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Dec 4, 2005

Serie A: Juve eight points clear with win at Fiorentina

MILAN, Dec 4 (Reuters) - Juventus opened up an eight-point lead at the top of Serie A after Mauro Camoranesi struck an 88th-minute winner in a 2-1 victory at Fiorentina on Sunday.

Champions Juve have 39 points with AC Milan, who lost 2-1 at Chievo Verona on Saturday, on 31 points and Fiorentina and Inter Milan level on 29 points.

Juventus took the lead through French forward David Trezeguet but Fiorentina striker Giampaolo Pazzini equalised for the home side six minutes before the break.

Fabio Capello's side rode their luck at times with Fiorentina hitting the woodwork on three occasions, including a Luca Toni shot against the post in the 75th minute.

Camoranesi drove home the winner two minutes from the end of normal time after Trezeguet had outjumped a hesitating Giuseppe Pancaro to put the winger through on goal.

Juve's lead is the biggest any club has held at this stage in the season since Serie A switched to three points for a win for the 1994-95 season.

With Juve having lost only once, it will require a major change in form to prevent the Turin side from winning their 29th title.

"We are having a really great season so far, I am so pleased with the players' approach and character," said Capello, who was delighted the fixture passed without incident after the violence at Thursday's Italian Cup fixture between the two clubs.

"Today's was a fantastic game produced by the players and it was good to see people behaving in the stands," added the Juventus coach.

Fiorentina, the surprise package of the season who went into the game in third place, started well and Serie A's top scorer Toni headed against the bar in just the sixth minute.

Two minutes later, though, Juve had the lead after a goal on the break of impressive simplicity. Brazilian Emerson fed Zlatan Ibrahimovic on the right and the Swedish striker slipped the ball across the area to Trezeguet who tapped in.

Trezeguet shot just over the bar after another smooth, attacking move but the home side also went close when their Czech defender Tomas Ujfalusi rattled a 25-metre drive against the post.

The Florence side finally got their reward when left-back Manuel Pasqaul put over a great cross from the left and Pazzini met it at the near post and beat Christian Abbiati with a superb angled header.

The pace of the game eased off after the break but Fiorentina's lack of fortune struck them again in the 75th minute when Toni broke free and shot past the advancing Abbiati, only for the ball to strike the post.

It was poor defending from Pancaro, though, which allowed Camoranesi the opportunity to win the game and the Argentine-born winger took full advantage with a confident strike.

Despite the disappointment of the result, Fiorentina coach Cesare Prandelli, who this week signed a two-year extension to his contract, was full of compliments for his team.

"I was really pleased with the way we played but, against a team like that, it doesn't take much to finish you off," he said. "I think we deserved a draw out of the game, though.

"When you create chances like that against a team like Juventus, it shows me that we can still have a great season," added Prandelli.

Udinese, who face Barcelona in the Champions League on Wednesday, suffered a 2-0 defeat at home to fifth-placed Livorno who continued their excellent campaign.

An early own goal from Chris Obodo and a late Cristiano Lucarelli strike sealed victory for Roberto Donadoni's team.

Roma's frustrating season continued when they let a two-goal lead slip at lowly Lecce before ending with a 2-2 draw.

Contract rebel Antonio Cassano scored his first goal of the season with a delicate chip and Roma doubled their lead just before the break when Cesare Bovo's shot took a slight deflection off Shabani Nonda.

Giuseppe Cozzolino brought the home side back into the game six minutes into the second period and shortly afterwards Lecce were level when Mirko Vucinic scored from the penalty spot after being brought down by Romanian defender Cristian Chivu.

Both teams went close to winners near the end with Lecce's Axel Konan hitting the post and Bovo crashing a drive against the cross-bar.

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