Jimenez strike puts champions back on right track

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Internazionale beat Palermo 2-1 at home yesterday to restore the champions' six-point lead at the top of Serie A after a troubled week.

Goals by Patrick Vieira and Luis Jimenez settled nerves at the club after their coach Roberto Mancini said he was leaving at the end of the season following Tuesday's Champions League last-16 defeat by Liverpool. Mancini changed his mind the following day.

Inter have 67 points from 28 games, while second-placed Roma have 61 after coming from behind to beat Milan 2-1 on Saturday. Fiorentina tightened their grip on fourth place, with its Champions' League qualifying slot, with a 3-1 win over Genoa to move four points ahead of Milan.

Vieira nodded in a perfectly weighted chip from Zlatan Ibrahimovic to put Inter in front in the fifth minute. The visitors equalised 20 minutes later when the second of two Julio Cesar saves ricocheted off Marco Materazzi and into the goal. Jimenez restored Inter's lead in the 36th minute when he threw off a marker with some smart ball-control before firing home the winner.

"They are three very important points because they come after what happened in the week and Roma's victory," Mancini said. "We played a great first half, when we should have scored more than two goals. Our level of performance dropped a bit after the break but we didn't risk anything."

Roma, meanwhile, produced a stunning comeback to beat Milan. Second-half substitutes Ludovic Giuly and Mirko Vucinic scored three minutes apart after Milan had taken a deserved lead through Kaka.

Milan had much the better of the first half with Kaka heading wide twice. Francesco Totti, again looking rusty, had one good chance for Roma but screwed wide. The visitors continued to press early in the second half and were rewarded when Kaka struck Massimo Oddo's pull-back into the roof of the net.

The game looked over but the Roma coach Luciano Spalletti made two inspired substitutions. Giuly introduced himself by pulling the home side level in the 78th minute before Vucinic scored from Dan-iele de Rossi's ball.

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