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Roma goal spree puts them on top

Roma players celebrate Francesco Totti's opening goal in Verona.
Roma players celebrate Francesco Totti's opening goal in Verona.

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ROME, Italy (Reuters) -- A second-half goal spree gave AS Roma a 3-0 win at Chievo Verona on Sunday and sent them ahead of AC Milan at the top of Serie A on goal difference.

Franceso Totti, Mancini and Antonio Cassano scored within five minutes for Roma, who are four points clear of champions Juventus.

Christian Vieri scored twice for Inter Milan as they beat Perugia 2-1 to maintain their unbeaten run under coach Alberto Zaccheroni and move back into the title race.

European champions AC Milan won 1-0 at Empoli on Saturday and share top spot with Roma on 30 points with Juve on 26 and Inter on 25.

Fifth-placed Parma kept in touch with the leaders with two goals from Alberto Gilardino giving them a 2-1 win at Lecce.

It was hard going in the first half at Verona for Fabio Capello's Roma and Chievo went close to taking the lead when Daniele Franceschini struck the bar.

But Roma picked up the pace in devastating style in the second half.

First Totti slotted home a low cross from Brazilian full-back Mancini in the 67th minute and three minutes later returned the compliment with a perfect cross-field ball to Mancini who provided the required finish.

Just two minutes after that the game was all over when once again Mancini raided down Chievo's left and picked out Antonio Cassano who volleyed home.

Unlike their rivals, Roma do not have any distractions in the Champions League this season and nine wins and three draws from 12 games, with 28 goals scored is title winning form.

Inter hit form

But they are not the only side hitting form as Juve stutter -- Inter are unbeaten in Serie A since former Milan coach Zaccheroni took over from Hector Cuper in October and the victory over Perugia was their fourth win in a row.

Vieri, returning from an injury lay-off, fired Inter ahead in the 25th minute with a left-foot finish after a neat exchange between Emre Belozoglu and Julio Ricardo Cruz.

Inter struggled under pressure from Perugia for long periods of the game but Vieri doubled their advantage 10 minutes from the end, racing on to a pass from Cruz and confidently firing home.

Giovanni Tedesco pulled a goal back for the visitors two minutes from time but Inter held on to keep hold of fourth place.

Many pundits expected Parma to fade when their Brazilian striker Adriano was sidelined with a serious hamstring injury but Italy under-21 international Gilardino is proving to be an able replacement.

Gilardino was brought down by Lecce keeper Vukasin Poleksic in the 31st minute and the debutant was sent off for the challenge, but substitute keeper Marco Amelia saved Domenico Morfeo's penalty.

It was Gilardino though who put Parma ahead just after the break, latching on to a Mark Bresciano through ball and beating Amelia with a fine left-foot strike.

Impressive Uruguayan Ernesto Chevanton brought lowly Lecce level with a 69th-minute penalty but Gilardino secured the three points for Parma with some smart footwork and a clinical finish in the 77th minute.

Bologna picked up their first win since September with a 3-2 victory over Ancona, including a spectacular strike from Carlo Nervo and an instinctive finish from Giuseppe Signori.

Germany international striker Carsten Jancker scored only his second goal in two and a half seasons as Udinese beat Reggina 1-0.

Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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