Soccer-Roundup-Inter, Napoli close on Milan, United stretch lead

LONDON, March 20 Mon Mar 21, 2011 4:35am IST

LONDON, March 20 (Reuters) - Inter Milan and Napoli were suddenly breathing down the necks of nervy Italian Serie A leaders AC Milan who suffered a shock 1-0 defeat at Palermo.

In England, 10-man Manchester United moved five points clear after beating Bolton Wanderers 1-0 with a last-gasp goal as nearest rivals Arsenal drew 2-2 at West Bromwich Albion. Barcelona remained five points clear of Real Madrid at the head of La Liga after both won. In Greece, Olympiakos clinched their 38th league title.

ITALY

Inter Milan and Napoli cashed in with victories after leaders AC Milan slipped up on Saturday, beaten 1-0 by Palermo.

Giampaolo Pazzini scored in the 52nd minute to give Inter the points against Lecce and they now trail their city rivals by just two points. The pair clash on April 3 when the leadership could well change hands.

Edinson Cavani's double in a 2-1 win over Cagliari re-awakened Napoli's title challenge. They now lie just three points off the top three weeks after it looked as if their championship hopes were shot following a 3-0 defeat by Milan.

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ENGLAND

Manchester United continued to set the Premier League pace as Dimitar Berbatov scored two minutes from time to secure a 1-0 win over Bolton Wanderers and second-placed Arsenal were held to a 2-2 draw at relegation-threatened West Bromwich Albion.

United, who have perfected the art of the late winner, achieved the victory despite having defender Jonny Evans sent off after 76 minutes at Old Trafford.

They have 63 points from 30 games, five clear of Arsenal who have a game in hand after the Londoners came from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 at the Hawthorns.

Champions Chelsea, also with a game in hand on United, moved up to third on 54 points with a 2-0 home win over Manchester City who slipped to fourth on 53.

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SPAIN

Leaders Barcelona remained five points ahead of Real Madrid in the La Liga title race with nine matches left after both recorded 2-1 victories.

Goals from Dani Alves and Bojan Krkic were enough for Barca to see off Getafe at the Nou Camp and Jose Mourinho's men responded at the Calderon with a fourth victory over their city neighbours Atletico Madrid this season.

Karim Benzema continued his good run of form to open the scoring and Mesut Ozil added a second before Sergio Aguero grabbed a late consolation for the hosts. The victory came at a price, though, as leading scorer Cristiano Ronaldo picked up an injury.

Villarreal's 1-0 win at Athletic Bilbao on Sunday lifted them to third, 19 points short of second place but ahead of Valencia on goal difference, after Unai Emery's side lost 1-0 at home to Sevilla.

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FRANCE

Lille opened a four-point gap at the top of the Ligue 1 standings when Gervinho scored one and created the other goal in a 2-1 win at Brest on Saturday.

The northeners, chasing their first league title since 1954, have 55 points from 28 games. Olympique Marseille are second on 51 points after beating Paris St Germain 2-1 on Sunday.

PSG, who were the only losing side in the top five at the weekend, stayed fifth 10 points off the pace.

Stade Rennes (third) and Olympique Lyon (fourth), cancelled out each other in a 1-1 draw at Gerland stadium on Saturday.

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GERMANY

Borussia Dortmund stumbled to a 1-1 home draw against Mainz 05 courtesy of an 89th minute goal from Petar Sliskovic to see their lead at the top cut to seven points.

Second-placed Bayern Leverkusen kept up their title hopes with a 2-0 win over Schalke 04 that moved them up to 55 points, while Hannover also hung on to third spot, five points behind on 50, with a 2-0 win against Hoffenheim.

Franck Ribery's 88th minute winner at Freiburg kept fourth-placed Bayern Munich's chances of clinching a Champions League spot for next season alive, lifting them to 48 points.

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NETHERLANDS

Otman Bakkal's 54th minute header earned PSV Eindhoven a 1-0 win over Utrecht to stay on top of the league, one point ahead of Twente Enschede who beat 10-men Excelsior 2-0, Theo Janssen scoring twice.

Ajax Amsterdam suffered a 3-2 defeat at ADO Den Haag, with Timothy Derijck scoring the winner three minutes before time, to fall six points behind PSV.

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SCOTLAND

After ugly scenes surrounding their last clash, Rangers and Celtic met for the sixth time this season but there was no repetition of the various antics earlier this month.

The occasion was the League Cup final, with Rangers winning 2-1 after extra time to lift the trophy for the 27th time.

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GREECE

Olympiakos Piraeus clinched their 38th Greek Super League crown with a 6-0 home derby victory over AEK Athens after being 3-0 up inside 20 minutes.

Olympiakos have 67 points from 27 matches and with just three games left hold a 10-point lead over Panathinaikos who defeated Kerkyra 2-1.

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PORTUGAL

Leaders Porto beat Academica 3-1 at home and are now 16 points ahead of Benfica, who play at Pacos Ferreira on Monday.

Left back David Addy opened the scoring for Academica with a tap-in on 32 minutes, but Colombia midfielder Fredy Guarin equalised with a shot from the edge of the box on 54 minutes.

Brazilian central defender Maicon put Porto ahead with a headed goal in the 62nd minute and winger Silvestre Varela added a third 12 minutes later with a powerful first-time shot.

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DENMARK

Nordsjaelland's Emil Lyng netted the fastest goal ever the Danish championship but his strike after just 10 seconds was to no avail as his side lost 2-1 to fellow strugglers Esbjerg.

Goals from Cesar Santin, Dame N'Doye and Jesper Gronkjaer helped runaway leaders FC Copenhagen come from behind to win a hotly-contested derby against third-placed Brondby 3-1.

(Editing by Dave Thompson; To query or comment on this story email sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com)

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