Roma, Milan close gap on Inter


ROME, February 22 – AS Roma closed the gap to leaders Inter Milan at the top of Serie A to just five points with a narrow 1-0 win over Catania at the Stadio Olimpico in the capital on Sunday.And AC Milan stayed in the hunt as well, bouncing back from Tuesday’s 3-2 Champions League defeat at home to Manchester United with a 2-0 success at Bari.

Montenegro forward Mirko Vucinic scored the only goal of the game as Roma took their unbeaten run in the league to 15 matches with their seventh Serie A win in a row.

It means Roma have now shaved six points off Inter’s lead over the last three matches with the champions having drawn three in a row, including Saturday’s 0-0 stalemate at home to Sampdoria, in which Jose Mourinho’s team were reduced to nine men after just 38 minutes following the dismissals of centre-backs Walter Samuel and Ivan Cordoba.

Roma had three wins, two draws and five defeats in their first 10 games of the season but have since taken 39 from a possible 45 points.

Even so, coach Claudio Ranieri dismissed title talk, saying the race was not back on.

"No, no it’s not. We’re doing great things at the moment but we’re still on the big curve and then we’ll see how things pan out when we enter the final straight," he said.

"Now our minds return to the (Europa League second leg) where we want to progress and do well, also to improve Italy’s ranking coefficient.

"We have many irons in the fire and we don’t want to burn any of them."

Despite their fine run, though, they had been stuttering in recent weeks and lost their 20-match unbeaten run in all competitions on Thursday when two late goals by Panathinaikos gave the Greeks a 3-2 win in Athens in the Europa League.

But they settled this affair in the 18th minute as Ciro Capuano lost Vucinic at a corner, allowing the striker to prod home unmolested from six yards out.

In the south Milan dominated the ball against their hosts who nonetheless looked dangerous on the break.

Bari should have had a penalty when Daniele Bonera got Paulo Barreto in a bear-hug at a corner and wrestled him to the ground but the referee waved away the hosts’ pleas.

Milan took the lead two minutes before the break with a spectacular goal as Ronaldinho chipped the ball over the defence and, falling backwards, Marco Borriello hit a sideways scissor-kick that beat Jean-Francois Gillet at his near post.

The visitors doubled the lead on 69 minutes as Ronaldinho tricked his way into the box and although Gillet saved his shot, the ball came out to Pato who shot home through a crowd of players.

Milan trail Inter by seven points but have a game in hand, away to out of form Fiorentina on Wednesday and Ronaldinho insisted his team are focussed on that game and not yet their Champions League return leg at Old Trafford.

"We’re just thinking about the next match against Fiorentina, which will be really hard, and trying to earn three points to get closer to Inter," he said.

"But were taking things one step at a time; slowly, slowly. When the time comes to think about Manchester then we’ll think about a way to play to score two goals."

Juventus moved up to fourth and back into a Champions League qualification place after their third win in a row, including Thursday’s 2-1 Europa League triumph away to Ajax, with a 2-1 success at Bologna.

They were off to a flying start as Diego surged forward on four minutes, hitting a shot from the edge of the area that goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano couldn’t hold and although he also stopped Amauri’s follow-up, Diego then swept home the next rebound.

However Bologna equalised thanks to a defensive horror show from Juve as Federico Casarini’s inswinging cross was missed by everyone and came back off the post where the unmarked Antonio Busce bundled home.

Juve scored the winner completely against the run of play as Alessandro Del Piero slipped in substitute Antonio Candreva to score his first goal for the club.