Maicon scored a dazzling volley as Inter Milan went back to the top of the Serie A table with a hard-fought 2-0 victory over Juventus at the San Siro on Friday.
AS Roma can regain top spot on Sunday if they beat Lazio in the Rome derby. The stuttering champions won for only the fourth time in 12 league matches but the first-half sending off of Mohamed Sissoko proved crucial as Juve finally wilted under the nerazzurri's second period onslaught.
Two goals in the final 15 minutes did for the visitors with Cameroon forward Samuel Eto'o tapping home an injury time second. Sixth-placed Juve could now find themselves six points off a UEFA Champions League qualification position with four games to play if Sicilian club Palermo win at Sardinian outfit Cagliari on Sunday.
Juventus may have been the underdogs but they made the brighter start with Inter goalkeeper Julio Cesar forced into saves from Vincenzo Iaquinta and Alessandro Del Piero in the first two minutes. And on four minutes Claudio Marchisio was given space outside the area to set his sights but fired over the bar.
Inter's first chance came on 12 minutes as Wesley Sneijder blazed a free-kick over before Thiago Motta tried from distance but Gianluigi Buffon plunged to his right to beat away the effort. The Milan side looked destined to score on 26 minutes as Eto'o escaped down the left on the counter-attack, but he cut inside on his right and Sissoko made a last ditch sliding tackle to block.
The Mali midfielder then got in the thick of things for all the wrong reasons. First he was booked for a pushing match with Thiago Motta and then on 37 minutes he received his marching orders following a second yellow for a rash challenge on Javier Zanetti.
After a pretty dire first half Eto'o had a great opportunity to open the scoring early in the second but after he'd bundled past Fabio Cannavaro, the ball took a nasty bobble and he ballooned his shot high over the bar. Maicon then robbed Fabio Grosso in the box and crossed for Diego Milito but Inter's top scorer flicked his shot from inside the six-yard box wide of the far post.
Inter were dominant against the 10 men but Juve almost sprung a surprise as Cannavaro met Diego's corner eight yards out only to direct his header straight at Julio Cesar before up the other end Walter Samuel headed wide from similar range. Milito then headed wide from barely a yard out after Mario Balotelli had flicked on Sneijder's corner as the champions pushed ever closer to the opener.
And the goal duly arrived a quarter-before the end as Maicon juggled the ball past a weak Amauri challenge on the edge of the box and slammed a stunning volley past a helpless Buffon. Balotelli was then a lick of paint away from adding a second as he thumped a free-kick onto the bar 10 minutes from time.
Juve did have a late chance to salvage something when Giorgio Chiellini came up from the back to earn a free-kick just outside the box but Julio Cesar saved Diego's curler. In injury time Ghana midfielder Muntari Sulley crossed for the unmarked Eto'o to stroke home into an empty net from six yards.