Inter go clear in Serie A
© AFP

Two injury time goals from Inter Milan's Julio Cruz and Lecce defender Andrea Esposito sent champions Inter top of Serie A at the expense of city rivals AC Milan.  Argentine substitute Cruz's goal gave Inter a 1-0 victory over plucky Udinese while Esposito denied AC Milan a win in a 1-1 draw on the south coast.

AC Milan are joint second with Napoli, just one point back from Inter, after Diego Maradona's former team beat Sampdoria 2-0.

The result in Milan was tough on Udinese, who were on the brink of holding out for a deserved point until they lost concentration at a corner.  Inter boss Jose Mourinho preferred to focus on his own team's strength of character in battling to the end.

"One day our opponents will score in the last minute but right now my team has the character that even when things are tough they never give up," he said.  "Today's match was difficult and it was even in the first half but after the break Julio Cesar didn't have any problems. The goal came in the 91st minute but it could have come in the 89th or when Zanetti hit the post.

"And maybe there should have been a penalty when a shot from Ibra hit a defender's hand."

The first half was notable only for being completely forgettable without a single chance of any significance.  After the break Udinese had good chances for Antonio Floro Flores and Fabio Quagliarella before Inter took control.

The hosts' captain Javier Zanetti almost won it two minutes from time with a skidding long-range strike but that cannoned back off the post with Handanovic beaten.  But then deep into injury time Udinese's defenders to a man got drawn to the near post at a corner, which was flicked on leaving Cruz free to head home in the middle of the six yard box.

Wild celebrations
Ronaldinho looked to have won the match for Milan for the third game running when he converted Pato's cross from the right just 11 minutes remaining. But Esposito came up deep into injury time to head home a free-kick and spark wild home celebrations.

Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti blamed the referee, claiming the free-kick should never have been awarded. "The game was won, the lack of concentration at the end was more on the referee's part than our own," he said. "It was a foul that only gets blown up in Italy, referees in Italy blow their whistles too much. That was our best performance of the season at home or away. We had many chances."

Napoli opened the scoring in the first half through Daniele Mannini, who tapped home at the far post after a cross from Ezequiel Lavezzi.  Antonio Cassano had a goal ruled out for offside before Mannini twice within a few seconds cleared off the Napoli line.

Uruguay forward Marcelo Zalayeta came off the bench to add the second, finishing off into the empty net after a shot from the excellent Lavezzi was deflected, wrong-footing goalkeeper Luca Castellazzi.

Lazio are up to fourth after a 3-0 win over Siena with captain Tommaso Rocchi scoring twice in the last four minutes following an opener from Argentine Mauro Zarate.

Del Piero again 
Juventus are up to sixth after their fourth win in a row as they triumphed 2-0 at second from bottom Chievo. Evergreen forward Alessandro Del Piero proved he's lost none of his brilliance with yet another stunning free-kick five minutes before the break.

Del Piero has already hit the net with sumptuous free-kicks in victories over Real Madrid, Zenit St Petersburg and AS Roma this season and once again he demonstrated his unerring ability to find the top corner with a dead ball.

"The key to our success last season and these last few games is Alessandro Del Piero," beamed Juve boss Claudio Ranieri. "Our team wants to fight and get back to its best. Then there is the impact of our stars that comes to the fore such as that of Del Piero, who in this moment is absolute magic. He's always been the leader, he carries Juventus and everyone else is right behind him. Given half a chance, he scores and that's good for us and our morale."

Vincenzo Iaquinta secured the three points by adding a second after the restart as Juve moved onto 21 points, just one win off top.

Fiorentina are also still in the mix, just one point behind Juve, as they won 2-1 at home to Atalanta.