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Inter fire blanks

ROME, March 8 – Inter Milan maintained a four-point cushion in the Serie A title race on Sunday but only after a dour 0-0 draw against Genoa which left coach Jose Mourinho frustrated in the stands.
Despite fielding a three-pronged attacking force of Mario Balotelli, Goran Pandev and Diego Milito, Inter were unable to break down a stubborn Genoa side.

Mourinho, who was serving the second of a three-match touchline ban, was so unimpressed that he charged out of his seat to get as close as possible to the pitch to bark his orders.

It wasn’t until the last 15 minutes that Inter looked dangerous with Maicon, substitute Samuel Eto’o and Wesley Sneijder coming close.

Inter moved onto 59 points, four clear of AC Milan, who also finished goalless against Roma on Saturday.

Inter director Marco Branca blamed fatigue from midweek international duty for the stalemate.

"The point earned should be read within the context of the many international players who were used in friendlies midweek," said Branca.

"Many of them played from the start for their countries and therefore came back rather tired."

Unheralded Palermo underlined their bid for a place in the Champions League next season as well as their burgeoning domestic title credentials with a 1-0 win over Livorno.

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The three points, garnered courtesy of Fabrizio Miccoli’s goal nine minutes from the end, took the Sicilians into fourth place in Serie A, two points clear of Juventus, who Palermo had seen off in Turin last weekend.

Juve slid back a place into fifth having won 2-1 at Fiorentina on Saturday.

Sampdoria are sixth, a point further back, after a 2-1 home win over Lazio.

The visitors took a seventh-minute lead through Sergio Floccari but quickfire ripostes around the half hour mark from Stefano Guberti and Giampaolo Pazzini proved enough for Samp to take the three points.

While Palermo rise, so Napoli are sliding back and their top four aspirations took a knock after a 2-1 loss at Bologna, for whom Marcelo Zalayeta and Brazilian Adailton were on target inside the opening 12 minutes.

Leandro Rinaudo scored Napoli’s consolation as they dropped to seventh, five points adrift of Palermo, after a run of just four points from a possible 18 in their last six outings.

David Beckham appeared for just 18 minutes from the bench for Milan on Saturday, no doubt with one eye on Wednesday’s emotional Champions League trip to Manchester United.

Milan coach Leonardo insisted his men can overturn their 3-2 deficit at Old Trafford to reach the quarter-finals.

"I have great faith in this team, many times I’ve asked a lot of them. We believe in ourselves, we have to win well at Old Trafford and we’ll go there trying to score goals."

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Elsewhere Sunday, Cagliari, hoping for a Europa League finish, dropped home points in a 2-2 draw with struggling Catania to remain two points behind Napoli, while Bari beat Chievo 1-0 in a midtable meeting.

Atalanta and Siena did their hopes of avoiding the drop little good with home draws, 0-0 against Udinese and 1-1 against Parma respectively.

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