Cameroon forward Samuel Eto'o scored a brace as Serie A leaders Inter Milan ended their recent blip with a 3-0 victory over rock bottom Livorno to move four points clear at the top of the table. Roma won 2-0 away to Bologna to join AC Milan in joint second place after the seven-time European champions crashed 1-0 at Parma.
Roma host Inter on Saturday and the champions' Colombia defender Ivan Cordoba said his team cannot afford to give their rivals any more encouragement. Already Roma have clawed back 10 points on Inter since October.
"Roma deserve great credit for what they have done, it's been an impressive comeback and hence we have to keep pushing because we know how good they are and we can't afford to give them any hope," said Cordoba, while not ruling out Milan's chances.
"At the start of the season Milan were one of the few teams expected to fight for the title and they're still doing so and that's credit to them too but we can't think about them we have to concentrate on ourselves and what we're doing."
Inter came into this match reeling from a dire run of one win in seven league matches and a measly eight points from a possible 21 that had seen neighbours Milan reduce their lead to just one point at the weekend. But a top versus bottom clash was just the tonic Jose Mourinho's men needed to emphatically return to winning ways ahead of their crucial title trip to Roma on Saturday. Inter had been far from impressive in the early stages and it was the basement club who had the best chances.
But it was from one of those very opportunities, when Nico Pulzetti failed to beat Julio Cesar from close range, that Inter charged up the other end to take the lead. On 36 minutes Julio Cesar threw the ball out to captain Javier Zanetti who helped it on to Portugal winger Ricardo Quaresma, making a rare start, and he fed Thiago Motta whose slide-rule pass found the Cameroon forward on the left of the area and he cut inside his marker before unleashing an unstoppable right foot shot past goalkeeper Rubinho.
Four minutes from the break it was two as Goran Pandev collected Cristian Chivu's crossfield pass and chipped the ball into the area where Eto'o connected with an overhead bicycle kick to double the champions' advantage. In between those two strikes, Eto'o had actually missed his best chance as Quaresma's inch perfect cross from the left found him eight yards out but he shot too close to Rubinho who saved. Any doubts about the final result were dispelled just past the hour mark as Thiago Motta fed the overlapping Maicon in the box and the Brazil full-back lashed a fierce drive past his countryman at the near post.
Milan, who had missed the chance to go top on Sunday after they were held to a 1-1 home draw by Napoli, were in uninspired form throughout and fell to a last minute goal from on-loan Manchester City forward Valeri Bojinov. The Bulgarian substitute pounced to prod home the loose ball after Jonathan Biabiany's shot was parried by Christian Abbiati.
Roma were made to work hard for their victory in the north but now know that a win over Inter at the weekend will move them to one point from top spot. And coach Claudio Ranieri admitted he is excited at the prospect. "Against Inter it will be the game of the season. They have been the superpower of the last few years but we're still here so we'll see what happens, we won't let up," he said.
They opened the scoring three minutes into the second period as John Arne Riise stuck out a foot to divert Daniele De Rossi's drilled long range effort past wrong-footed goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano. Two substitutes combined on 82 minutes to clinch the victory with a goal identical to Maicon's at the San Siro, with this time Alessio Cerci slipping in Julio Baptista to beat Viviano at his near post.
Palermo stayed fourth after a controversial 2-2 draw at Genoa, during which the hosts equalised eight minutes into time added on through Houssine Kharja's penalty.