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Juventus keeps pressure on Inter, Sampdoria

JUVENTUS won 1-0 away to Siena yesterday to keep the pressure on Serie A pacesetters Inter Milan and Sampdoria.

Juventus striker Amauri headed home a freekick taken by Diego to secure the points, despite a lackluster performance.

Fiorentina, which was level with Juventus on 15 points, lost 1-0 at home to Napoli after Christian Maggio scored a late winner.

On Saturday night, Inter beat Catania 2-1 and Sampdoria recorded a 4-1 victory over Bologna.

Inter is top with 22 points, Sampdoria is second with 20 and Juventus lies third on 18, followed by and Palermo, Fiorentina and AC Milan on 15 points.

Milan later made it three wins in a week, but needed a brace from defender Alessandro Nesta in the last 10 minutes to take the points from Chievo Verona.

Giampiero Pinzi gave Chievo the lead in the seventh minute, but Nesta grabbed the points with two headers.

"Obviously today we knew we needed a win and I think we deserved it even though we didn't create many chances," Juventus coach Ciro Ferrara said.

"I'll say again that this Juventus team has to and will improve, but the win today was crucial."

Juventus began the game in a sluggish manner and appeared tired from the physical midweek Champions League match with Maccabi Haifa.

Neither side managed to build much momentum in the first half and the closest that Ciro Ferrara's team came to opening the scoring came was when Diego blasted Christian Poulsen's pass high over the bar.

The second half began in much the same vein, though Giorgio Chiellini had to come to Juventus's rescue in the 64th minute by putting in a last ditch tackle on Siena striker Emanuele Calaio.

Eventually Juventus' strength came to the fore and from Diego's freekick in the 72nd, Amauri rose above the Siena defense to head past goalkeeper Gianluca Curci.

"Diego isn't totally over his problems," Ferrara said. "He linked up well with Amauri in the first half, though there wasn't a great deal of room for him to work in. Overall he had a good game."

Fiorentina also appeared lethargic after the Champions League match with Debreceni and only Juan Vargas came close to opening the scoring with a shot across the face of goal in the 21st.

In the second half Fiorentina began the strongest.

Two minutes after the restart Alberto Gilardino and Martin Jorgensen both had shots cleared off the line and in the 64th Napoli goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis blocked Vargas' powerful drive.

As the match wore on and Fiorentina was unable to find the net Napoli's confidence grew. In the 79th minute Massimo Gobbi pulled down Napoli midfielder Marek Hamsik, but Sebastien Frey dived to push Fabio Quagliarella's penalty away for a corner.

"I think it was the right decision as Hamsik had won the penalty, but Quagliarella was in a better condition to take it," Napoli coach Walter Mazzarri said.

Two minutes later Frey again denied Quagliarella, but Napoli kept attacking and with a minute remaining substitute German Denis slipped the ball to Maggio at the near post and the winger flicked it over the onrushing Frey.

It is the second week in a row that Maggio has scored a late winner and continues the upturn in Napoli's form since Mazzarri took over from Roberto Donadoni.

"Every manager wants to put his mark on his team," Mazzarri said. "I had to do it quicker than I expected, but the players understand what I want from them.

"The shape of the team in such an important game was crucial and the defense in particular was extremely important in us winning this game."

Milan also began the match as though still feeling the effects of the Champions League win away to Real Madrid in midweek and Chievo wasted no time in taking advantage.

Andrea Mantovano crossed from the left and Pinzi volleyed home from close range.

Milan had created few chances but managed to equalize after substitute Marco Borriello headed against the bar and Nesta beat the Chievo defence to the rebound.

Milan could have easily gone 2-1 down, but Dida produced a spectacular save to block a header by Pablo Granoche.

"It was a great save by Didi," Nesta said. "We would have lost the game without him."

Minutes later, Nesta rose at the back post to head the winner.

"It was a great night and something new for me," said the defender, whose side had beaten AS Roma 2-1 the previous weekend. "We have won three important matches in a row and are on the right track."

Also yesterday, it was: Atalanta 3, Parma 1; Bari 2, Lazio 0; Cagliari 3, Genoa 2; Palermo 1, Udinese 0; and AS Roma 0, Livorno 1.


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