Monday, March 25, 2019

Siena hold Inter as title goes to the wire

SoccerNews in Serie A 11 May 2008

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Plucky Siena produced a stunning backs-to-the-wall display at the San Siro to keep the Serie A title race alive with a 2-2 draw against Inter Milan.

AS Roma edged out Atalanta 2-1 at home to cut the champions' lead at the top to just one point meaning the championship race will go down to the wire with next weekend's final matches of the season.

Inter twice held the lead against opponents who had nothing to play for but on each occasion sloppy defending cost them.

Marco Materazzi, who scored twice in a 2-1 victory at Siena last season to seal the title for Inter, also missed a late penalty as the Tuscans frustrated their more illustrious opponents.

It means everything is riding on next weekend's matches with both Inter and Roma playing sides fighting for their Serie A survival.

Inter will travel to Parma, who have to win to have any chance of avoiding the drop. Roma will travel to Catania, who are two points above Parma and in the last position of safety.

Inter were quickly out of the traps and centre-back Materazzi saw a header thunder back off the bar in the first few minutes.

The champions did not have to wait long to break the deadlock, though, as France captain Patrick Vieira rose highest to head home Mario Balotelli's corner – although the marking left a lot to be desired.

Siena stuck to their guns and equalised just after the hour mark when Houssine Kharja threaded a neat ball through to former Middlesbrough forward Massimo Maccarone, who slid home a shot under the body of goalkeeper Julio Cesar.

The visitors were not simply there to make up the numbers but their defence let them down again on the stroke of half-time as Vieira returned the favour to Balotelli, flicking on a header for the teenage striker to nod home from a yard out, with Siena players nowhere to be found.

Inter piled on the pressure after the break looking to make the game safe but incredibly Siena came back once again.

The hosts failed to cut out a deep cross from the right and Moroccan midfielder Kharja arrived on the edge of the area to beat Julio Cesar with a precise finish.

With 15 minutes remaining Inter were gifted a penalty from the referee when Daniele Ficagna was penalised for dragging down Materazzi in the box.

It was a clear case of six of one and half a dozen of the other but justice was done when former Arsenal goalkeeper Alex Manniger plunged to his left to beat out Materazzi's penalty.

That was the closest Inter came as Siena threw bodies and everything they could in the way of their goal.

In Rome, Christian Panucci gave Roma a first half lead with a header and Daniele De Rossi doubled their advantage in the second half before Gianpaolo Bellini's late consolation gave the hosts sweaty palms for the last few minutes.

Livorno were relegated after losing 1-0 at home to Torino, who are now safe. Reggina, who beat Empoli 2-0, are also safe but two from Catania, who drew 1-1 at Juventus, Parma, who lost 3-1 at Fiorentina, and Empoli will join Livorno in Serie B next season.

In the race for fourth place and Champions League football in the next campaign, Fiorentina leap-frogged back above AC Milan due to their victory.

Milan were beaten 3-1 at Napoli and need to win their final game at home to Udinese to have any chance of playing in Europe's premier competition next season.

But if Fiorentina, two points above Milan, win at Torino they will be sure of fourth spot.

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