Race For 'Scudetto' Heats Up In Serie A

AC Milan's title hopes suffered a major blow when the nervous Serie A leaders suffered a shock 1-0 defeat at struggling Palermo on Saturday. Defender Dorin Goian scored the only goal of a frantic game in the 10th minute to leave Milan five points ahead of rivals Inter Milan and six above Napoli. Second-placed Inter can put the pressure on their city rivals by beating lowly visitors Lecce on Sunday when Napoli are scheduled to host mid-table Cagliari at the San Paolo. Milan have 62 points from 30 games ahead of Inter on 57 and Napoli with 56. Lazio moved up to fourth on 54 with a 1-0 win over Cesena in Saturday's early kickoff.

Palermo, who had lost their last five games, moved up to seventh, while the Rossoneri's fourth defeat of the campaign is likely to mean the result of the Milan derby on April 3 will go a long way to deciding who wins this season's scudetto. Without suspended striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri paired Brazilian Pato with Antonio Cassano up front, but the visitors were immediately found wanting in defence as the Sicilian side took an early lead. Goian, in for the suspended Cesare Bovo, was left all alone at a corner to score his first goal for the club and the first under the charge of Serse Cosmi who took over this month.

Milan, who only managed a home draw with bottom-side Bari last week, almost hit back immediately. Mathieu Flamini's shot was tipped round the post and from the resulting corner Alessandro Nesta just failed to get his studs to a ball that trickled along the goalline. But Palermo, who lost their last home match 7-0 to Udinese leading to the sacking of coach Delio Rossi, were playing with surprising confidence. Palermo attacked on the break with speed and intelligence but had recently criticised keeper Salvatore Sirigu to thank in the 65th minute for pulling off a spectacular save to turn aside Flamini's first-time shot from just inside the box.

Meanwhile, Lazio's Argentine striker Mauro Zarate made the difference in only the second minute against Cesena, turning home Stefano Mauri's left-wing cross at the Stadio Olimpico. It enabled Lazio to leapfrog Udinese into fourth, which carries qualification to the Champions League preliminary round. Lazio are a point above Udinese who host Catania on Sunday.

Lazio 1 - 0 Cesena

Palermo 1 - 0 AC Milan

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