Milan take giant step towards title

ROME - AC Milan took a giant step towards their first Serie A title in seven years on Saturday when a late Robinho strike gave the Rossoneri a 1-0 win at Brescia and an eight-point lead with four games to go.

While Milan marched on, champions and city rivals Inter Milan beat Lazio 2-1 to move up to second place, ahead of Napoli who lost by the same score at Palermo, while Bari were relegated.

AS Roma beat Chievo Verona 1-0 to consolidate sixth place and close in on Udinese, three points ahead, and fourth-placed Lazio.

Sent clean through by Antonio Cassano, Robinho finished coolly eight minutes from time to give Milan a hard-earned win over relegation-threatened Brescia, who are now five points from safety.

Cassano should have given Milan the lead four minutes before the break when he somehow nodded over from eight metres after being picked out by Kevin-Prince Boateng's cross.

He missed another gilt-edged chance in the second half, heading badly wide after brilliant skill from Clarence Seedorf.

Milan had goalkeeper Christian Abbiati to thank for late saves from Alessandro Diamanti, whose swerving free-kick struck the bar with 10 minutes to go.

"We should have finished them off in the first half," Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri told Sky Italia. "There's nothing to celebrate yet, but we'll have a nice Easter."

INTER WIN

At the San Siro, Inter came back from a goal and a man down to defeat Lazio.

The Nerazzurri made a lacklustre start and were reduced to 10 men after 22 minutes when Julio Cesar was sent off for bringing down Mauro Zarate, who scored from the resultant penalty.

Wesley Sneijder then equalised with a free-kick five minutes before half-time and Samuel Eto'o scored the winner, his 20th goal of the season, on 53 minutes after rounding goalkeeper Fernando Muslera.

A dispirited Lazio also ended the match with 10 men after skipper Stefano Mauri was sent off on 66 minutes.

"I'm an optimist and I still think it (the title race) is open," Inter coach Leonardo told Italy's Sky channel before the Milan result.

"We had one bad week in four months which can happen. It was an amazing win and showed just how committed this squad is."

Edinson Cavani gave Napoli a second-minute lead with a penalty, his 26th goal of the campaign, against his former club but Palermo hit back through Federico Balzaretti on 38 minutes.

Home coach Delio Rossi was sent from the dugout as tempers flared but Cesare Bovo's penalty on the stroke of half-time after Giulio Migliaccio had been felled in the box turned out to be the winner for Palermo, who stayed eighth.

Napoli slipped to third, nine points behind Milan.

"The boys were a bit tense," said Napoli coach Walter Mazzarri. "We're not used to being so high up the table and some players are able to handle the pressure better than others."

Fifth-placed Udinese failed to take advantage of Lazio's loss, losing 2-0 at home to Parma with an Amauri double giving the visitors three precious points to go 14th.

The Brazilian had already opened the scoring by the time Gokhan Inler was sent off for a second caution on 21 minutes, and added his second in stoppage-time.

Bari were relegated after a second-half penalty from Nicola Pozzi gave struggling Sampdoria a 1-0 win in Puglia that lifted them level with third-from-bottom Lecce on 35 points. Lecce lost 4-2 in Genoa.

Cesena climbed two points clear of the drop zone after goals from Emanuele Giaccherini and Dominique Malonga helped the Serie A newcomers to a crucial 2-0 win at Bologna.

In a dramatic finale to the late game between seventh-placed Juventus and lowly Catania, Francesco Lodi curled in an exquisite free-kick to give the Sicilian side a 95th-minute equaliser and dent Juve's European challenge.

An Alessandro Del Piero brace had put the Bianconeri in control at half-time but Catania, now two points clear of the relegation zone, hit back through Alejandro Gomez nine minutes from time before Lodi's late finish to make it 2-2.


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