Adriano hands Inter crucial title boost

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The Independent Online

A controversial Adriano goal helped the Serie A leaders Internazionale to a 2-1 victory over their city rivals Milan last night which all but ended the Rossoneri's title hopes. The champions Inter now have an 11-point advantage over third-placed Milan with 14 games to go.

Adriano broke the deadlock at an electric San Siro on 28 minutes when he diverted in Maicon's cross, but replays showed the Brazil striker had used his arm. The midfielder Dejan Stankovic extended the lead on 42 minutes when he rifled in after Zlatan Ibrahimovic's knockdown. "I don't know if it was voluntary or not but the foul by Adriano was crucial," said Carlo Ancelotti, Milan's coach. "The championship is not over. Inter have the chance to maintain their advantage but we must resist."

Alexandre Pato pulled one back 20 minutes from time when he tapped in Marek Jankulovski's cross and Milan then piled on the pressure with the substitute Filippo Inzaghi being flagged offside when he thought he had grabbed an equaliser.

Milan, who won the season's earlier derby by a goal to nil, had much of the play in the first half but the striker Pato was constantly isolated on his own up front, with Kaka missing through injury.



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Inter are pursuing their fourth straight scudetto and first under Jose Mourinho. "It was an important win against a great side who put us under huge pressure at the end," said Mourinho. "It's 11 points. It seems easy. Football is like this, but there's 33 points to play for and there's lots of time left in the season."

It was a sorry night for 40-year-old Paolo Maldini in his last derby before retiring, while David Beckham, who still hopes to stay at Milan despite LA Galaxy demanding he return, did little. A weary looking Beckham (left) was substituted early in the second half after aggravating a hamstring injury. "I had a kick on it on Wednesday [against Spain] which never really cleared up," Beckham said.

Beckham also said last night that would be difficult for him to return to Los Angeles Galaxy if his permanent move to Milan does not materialise. The England midfielder, on a two-month loan in Italy, wants to stay in Milan but Galaxy said on Friday that he must go back to Los Angeles after a Major League Soccer deadline to complete the transfer passed.

"I've said I want to stay here and if I do go back then it will be a bit difficult but we'll have to wait and see what happens," said Beckham.

Milan have said they still hope to sign the 33-year-old full-time irrespective of the MLS deadline. Asked if there might be an outcome in the next few days, Beckham said: "I don't know. It is out of my hands and they'll be talking in the next week or two."

Internazionale: Julio Cesar, Maicon, Samuel, Chivu, Santon, Zanetti, Cambiasso, Muntari, Stankovic, Ibrahimovic, Adriano. Substitutes: Toldo, Cordoba, Maxwell, Figo, Cruz, Vieira, Burdisso.

Milan: Abbiati, Zambrotta, Maldini, Kaladze, Jankulovski, Beckham, Pirlo, Ambrosini, Seedorf, Ronaldinho, Pato. Substitutes: Dida (gk), Emerson, Inzaghi, Favalli, Senderos, Antonini, Flamini.

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