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Mon 18 Feb 2008 07:10 AM

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Fiorentina back in Champions League contention

Fiorentina have moved back into Champions League contention with a 2-1 home win.

Fiorentina moved back into Champions League contention with a 2-1 home win over Catania on Sunday as they reclaimed fourth spot in Serie A from reigning European champions AC Milan.

Zradko Kuzmanovic gave Fiorentina the lead after 41 minutes heading in a Mario Alberto Santana cross.

But Catania levelled on the hour when Juan Vargas unleashed a powerful long-range drive which was too hot for goalkeeper Vlada Avramov to handle.

It was a tough top flight debut for Avramov, who had replaced Sebastien Frey, who had picked up a thigh injury, in the first half.

Romanian striker Adrian Mutu, however, hit his 14 league goal of the season to give Fiorentina the three points with a 20-metre strike.

Fiorentina now have 41 points, three more than Milan, who were held to a 0-0 draw by Parma on Saturday.

Sampdoria won the Genoa derby, and kept their UEFA Cup qualification hopes alive, with a 1-0 win thanks to an 87th-minute winner from Christian Maggio after the home side were reduced to 10 men following the sending off of Brazilian defender Danilo.

On Saturday, Inter Milan took another huge step closer to the title after extending their lead at the top to 11 points.

Defending champions Inter saw off Livorno 2-0 at the San Siro while closest challengers Roma lost 1-0 at third-place Juventus.

There was also disappointment for AC Milan who could not provide veteran defender Paolo Maldini with a victory on his 1,000th match in professional football as they drew 0-0 at lowly Parma.

Honduran forward David Suazo scored both Inter goals within four minutes of each other in the first half.

Inter had rested first-choice strike pair Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Julio Cruz ahead of their midweek Champions League trip to Liverpool, giving Suazo and Argentine Hernan Crespo a rare start up front.

France captain Patrick Vieira was suspended and Chilean midfield playmaker Luis Jimenez was out injured but it made no difference as Inter proved too powerful for opponents who only three days earlier had come away from the San Siro with a 1-1 draw against Milan.

Inter coach Roberto Mancini turned his attentions to the Liverpool match on Tuesday but refused to get carried away by the English team's embarrassing FA Cup defeat to second tier Barnsley on Saturday.

"The important thing was to win and now we can concentrate on the Champions League," said Mancini.

"Cup football is like this, you can lose despite coming close to scoring on many occasions," he added referring to Liverpool's defeat.

Inter had the game sewn up after 18 minutes as Suazo headed home a delightful inswinging free-kick from Romanian centre-back Cristian Chivu.

He was then on hand to tap home the loose ball after two defenders got in each other's way and failed to clear a cross from Brazilian left-back Maxwell, who had done well to skip past two challenges and get to the byline.

Inter have won 18 and drawn just five of their 23 matches this season. They also have the best attack and the meanest defence.

Roma missed the chance to keep pace with the champions as veteran Juve forward Alessandro Del Piero's bullet free-kick on the stroke of half-time settled the match.

"We knew we could play a great match and that's exactly what we did," said the match-winner.

It means Juve are just one point behind Roma in third now and will rest up in midweek as Roma tackle Real Madrid in the Champions League.

Del Piero rifled an unstopppable shot into the top corner after Czech winger Pavel Nedved had drawn a foul from French centre-back Philippe Mexes just over 20 yards from goal.

The closest Roma came to equalising was straight after the goal as Juve defender Nicola Legrottaglie turned a cross from Rodrigo Taddei onto his own post.

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