AT THIS rate when Jose Mourinho welcomes Chelsea to Milan next month, Internazionale will already be within touching distance of the Italian title.
They had moved 11 points clear of the field after a dramatic 4-3 over Siena on Saturday, but David Beckham and his second-placed AC Milan team-mates hauled the margin back to eight with a magnificent 3-0 success over third placed Juventus in Turin last night.
Alessandro Nesta put Milan ahead in the 34th minute and then Ronaldinho popped up with a clinching brace in the 72nd and 88th minutes.
Inter looked down and out in their clash with Siena. With two minutes left they were 3-2 down and losing their unbeaten home record against Serie A’s bottom side, but they mustered two goals from nothing inside four minutes to take all three points.
It was a strange night all round – Jose Mourinho doesn’t usually do seven- goal thrillers.
This was the first time Inter had conceded more than one goal since they faced Juventus at the start of last month Veteran centre-half Walter Samuel (pictured) doesn’t usually skip through defences to score last-gasp winners, but someone had to with Mario Balotelli suspended and Samuel Eto’o on African Nations Cup duty.
The Inter coach doesn’t usually say anything nice about his opposite number, either.
“If I had to lose the unbeaten home record then I would prefer to do it like this with a coach that I like than with one I did not like,” said Mourinho afterwards of Alberto Malesani in the rival dugout.
“We spoke together after the game. It was a conversation between one manager who was very happy to have won a war that it seemed like he was going to lose and another who had lost a battle it seemed he was going to win. Even a point for them would have been important in terms of their position in the table and for their morale.
“It was a victory earned by character and some good luck, but I feel for Siena and their coach. We were physically a bit weak in the first half, but we improved and it would have been bad luck had we lost the game.”
They looked like losing after former Middlesbrough striker Massimo Maccarone scored his second of the match on 64 minutes to put the strugglers 3-2 up. But with two minutes left of normal time Wesley Sneijder scored his second free-kick of the game and two minutes into stoppage time Samuel got the winner.
In Spain, two goals from Lionel Messi and a third from Carlos Puyol in a pulsating first half put Barcelona in control away to lowly Tenerife last night.
The Argentinian ace netted in the 36th and 45th minutes, with Puyol’s effort coming in the 44th. Messi completed his hat-trick in the 75th minute, before an Ezequiel Luna OG saw Barca run out comfortable 5-0 winners.
Real Madrid, however, kept up the pressure on their fierce rivals by sweeping aside Real Mallorca 2-0 at the Bernabeu earlier yesterday.
With snow falling in the stadium, Gonzalo Higuain and Esteban Granero scored at the beginning of each half and only a series of fine saves by visiting ‘keeper Dudu Aouate prevented a heavier defeat.
Mallorca, who started the weekend in fourth, were never allowed to get into their stride and rarely threatened. Earlier, Valencia cruised to a 3-1 victory at basement club Xerez to strengthen their hold on third place with 35 points.