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Vincenzo Montella (front) of AS Roma heads for the ball with Iranian Rahman Rezaei (No24) of Perugia during their Italian Serie A soccer match at Rome' s Olympic Stadium, Saturday 23 February 2002. Montella scored his first goal of the season as champions AS Roma defeated Perugia 1-0 AS Roma returned to the top of Serie A but they were made to work hard for their 1-0 victory against a resolute Perugia side.

Mid-table Perugia look as though they are going to stay in Serie A for another season at least and they showed all their character in the first half in which the defence continually frustrated the Roma attack.

Roma are unbeaten at home this season while their visitors have only won two away games but the champions' strikeforce of Italian internationals Marco Delvecchio and Vincenzo Montella were denied by the Perugia's Colombian international keeper Oscar Cordoba.

The vital breakthrough came in the 58th minute when Montella finally beat Cordoba. It was the 27-year-old's first goal of the season in his ninth game.

It was a crucial goal for the former Empoli, Genoa and Sampdoria striker who had scored an impressive 32 goals in his first two seasons with the club, including 14 in last season's title-winning campaign.

Just 12 minutes after grabbing the all-important goal Montella was substituted by Gabriel Batistuta but he had done his job as Roma extended their remarkable run to just one defeat in 24 Serie A games this season.

Roma drew 0-0 at Perugia earlier in the campaign but this win moves them two points clear of Juventus and three ahead of third-placed Inter Milan.

Perugia stay tenth, but they remain six points clear of the relegation zone.

Roma: Antonioli 6.5, Zebina 6, Samuel 7, Panucci 6.5,
 Cafu 6, Tommasi 6, Emerson 6.5, Candela 6, Totti 5.5,
 Montella 6.5 (70'Batistuta -), Delvecchio 6 (70'Lima -).
 (Pelizzoli, Aldair, Siviglia, Guigou, Cassano).
 CT: Capello.

 Perugia: Cordoba 6.5, Sogliano 6 (80'Berrettoni -), Di Loreto 6.5,
 Rezaei 6, Ze Maria 6, Tedesco 6, Blasi 6, Baiocco 6.5 (83'Fusani -),
 Grosso 6.5, Ahn 5.5 (65'O'Neill 6), Bazzani 6.
 (Tardioli, Milanese, Gatti, Samereh).
 CT: Cosmi.

 Referee: Bolognino.


 Corners: 9-6 Perugia.

 Booked: Panucci(R), Blasi(P), Zebina(R).

 Attendance: 55000.


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