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Pellissier hat trick gives Chievo draw with Juve

INTER Milan beat Udinese 1-0 to go nine points clear at the top of the Italian league yesterday after title rival Juventus was held to a 3-3 draw at home by Chievo Verona.

An own goal by Udinese's Mauricio Isla in the 77th minute secured a win which puts Inter in sight of a fourth straight title with eight games remaining.

Juventus was denied victory when Chievo striker Sergio Pellissier scored an equalizer in the 90th minute to complete a hat trick.

Inter has 72 points, Juventus has 63 and AC Milan is third with 58 following a late 2-0 win over Lecce, with both its goals being scored in injury time.

"We still need 15 points and 15 points is a lot," Inter coach Jose Mourinho said. "It puts pressure on Juventus who won't be pleased they lost points at home. Still, we were lucky to win today."

Both Inter and Udinese were missing a key player. Inter's attacking fullback Maicon was ruled out for the rest of the season midweek after injuring a thigh whilst on international duty and Inter missed his direct running.

Udinese was without its leading scorer Antonio di Natale and the team also appeared to be thinking ahead to its UEFA Cup quarterfinal against Werder Bremen on Thursday.

Before Inter scored, the nearest either side had come to finding the net was when Inter's Dejan Stankovic slid Zlatan Ibrahimovic's low cross wide midway through the second half.

Patrick Vieira was the catalyst for the goal, bursting into the Udinese penalty area following Ibrahimovic's pass. As he stumbled and fell, Isla stopped, expecting a freekick, but the ball bounced off him and rolled past goalkeeper Emanuele Belardi.

It was a key win after Juventus had seen its title hopes dented earlier in the day.

Pellissier scored twice in the first half, putting Chievo 1-0 up and then giving his side a 2-1 lead after Giorgio Chiellini had pulled a goal back for Juventus, which leveled soon after the break with an own goal by Mario Yepes.

Vincenzo Iaquinta then headed home in the 79th minute for Juventus, whose efforts were helped by a fine performance from Mauro Camoranesi. The midfielder was back to his best after an injury disrupted season and created all three of his side's goals.

However, Pellissier nodded in his ninth goal of the season at the very end to deny Juventus all three points after Antonio Langella took advantage of Olof Mellberg's lack of pace to get behind the Juventus defense and send over an inviting cross.

"I never thought I would score a hat trick in Juventus' home," said Pellissier, whose goals moved Chievo seven points above the relegation zone. "It was a great day and we had to win. They showed they are a great team by coming back twice, but we believe that we can save ourselves."

"It's two important points lost," coach Claudio Ranieri said. "We did the hard work by coming back from behind twice. In the first half we used up a lot of energy, while Chievo kept its shape and counterattacked. In the second half we played well, but it wasn't enough."

Milan needed late goals from Ronaldinho and Filippo Inzaghi to see off a stubborn Lecce, which appeared set to earn a crucial point in its fight against relegation.

Even the return of Brazil's Kaka from injury failed to inspire Milan early on and it was his compatriot Alexandre Pato who posed his side's biggest threat.

For most of the match Lecce limited Milan to long-range shots, before Ronaldinho and Inzaghi made the breakthrough in the closing stages.

Genoa remains in fourth place on 54 points, but needed a late Thiago Motta goal to win 1-0 at Reggina. The Brazilian came off the bench and tapped in Raffaele Palladino's low cross in the 77th minute.

Genoa missed its injured striker Diego Milito and struggled to find any momentum until Motta was brought on to add energy and drive to the midfield.

"It is one game less and was an important victory against a Reggina side who are running out of chances," Genoa coach Gian Piero Gasperini said. "We played with personality and forced ourselves to create chances right to the end."

Fiorentina is two points behind Genoa in fifth after Cesare Prandelli's side beat Atalanta 2-1.

Fiorentina striker Alberto Gilardino struck a late winner, sweeping home Franco Semioli's low cross at the near post after a penalty converted by teammate Stevan Jovetic had canceled out the opener by Gianvito Plasmati for the home side.

Also Sunday, it was: Cagliari 1, Catania 0; Palermo 1, Torino 0; AS Roma 2, Bologna 1; Sampdoria 2, Napoli 2; and Siena 2, Lazio 0.


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