Alvaro Recoba scored two goals as Internazionale FC defeated reigning champions AS Roma 3-1 to move three points clear of the Rome club at the Serie A summit.
Recoba put Inter ahead in just the second minute when he completed a stunning counterattack with a stylish finish. The Uruguayan international then set up Inter's second two minutes before the break after crossing to Christian Vieri, who found the target with a perfectly angled header.
Totti on target
Roma fought their way back into the game with a 57th-minute goal from Francesco Totti but Recoba secured the points for Inter with a spectacular, curling free-kick from 30 metres.
Two sent off
Roma defender Jonathan Zebina was sent off 12 minutes from the end after an off-the-ball incident in which he appeared to hit Recoba in the face. Inter's Turkish international substitute Emre Belözoglu was also dismissed in injury time after kicking out at Brazilian midfield player Emerson da Rosa.
'We must keep calm'
"We are now three points away from Roma and four from Juve but you can't think it is all over," said Inter coach Héctor Cúper. "We must play game by game and keep calm, we have to think about three points against whoever we play." Inter, who have not won the Italian title since 1989, now have the destiny of this year's Scudetto in their own hands after the defeat of their closest rivals.
Bologna FC, AC Chievo Verona and Milan AC all won to keep alive their respective hopes of claiming Italy's fourth and final UEFA Champions League place for next season. Salvatore Fresi struck the winning goal as Bologna maintained their European charge with a thrilling 4-3 win over US Lecce at the Renato Dall'Ara stadium, a victory that keeps them in fourth place in the table.
The defender came up to score eight minutes from time after Bologna had come from 2-1 down at half-time and 3-2 down with 20 minutes remaining. Fabio Pecchia had given the hosts the lead, before two goals from Gheorghe Popescu put Lecce in front. Ernesto Chevantón put the visitors back on level terms in the 68th minute, but another leveller by Giuseppe Signori four minutes later was quick in coming before Fresi's late intervention.
Chievo tasted defeat against Hellas-Verona FC in November, but made amends on Sunday with a valuable 2-1 victory that keeps them just two points behind fourth-placed Bologna. They did it the hard way, coming from behind and then having Fabio Moro dismissed in the dying minutes, but three points were imperative given that their close rivals were also winning. Federico Cossato got both goals for Chievo who, in their first season in Serie A, are fifth with six rounds of matches to play.
In the hunt
Sixth-placed Milan put talk of an all-Milanese UEFA Cup final to one side as they recorded a 1-0 win that keeps their slender hopes of qualifying for the Champions League alive. Serginho's 20th-minute penalty was all that divided the teams, with Christian Abbiati performing heroics to keep out the home team in the second half.
S.S. Lazio claimed a useful 2-0 home win against Udinese Calcio. Dejan Stankovic shot Lazio ahead in the first half and Stefano Fiore wrapped up the victory when he scored 12 minutes from the end. The defeat means that Udinese are now in the relegation zone.
Facing the drop
AC Fiorentina appear doomed to relegation after a first-half strike by Alessio Scarchilli gave Torino Calcio maximum points at the Delle Alpi stadium. Fiorentina remain second from bottom, eleven points adrift of safety. The win eases Torino's own relegation worries though, and they climb to tenth.
Foot of the table
A goal five minutes from time by Fausto Rossini gave Atalanta BC three welcome points against AC Venezia, virtually condemning their opponents to relegation in the process. In Sunday afternoon's final fixture, Brescia Calcio collected three valuable points at home to AC Perugia, courtesy of a first half Luca Toni hat-trick. As a result, Brescia remain one place and one point clear of the relegation zone in 14th position.
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