Football: Roma left to rue missed opportunity

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The Independent Online
ROMA MOVED top of the Italian League's Serie A yesterday but were kicking themselves after a disappointing 1-1 home draw with Bari. Roma stood to open up a two-point lead with a victory but ended up overtaking Fiorentina - who play Internazionale today - only on goal difference.

Bari's Phil Masinga scored his first ever goal at the Olympic stadium in the 76th minute, with Roma pulling level in the 83rd minute from the spot through Francesco Totti.

The only real upset was at Cagliari, where the hosts beat Parma, Rangers next Uefa Cup opponents, 1-0 with a goal from Sierra Leone teenager Mohamed Kallon.

Ronaldo's fight for fitness ahead of Inter's clash today with Fiorentina has provoked a dispute between the Milan club's doctors and the player's personal physiotherapist. Speaking to Brazilian radio about Ronaldo's persistent knee injury, physiotherapist Nilton Petroni said: "Ronaldo must stop for 20 days to reach 100 per cent fitness." The physiotherapist, who helped Ronaldo recover from his mysterious fit before last summer's World Cup final defeat to France, is also a close friend of the player and is staying at his Milan apartment.

But Inter quickly disagreed with Petroni's diagnosis. "Petroni said nothing about this to me," said the club doctor, Piero Volpi. "Ronaldo's recovery programme is judged not on 20 or even five days but day by day. Let's let the player decide according to how he feels. I do not rule out that he can play at Florence but we'll see."

Ronaldo's injury dates back to his ill-fated World Cup campaign and has limited his first-team appearances this season to four in Serie A. Ronaldo admitted: "Effectively, Petroni would like me to rest up. But apart from myself, I must think of Inter." The club desperately want the player back for this afternoon and for Wednesday's important Champions' League match against Real Madrid.

After losing three of their opening nine league matches and losing to Real Madrid in Seville in September, Inter's president, Massimo Moratti, believes the next seven days offer the club a chance to put their poor start to the season behind them. "With two victories, our season could take a completely different turn," Moratti said.

Inter are sixth in Serie A with 14 points, four behind Fiorentina, but they have not won in Florence in the league for more than 10 years. The Inter coach, Luigi Simoni, confessed that his outlook would be different if Ronaldo were ruled out. "Without him, I must change tactics; this team was designed for Ronaldo," he said.

The coach will be able to count on Roberto Baggio again, after the gifted striker safely came through a practice match. "I'm in form and fully recovered," said Baggio, whose brief appearance in last Sunday's 3-0 victory over Sampdoria was his first match since September.

Baggio started his Serie A career at Fiorentina in 1986 and spent four successful years with the "Viola" before provoking a riot when he joined arch-rivals Juventus in 1990.

Rui Costa, the Portuguese playmaker who has taken Baggio's place in Florentine hearts, is a doubtful starter for the match after pulling a thigh in Portugal's 2-0 win over Israel.