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ROME, May 5 (AFP)
Juventus were crowned champions of Italy on Sunday in the most dramatic of circumstances as long-time leaders Inter Milan were beaten 4-2 by Lazio at the Olympic Stadium.
Second-half goals from Diego Simeone and Simone Inzaghi in Rome ensured Lazio denied Inter what would have been their first Scudetto for 13 years.
At Udine goals from prolific strike pair David Trezeguet and Alessandro Del Piero gave Juventus the 2-0 victory at Udinese that in the end earned the Turin outfit the title and sweet revenge for coach Marcello Lippi, sacked by Inter in October 2000.
Outgoing champions AS Roma, still in contention at the start of the day, surrendered their crown but a 1-0 victory at Torino earned by substitute Antonio Cassano ensured they deprive Inter of second place and qualify for the Champions League automatically while Inter must go through the qualifiers.
But this championship will go down as the Scudetto that Inter threw away with a defeat at the Olympic Stadium where everyone - even the Lazio fans - appeared to be willing Inter to victory with Inter players in tears at the final whistle.
Twice Inter took the lead in the first half through Italian internationals Christian Vieri and Luigi di Biagio only for Lazio's Czech winger Karel Poborsky twice to equalise in the first half.
But Simeone and Inzaghi's goals in effect handed the crown to Juve.
Away from the top AC Milan beat Lecce 3-0 to snatch fourth place and the last Champions League spot while Verona were defeated 3-0 by Piacenza and join Venezia, Fiorentina and Lecce in Serie B next season while Brescia saved themselves with a 3-0 win at home to Bologna.
Rome's Olympic Stadium was a scene of desolation as Inter coach Hector Cuper once again lived up to his tag as an eternal choker, after losing two Champions League finals with Spain's Valencia.
News had already arrived at the Olympic Stadium of two early goals for Juve at Udine when Inter took the lead.
Vieri was the scorer, bagging his 22nd of the season but it all came after a rash rush from his goalline by goalkeeper Angelo Peruzzi who has played previously both for Juve and Inter.
That goal was greeted with delight not only by the 40,000 Inter fans but also the Lazio supporters who were making it clear to their players that they would rather see their team lose than win and hand the title either to hated rivals AS Roma or Juventus.
But just as the cynics who predicted that Lazio were going to lie down were beginning to say 'I told you so' Lazio equalised.
Their Czech winger Poborsky was the scorer, playing a one-two with Stefano Fiore before beating Peruzzi.
Just four minutes later, however, Inter found the net again with Italian international Luigi di Biagio heading the ball past Peruzzi.
But in first-half injury-time Inter faltered again. Their Slovak defender Vratislav Gresko misplaced a backpass and Poborsky nipped in to make the score
Ten minutes into the second period the unthinkable happened when Argentinian Simeone headed the ball past Inter goalkeeper Francesco Toldo and then Inzaghi killed the match.
In Milan the AC Milan faithful celebrated Inter's collapse with a 3-0 win over Lecce that ensures they finish fourth and fill the last place in the preliminary round of the Champions League.
Goals from Kakha Kaladze, Italian international midfielder Massimo Ambrosini and Ukraine international Andriy Shevchenko proved sufficient.
In the relegation battle at Piacenza it was the home side who struck first when Sergio Volpi's freekick found the Verona net.
Two second-half goals from Piacenza's Dario Hubner ensured a 3-0 win as he joined Trezeguet as the division's top scorer with 24 goals.
Brescia midfielder Jonathan Bachini struck early in the second half for his club in their home match with Bologna and then talismanic Roberto Baggio made it 2-0 with a penalty rebound after visiting goalkeeper Gianluca Pagliuca had saved his spot kick, ensuring safety at Verona's expense. Luca Toni added a late third.
Surprise packages Chievo's magical season ending on a winning note with a 2-1 win over Atalanta. Atalanta's Fausto Rossini gave the visitors from Bergamo the lead but goals from Bernardo Corradi and Federico Cossato earned Chievo a spot in the UEFA Cup, a remarkable achievement.
Goals from Fabio Bazzani and Brazilian Ze Maria gave Perugia a 2-0 win over Fiorentina who had Andrea Tarozzi sent off.
At Parma, bottom club Venezia gave the hosts a fright when Filippo Maniero bagged the 18th goal of what has been a successful season personally if a disastrous one for his club.
But Parma's Marco Di Vaio equalised from the penalty spot for his 20th goal of the season although he missed another after the break. But Frenchman Johan Micoud earned a 2-1 win for Parma.
 

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Juventus snatch dramatic title


Juventus are Italian champions again

Photo Gallery: See this story in pictures

Juventus emerged from a three-horse race to steal Serie A's Scudetto on a dramatic final day of action in the Italian league.

A 2-0 win at Udinese saw Juve overhaul Inter, who began the day in the driving seat.

But a 4-2 defeat by Lazio in Rome's Olympic Stadium saw Inter slip down to third as Roma nipped in for second place with a 1-0 win at Torino.

The club known as the Grand Old Lady of Italian football clinched a 26th championship and like Arsenal in England and Holland's Ajax, have their sights on a domestic league and cup double.



Serie A top three
1 Juventus P34 71Pts
2 Roma P34 70 Pts
3 Inter Milan P34 69 Pts

Juve now face Parma in the Coppa d'Italia final, while Inter have to enter the Champions League at the qualifying stage.

The Zebras got off to a flying start at Udinese where French striker David Trezeguet headed home his 24th goal of the season from Antonio Conte's cross after just two minutes.

Alessandro del Piero doubled Juve's lead on nine minutes, his cool finish rounding off a swift counter-attack.

Inter responded in Rome, where Christian Vieri took advantage as Lazio's veteran keeper Angelo Peruzzi dropped a corner at his feet, to put his side ahead on 12 minutes.

Lazio drew level on 20 minutes through Karel Poborsky, but the Nerazzuri were in front and back on top of the table four minutes later when Luigi di Biagio headed home Alvaro Recoba's corner.


Christian Vieri shows his anguish as Inter Milan miss out


Inter contributed to their own downfall, though, when a defensive error from Vratislav Gresko gifted Poborsky a second on the stroke of half-time.

Argentine international and former Inter midfielder Diego Simeone headed Lazio in front ten minutes into the second-half.

As Inter's title hopes slipped away, Simone Inzaghi exposed their weakness in the air at the back by heading Lazio's fourth.

While Inter's second-half misery was unfolding in Rome, in Friuli Juventus were holding on comfortably to their first-half lead to stroll to the title.

To complete Inter's misery, Roma stole the second Champions League, first round phase spot with a 1-0 win over Torino in the Stadio dell'Alpi, thanks to Antonio Cassano's 68th minute goal.

Contrasting fortunes

Inter seemed certain to win their first Scudetto since 1989 as they held a six-point lead only a few weeks ago, but a series of stumbles let Juve in to steal the title.

Cross-town rivals AC Milan will also enter the Champions League at the qualifying stage next season after a 3-0 win at already-relegated Lecce.

The city of Verona enjoyed contrasting fortunes as upstarts Chievo clinched European football in their first season in Serie A.

While the little club known as the Flying Donkeys were joining Lazio and Parma in next season's Uefa Cup, Verona's 3-0 defeat at Piacenza saw them relegated as Brescia scored a shock 3-0 win over Uefa Cup hopefuls Bologna to leap to safety.
 
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