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Sep 10, 2005

Serie A: Outclassed Inter slip to Palermo defeat

MILAN, Sept 10 (Reuters) - Italian title hopefuls Inter Milan lost 3-2 at Palermo in Serie A on Saturday after being outclassed by the Sicilian side who led 3-0 until five minutes from the end.

Last season's runners-up AC Milan enjoyed a 3-1 home win over Siena with goals from Massimo Ambrosini, European Footballer of the Year Andriy Shevchenko and Brazilian Kaka.

Champions Juventus are away to Empoli on Sunday.

Inter have impressed in pre-season and early domestic and European encounters but this defeat will raise questions over their credentials after last term's inconsistency cost them a chance of keeping up with rivals Juventus and AC Milan.

Eugenio Corini fired Palermo in front with a superb 25-metre, curling free-kick and Palermo dominated from then on, causing Inter's defence plenty of problems down the flanks.

The second half began with a flurry of action in the Inter goalmouth, Palermo forward Andrea Caracciolo having a great effort tipped on to the crossbar by Inter keeper Julio Cesar before the Brazilian keep out an effort from Cristian Zaccardo.

The 35-year-old Corini took the resulting corner which was met at the near post by defender Christian Terlizzi who scored with a powerful header.

The game was put beyond Inter, aiming to win their first league title since 1989, when Nigerian Stephen Makinwa headed in a fine cross from the left by Argentine Mario Alberto Santana.

CLOSE RANGE

Roberto Mancini's side pulled a goal back five minutes from time when substitute Julio Ricardo Cruz tapped in from close range after good work from Brazilian Adriano.

Even then, Palermo could have added to their tally with Cesar producing a top-drawer save to tip a Mariano Gonzalez effort on to the bar and Franco Brienza shooting wide after a swift counter-attack.

With the final action of the game, Argentine Cruz headed in from a corner in the fifth minute of injury time.

Inter coach Mancini, who started with former World Player of the Year Luis Figo on the bench, took a calm view of the result.

'You can have an evening like that when you are not particularly sparkling. They did very well. They got an early goal with the free-kick and then we had to go at them and they are very good on the break,' he said.

'Maybe we need to have a bit more concentration but in defeats you look for blame and the blame is, in the end, mine for a few things that I did.'

Milan, who drew their opening game at Ascoli, made a confident start with Ambrosini slotting home from close range after being set up by Shevchenko.

The Ukrainian doubled his side's lead with a thundering drive from 20 metres but what should have been a straightforward second half was complicated when Croatian Igor Tudor headed Siena back into the game just before the break.

Carlo Ancelotti's side were rarely in trouble, however. After Alberto Gilardino had an effort for Milan cleared off the line, Brazilian Kaka, on as a substitute, sealed the win with a confident solo goal.

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