ROME, April 11, 2010 (AFP) - Inter Milan's six-month stranglehold on the Serie A title race was broken on Sunday when Roma deposed them as league leaders.
Roma snatched pole position with a 2-1 win over a stubborn Atalanta, which opened a one-point lead over Jose Mourinho's Inter with five matches left.
|AS Roma players celebrate after their team defeated Atalanta to take the lead of the Italian Serie A football championship on April 11, 2010. AFP PHOTO|
First-half goals from Mirko Vucinic and Marco Cassetti gave Roma a 2-0 lead, but they were made to sweat after a Simone Tiribocchi strike in the 53rd minute.
AC Milan were held to a 2-2 draw at home to Catania and now trail Roma by four points, having come back from 2-0 down thanks to a Marco Borriello brace in the second half.
"We were dominating but instead of closing out the match we made life difficult for ourselves by gifting them a goal," said Roma coach Claudio Ranieri, whose side come up against Lazio next weekend when Inter host Juventus.
"Before, winning the scudetto depended on others but now it's in our own hands. We are coming up against an in-form Lazio - it's going to be a cracker."
Following Ranieri's call to seize the day after Inter's 2-2 draw at Fiorentina on Saturday, Roma took command from the opening whistle at the Stadio Olimpico against an Atalanta side fighting for Serie A survival.
The Bergamo side, third-from-bottom, gifted Roma the lead on 12 minutes when goalkeeper Andrea Consigli allowed Vucinic's 25-yard effort to squirm through his grasp.
A quarter of an hour later the Giallorossi doubled their lead when Francesco Totti sent over an inviting centre and right-back Cassetti, who had sprinted into the box seconds earlier, buried a header from six yards.
Ranieri sent Luca Toni on for the impressive Vucinic at half-time but the home side seemed to relax and within eight minutes of the restart Tiribocchi was left in space on the edge of the box and the striker calmly placed his finish into the far corner to halve the deficit.
Toni spooned Totti's pass over the bar on 70 minutes, but Jaime Valdes was causing Roma all sorts of problems as Atalanta pressed for an equaliser.
Julio Sergio had to save bravely from Tiribocchi after another fine run and pass from Valdes as Roma clung on for the three potentially crucial points.
Catania shocked Milan at the San Siro with an enterprising first-half display.
Argentine Maxi Lopez shot home on 12 minutes before crossing for Adrian Ricchiuti to head home two minutes from the interval.
Borriello led the fightback with a 48th-minute header from a Clarence Seedorf centre and a fine turn-and-shot on 80 minutes, but a point may not be enough for Milan in the final reckoning.
"I'm not conceding anything. After that second half I'm even more optimistic," said Brazilian coach Leonardo.
Antonio Cassano's 23rd minute strike was enough to give Sampdoria a 1-0 win in the 102nd Genoa derby, which kicked off 15 minutes late after crowd trouble.
Sampdoria remain fifth, level on 54 points with Palermo who are fourth, 10 points behind Milan, after coming from a goal down to defeat Chievo 2-1, with Fabrizio Miccoli weighing in with a brace.
Giorgio Chiellini's first-half header gave Juventus a 1-0 win over Cagliari that sent them sixth, three points adrift of the Champions League places.
In the battle to stay clear of the drop zone, Lazio came back from two goals down to defeat Bologna 3-2, while Serie A top scorer Antonio Di Natale notched goal number 23 in Udinese's 2-0 victory at bottom club Livorno.
Siena's 3-2 win at home to Bari brings them to six points from safety.
On Saturday Inter, who had been top since October 3, dropped two precious points in a 2-2 draw at Fiorentina.
A goal eight minutes from time from Per Kroldrup earned the Viola a deserved point after Inter had come from behind to snatch the lead in the second half.
"After going ahead we gifted Fiorentina a second goal but these things happen in football -- you're often most vulnerable after scoring," said Inter sporting director Marco Branca, who spoke as coach Jose Mourinho is boycotting the Italian press.