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May 2, 2009

Italy: Inter on the brink after Lazio victory

Inter Milan moved to within touching distance of a fourth successive Serie A title tonight by defeating Lazio at the San Siro.

Inter can now win the Scudetto at Chievo next weekend if AC Milan fail to claim maximum points from their games with Catania tomorrow and Juventus next weekend.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic unlocked the game in the 58th minute with Sulley Muntari sealing the win 20 minutes from time to put the Nerazzurri 10 points clear at the top of the table with four games remaining.

The home team made a bright start, but were unable to take any of their early chances before Lazio took control of the game.

The Biancoceleste tried to force the champions-elect into errors and succeeded in creating the best chances of a tight and nervy first half.

Tommaso Rocchi got in the first shot on goal in the eighth minute when he cut inside Esteban Cambiasso, but did not get enough power or direction on his strike to trouble Julio Cesar in the Inter goal.

Julio Cesar had more problems tipping a looping free-kick from Aleksander Kolarov over the crossbar as the intended cross curled towards the top corner of his goal.

Inter were not without their chances, and Ibrahimovic headed a Luis Figo cross wide of the far post from eight yards before Muntari replicated from an identical position, missing the goal to the other side from Ibrahimovic's cross.

But the pair made up for their missed efforts with the two decisive strikes in the second half.

The Swedish striker opened the scoring in the 58th minute, cutting into the penalty area from the left before unleashing a thunderous shot past Nestor Muslera.

Twelve minutes later, Ibrahimovic turned provider for Muntari to score the goal which takes Inter three points closer to the league title.

Patrick Vieira and Hernan Crespo were both offside, but Muntari timed his run to perfection to emerge from deep and reach Ibrahimovic's pass before placing the ball inside Muslera's right-hand post.

Inter could have added a third when Ibrahimovic set up Cristian Chivu, but the Romanian defender made a bad connection with the ball and failed to trouble Muslera.

Muslera then made a save from another Ibrahimovic pile-driver which this time seemed to be heading just inside his post.

Ibrahimovic, who had looked rather nervous earlier on when apparently contested by a group of home fans behind the goal, let his temper get the better of him as he picked up a yellow card for a heated clash with Francelino Matuzalem.

That booking rules him out of next weekend's trip to Verona, but his contribution tonight has put Inter into a position where they can clinch the title at Chievo's Stadio Bentegodi next Sunday with three games to spare.

Reggina defender Andrea Costa walked away after swallowing his tongue in his side's 2-1 win at fellow Serie A strugglers Bologna on Saturday.

Costa recovered quickly but was substituted and taken to hospital after losing consciousness in a collision in the second half and needing a physio to pull his tongue out of his throat.

Joint-bottom Reggina boosted their hopes of an unlikely escape from relegation with a battling victory.

Franco Brienza scored with their first attempt on 40 minutes when he beat the offside trap and rifled home before Edgar Barreto doubled the lead just after halftime when he chested down and fired in off the bar from 30 metres.

The club from the southern city of Reggio Calabria looked doomed just a few weeks ago but have taken seven points from their last three games to lie three behind fourth-bottom Torino, who visit Fiorentina on Sunday (1300).

Third-bottom Bologna, who hit the bar twice before Vangelis Moras netted late on, remain a point from safety with four games left while Lecce are level with Reggina before Sunday's trip to Juventus.

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