Lazio extend Serie A lead with hard-fought victory over Palermo

• Andre Dias goal gives Lazio fourth successive away win
• Sampdoria beat Cesena in Antonio Cassano's absence

Lazio moved four points clear at the top of Serie A after a hard-earned 1-0 win at Palermo today, their fourth away victory in a row. Their defender Andre Dias scored against the run of play with a superb volley from a free-kick after 27 minutes and the visitors were on the back foot for most of the match.

Sampdoria dropped Antonio Cassano after he swore at the club's president last week and his team-mates laboured at Cesena but secured a last-gasp 1-0 victory in his absence thanks to a goal from Giampaolo Pazzini.

Milan's 2-1 defeat by Juventus yesterday meant Lazio, relegation candidates last term, would stay top whatever the result in Sicily, and they faced relentless pressure from Palermo. The highly rated Argentinian playmaker Javier Pastore had missed a good early chance for the hosts and almost scored when Lazio's goalkeeper, Fernando Muslera, struck a clearance against him.

Palermo continued to dominate in the second half after Lazio's Giuseppe Biava was dismissed for a second yellow card after 77 minutes but Muslera and his defence held out to leave Lazio on 22 points from nine games.

Second-placed Internazionale, who face Tottenham at White Hart Lane on Tuesday, warmed up with a 1-0 win at Genoa on Friday.

Next weekend Lazio face their city rivals Roma, who will be without their captain Francesco Totti after he was sent off in Roma's 2-0 win over Lecce on Saturday.

While Lazio hope to sustain an unlikely title challenge with a modest squad, Sampdoria are poised to play without their banished talisman Cassano for the foreseeable future. They missed his creative ideas in victory at Cesena, where Pazzini grabbed the winner in injury time.

Cassano, who had appeared to have outgrown his bad-boy image, was dropped and disciplinary proceedings were brought against him after he swore at the club's president, Riccardo Garrone.

The Italy forward, whose Azzurri future is also unclear if he does not play, has apologised but whether he will be sold in January or brought back into the fold remains unclear.

The Argentinian striker Ezequiel Lavezzi scored a second-half goal to give Napoli a 1-0 win at Brescia in heavy rain to lift the visitors to fifth in the table.

In other games Udinese continued their rise up the table with a 2-0 win at the bottom side Bari. Their fellow strugglers Bologna lost 2-0 at Cagliari and Parma drew 0-0 with Chievo.

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