Inter controls the rights to the 21-year-old Acquafresca.

"This is a special game for me. I hope I've shown that I'm capable of wearing (Inter's) jersey in the future," he said. "It's a dream and goal of mine, obviously."

Davide Biondini nearly made it 2-0 for Cagliari in the 72nd, missing wide from a wide-open position.

Mourinho then sent on two more forwards, Amantino Mancini and Crespo, and Crespo dribbled past a defender and provided a pinpoint pass to Ibrahimovic at the far post for the equalizer.

Acquafresca missed an empty net in the 83rd and Inter midfielder Sulley Muntari hit the outside of the post in the 86th.

Inter also had a goal annulled for offside in added time.

Inter faces Manchester United in the Champions League next month and Mourinho said his club's performance would not be competitive against Alex Ferguson's side.

"Obviously it's not sufficient, but I always say that what matters is what form you have at that moment," Mourinho said.

Biava put Genoa in front 18 minutes in, leaping above a defender to head in a corner.

Jankovic redirected a cross from Giuseppe Sculli with a header on a counterattack in the 48th and Brazilian midfielder Motta looked dazed and left the game after connecting on another header in the 85th.

Genoa did not miss its top striker Diego Milito, who is tied for the league scoring lead with 12 goals, but out for up to three games with an injury.

Workers at the Ferraris stadium only finished putting down a new layer of grass Saturday morning, but the field held up.


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