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Italian title goes down to the wire

Article Published: Monday 17 May 2010

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It took a solitary goal from Diego Milito on the final day of the season away to Siena to secure a fifth straight title for Inter Milan but at times that kind of conclusion looked highly unlikely.

It was a thrilling finale to a season that appeared to be turning into a procession at the end of January but instead threw up twists and turns that kept everyone on the edge of their seats until the last minute of the campaign.

And one of those great twists was that it was AS Roma who took Inter to the final day.

Such an outcome was unimaginable early in the season when Roma lost their first two games, away to Genoa and at home to Juventus, prompting coach Luciano Spalletti to walk out.

He was replaced by Claudio Ranieri but although he won his first couple of matches, by the 10th game of the season both he and Roma were in dire trouble with three wins and five defeats leaving them only just above the relegation zone.

By that time the lead had already changed hands a few times.

Juventus had been the early pace-setters, winning their first four matches, after which they were passed by surprise-package Sampdoria.

They went top after a 1-0 home win against Inter in their sixth game but lost the lead to the champions the next week after a 1-1 draw at home to Parma.

Sampdoria then struggled and dropped right down into the bottom half while Juve never recovered their early season form.

So it was left to AC Milan to take up the relay despite a poor start in which they scored only seven goals in their first 10 games in all competitions.

By December, however, they had closed right in on Inter and looked capable of being the champions' main challengers.

By this time Roma had begun their 24-match unbeaten run, although no-one at this point gave them a serious chance of being in the championship mix.

When they held Inter to a 1-1 draw at the San Siro in early November, they were already 14 points behind the nerazzurri.

Juventus at this point were about to go into total freefall, not that it appeared that way when they beat Inter 2-1 in early December to remain in touch.

That came just after a 2-0 defeat at Cagliari which heralded the start of a run of six defeats in eight league games which cost Ciro Ferrara his job, and Juve any hope of being involved in the title shake down.

Milan were breathing down Inter's necks but lost to their neighbours 2-0 in January as Jose Mourinho's men opened up a nine-point gap.

But three straight draws in February gave Inter's rivals a chance and they won only twice in nine, picking up just 11 points.

Milan had two chances to overtake their bitter rivals during that run but each time they slipped up.

Instead it was Roma, in the midst of their long unbeaten run, who took over top spot after Inter were held to a 2-2 draw at Fiorentina on April 10.

A day later Roma beat Atalanta 2-1 to reach the summit, which they held onto the next weekend with a victory away to their neighbours Lazio by the same score.

With four games left, Roma had their destiny in their own hands and yet that was when their unbeaten run came to an abrupt end, ironically after their best first half of the season.

They totally dominated Sampdoria but turned around with a slender 1-0 lead, which they lost in the second period due to a brace from Giampaolo Pazzini.

Roma had had their chance and Inter would not give them another.

That win had another result in propelling resurgent Sampdoria into fourth place, which they too then held onto to secure Champions League football next season.

Down at the bottom, there were no surprises when Livorno and Siena went down with a couple of games to spare while Atalanta joined them a week later.

But one of the most remarkable statistics this season was the number of coaching changes - 17 by 12 different clubs, and that not including Milan's Leonardo and Juve's Alberto Zaccheroni whose departures were delayed until the end of the season.


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