League leaders Internazionale gave a solid display in a 2-0 win against Atalanta in Bergamo.
The home side rarely threatened and were undone by a powerful header from French stalwart Patrick Vieira in the first half, followed by a cool finish from 17-year-old forward Balotelli in the 74th minute.
The Italian youngster is an exciting prospect, and his all-round contribution fully justified his surprise selection ahead more established players like Julio Cruz and Luis Figo. Atalanta captain and playmaker Doni was sent off in controversial circumstances in the dying minutes.
With Roma also picking up 3 points courtesy of a 3-2 home win against Genoa, the situation at the top of the table remains unchanged. Daniele De Rossi, understood to be a summer transfer target for Real Madrid, got the winner from the penalty spot with ten minutes to go. Roma had looked comfortable after goals from Taddei and Vucinic had put them in a strong position, but Genoa rallied in the second half and goals Rossi and Leon looked to have earned them a point until De Rossi’s late spot-kick won the match for Roma.
Milan recorded an overdue win on Saturday night, with a brace from Pipo Inzaghi proving decisive in a 3-1 defeat of Cagliari at San Siro.
Fiorentina, Milan’s chief rivals in the race for fourth place, beat Reggina 2-0 at home, courtesy of goals from Mutu and Pazzini. They remain four points ahead of Milan.
Udinese were held to a 1-1 draw by Siena and so lost ground in the race for fourth place – a UEFA Cup place is a more likely prospect for them.
In the weekend’s other highlight, Palermo recorded an impressive 3-2 win over Juventus. Like Roma at Olimpico, they surrendered a two-goal lead in the second half, and only sealed the points late in the game. A second-half brace from Juve’s long-serving forward Alessandro Del Piero cancelled out two goals from Palermo’s highly-rated Brazilian striker Amauri, before Cassani netted the winner for the Sicilian outfit in the 89th minute.
Sampdoria maintained their impressive recent form by beating Livorno 2-0, and there were massive wins for relegation-threatened Empoli, who won 1-0 at fellow strugglers Torino, and Catania, who cruised to an impressive 3-0 defeat of Napoli.
By Houman Barekat