Totti saves Roma to set up grand finale

ROME, May 9, 2010 (AFP) - Two late goals from Francesco Totti gave AS Roma a nervy 2-1 victory at home to Cagliari on Sunday and ensured the Serie A title will be decided on the final day of the season.

Inter Milan maintained their two-point lead at the top with a 4-3 success over Chievo at the San Siro that proved less comfortable than it should have been.

Inter travel to Siena while Roma will be entertained by Chievo next weekend.

The nerazzurri can sew up a fifth title in a row with victory while Roma can only secure their first scudetto since 2001 if they win and Inter fail to do so.

At one stage in the afternoon's proceedings, Inter were cruising at 4-1 while an Andrea Lazzari goal direct from a free-kick gave Cagliari a shock 1-0 lead in Rome with just 17 minutes remaining, meaning Inter were virtual champions.

"It was the usual game of suffering for us. After hitting the woodwork three times we were close to losing," said Roma midfielder David Pizarro.

"Thankfully we managed to get the result we were hoping for and in the end, that's good."

Inter fans were celebrating in the stands but two goals just four minutes apart from Roma captain and talisman Totti silenced them.

Even so, Inter goalscorer Esteban Cambiasso insisted the players were not expecting to wrap up the title.

"We have enough experience in football to know perfectly well that the game can change at any time right to the end," he said.

"Therefore when the fans in the San Siro exploded with joy after the Cagliari goal we tried to stay calm because we knew the scudetto wasn't finished.

"Now we will go to Siena with the determination and desire to win the game and hence the title."

Totti's goals were the perfect response after the 33-year-old forward was roundly criticised in midweek following his sending off in Roma's 1-0 Coppa Italia final defeat to Inter for a wild kick at Mario Balotelli.

"Now we're going right to the wire and we're going to continue to believe," said Totti.

His first goal was a close-range shot across the goalkeeper with 11 minutes left and his second, from the spot with seven minutes remaining, came after Davide Biondini was harshly penalised when a John Arne Riise cross hit his upper arm in the box.

Roma had dominated the first period, with Totti and Marco Motta hitting the woodwork, but they were lacklustre at the beginning of the second and failed to heed the warnings when both Jeda and Alessandro Matri wasted glorious opportunities to give Cagliari the lead.

But after Lazzari's strike, Roma's dramatic late comeback ensured they are still alive and kicking.

At the San Siro, Inter fell behind on 12 minutes as Luciano flung over a free-kick from the right and the ball hit Thiago Motta on the chest and bounced beyond Julio Cesar for an own goal.

But just a minute later it was all square, both in terms of the score and the number of own goals as Samuel Eto'o juggled the ball in the box and fired it across goal where it bounced off Andrea Mantovani's hip and past a bemused Stefano Sorrentino.

On 34 minutes Inter were ahead as Maicon galloped down the right and crossed deep to the back post where Cambiasso arrived to side-foot home.

The third came with a touch of genius from Diego Milito, who chipped Sorrentino from 20 yards with the goalkeeper slightly off his line.

Seven minutes after the break the game was effectively over as a contest as a long ball from Maicon sent Balotelli clear of the back line and he too lobbed Sorrentino.

But goals from Pablo Granoche and Sergio Pellissier ensured Inter had a nervous last quarter of an hour.

In other games, Sampdoria drew 1-1 at Palermo to remain two points ahead of their hosts in the race for fourth place and Champions League football next season.

Atalanta will join Livorno and Siena in Serie B next season as they were relegated following a 2-0 defeat at Napoli.

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