Derby day triumph keeps Inter in control

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The Independent Football

Internazionale, the Serie A leaders, came from behind to beat Milan 2-1 yesterday afternoon and extend their advantage over Roma to seven points at the top of the table. The Argentinian pair of Julio Cruz and Esteban Cambiasso scored in either half to cancel out Andrea Pirlo's 18th-minute opener.

Unbeaten Inter's sixth consecutive league win gives them 43 points from 17 games, while Roma are on 36 after beating Sampdoria 2-0 on Saturday thanks to captain Francesco Totti's two goals. Defeat means Milan have still not won against Italian opposition at San Siro this season and are 25 points behind Inter in 12th place, albeit with three games in hand.

Third-placed Juventus, meanwhile, have 35 points after beating Siena 2-0 in Turin yesterday.

At San Siro, Inter's Sweden striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic volleyed the first chance over after being set up by Maicon in the fourth minute. But the match really came to life when Pirlo found the top corner with a free-kick from the edge of the box. Inter surged back and their Chilean midfielder Luis Jimenez almost levelled but was denied by the crossbar. The champions equalised in the 36th minute when Cruz controlled a Cambiasso pass and drove the ball home despite the attention of three defenders.

Cambiasso decided the match in the 63rd minute, scoring with a shot from outside the box that deceived the Brazilian keeper Dida. Milan almost grabbed a point with a diagonal shot from Kaka that produced a fine save from Julio Cesar, while Massimo Ambrosini fluffed a great chance with the goal gaping in the closing stages.

Milan won the Champions League last season and were crowned the Club World Cup champions in Japan a week ago, a fact that had not escaped Cambiasso. "Have we beaten the world champions?" he said. "We weren't thinking about that, Inter Milan is an important game for what the two teams represent beyond titles.

"For us this was a chance to close out a magical year the one with the record-filled league title. We were able to beat Milan for the third time in a row and that's important for the fans."

In Turin, Bosnian midfielder Hasan Salihamidzic tapped Juve in front just after the half-hour mark after a Pavel Nedved cross caused panic in the Siena defence. The France forward David Trezeguet doubled the lead and in so doing claimed his 13th goal of season with a right-footed shot from the edge of the area in the second half.

Fourth-placed Udinese were surprisingly held to a 2-2 home draw by Empoli. But Fiorentina made no mistake. Mario Santana and Adrian Mutu both scored twice as the fifth-placed side thrashed basement club Cagliari 5-1.

On Saturday, Totti set Roma on their way in the 18th minute with one of his trademark chipped penalties, awarded for Stefano Lucchini's foul on Matteo Ferrari. Lucchini wasted a good chance to equalise in the 31st minute, firing wide after Sergio Volpi had found him on the left of the six-yard box with a free-kick.

Roma pressed forward after the break and the Sampdoria goalkeeper Luca Castellazzi did well to tip a spectacular looping shot from Simone Perrotta from outside box on to the bar.

Sampdoria's hopes of taking a point suffered a big blow just before the hour when Volpi was sent off for a second yellow card. Totti tucked away a Marco Cassetti cross to seal the win and claim his ninth league goal of the season in the final minute.

Roma, who had drawn their last two Serie A games and lost 3-1 to Torino in an Italian Cup first-leg tie on Wednesday night, are four points behind Inter with 36 points from 17 games.

Earlier on Saturday, Genoa beat Parma 1-0 at home to halt a two-month winless run in the league thanks to a Marco Borriello penalty shortly before half-time.