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The Archive

March 2002

Inzaghi double increase his chances to play in Japan/Korea
31.3 || scharatz

After beating Parma 3-1, AC Milan captain Paolo Maldini commented on the match on club's official website: "We suffered Di Vaio's quickness, but in the end we managed to impose ourselves. Pippo (Inzaghi) was great, but our most valuable player today, is Andrea Pirlo: he showed very nice stuff. Now we have a very important week: on Thursday we'll be in Dortmund and then, in the league, we will have to face Chievo".

Andrea Pirlo, who replaced Serginho at halftime and scored a goal on 78 minute, said, "We did very well as a whole. I got in at the right moment. We absolutely wanted to win, and know the 4th spot in the standings is really at hand. We are all friends, and they knew how much I was longing to score. Now we have to think about Borussia and, although Ancelotti cannot grant a place to anyone, I'll try to convince him to field me."

In the previous three matches, Filippo Inzaghi only helped his colleagues to score. But in the match against Parma at San Siro, Pippo scored twice himself.

"It's been wonderful, for me, today, but I scored also because Jose Mari and Pirlo had given me two great passes. Anyway, although I prefer to score, I also like when I manage to be useful to my team-mates. The last matches confirmed that when the kids are in full force, they can be very competitive, and Pippo knows it well. 'If we hadn't had so many injured, we could fight for the Scudetto. We've got to repeat ourselves next Thursday in Dortmund," he said.
Inzaghi's goals will surely impress Italian national team coach Giovanni Trapattoni who will probably take Inzaghi to final games of WC-2002.

Milan defender Kakha Kaladze also shared his opinions on yesterday's win, "It was an interesting match. Milan came closer to the fourth place losing to Bologna only one point. We had the greatest ever desire and passion to win. Now we have no right to lose, as it is not much time left to the end of the season. Pirlo came in successfully and together with Inzaghi they were the best in the game. Having recuperated recently from an injury, Inzaghi proved he plays an important role in club's success," said Kaladze.

Pirlo demands spotlight
31.3 || scharatz

Andrea Pirlo turned the game around as a second half substitute for Milan’s 3-1 win over Parma. Now the Under-21 international has become the subject of a public row between Coach and club.

Vice-President Adriano Galliani made his feelings on the issue clear. “This was a great result with a wonderful Paolo Maldini, Filippo Inzaghi and Pirlo. Speaking of Pirlo, it would be a dream come true to see him play alongside Manuel Rui Costa.”

“However,” he admitted, “Carlo Ancelotti makes the decisions and I repeat he will be our Coach next season as well.”

Ancelotti was also adamant that he would not change his mind on this tricky issue.

"When the rules change and we can field 12 players at a time, then Pirlo can play with Rui Costa,” was the former Juve man’s sarcastic retort.

This is hardly new territory for Pirlo. An Under-21 international once thought to be the heir to Roberto Baggio, he left Inter last season due to the lack of space he was given at the club.

However, after his £15m summer move the former Reggina star has fallen straight back into this familiar pattern.

This week he had counted on a greater chance of starting due to the injury that has befallen Rui Costa.

“I had hoped to play from the start,” he confessed, “but that is not how it went. I made sure I was ready when I got the call, but it is difficult to make the difference when you don’t play very much.”

Pirlo then showed further disagreement with the Coach when it came to his stunning goal. “Ancelotti had told me to cross it into the box, but I already had it in my mind to aim the free kick towards the goal. And I scored.”

Filippo Inzaghi has reassured fans that he has not suffered another knee injury as fans saw him lie on the sidelines in evident pain following his last-minute strike.

“It was just a very long, very painful cramp,” explained the hitman who has just returned from a three-month lay-off. “But now it has passed and I can feel nothing but the joy of this win and my goals.”

Inzaghi also sided with his teammate over the contentious issue. “I must thank Pirlo for his assist in that last goal. He really is one of the best in the world in his position.”

Milan vs. Parma - Ancelotti's post match comment
30.3 || scharatz

AC Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti was very satisfied with his team after the extremely important 3-1 victory over Parma, that allowed the Serie A giants to move just one point behind 4th placed Bologna.

"I saw a great Milan throughout the second half, maybe the best Milan of this season," said Ancelotti.

"Compared to the first half we had a better attitude, will, and especially a better display of football," added the Rossonero boss.

Key to the match's outcome was the entrance of Andrea Pirlo, who netted Milan's go ahead goal and then assisted Inzaghi for the game-clincher.

"Pirlo guaranteed us more fantasy in the middle, and all three goals were born out of his feet," said Ancelotti.

Milan 3-1 Parma - match report
30.3 || scharatz

Filippo Inzaghi proved decisive in regenerating Milan's Champions' League hopes, but a star was born in the Parma goal.
Milan have traditionally had problems against Parma at the San Siro and it was the Gialloblu who proved dangerous from the very start.

Marco Di Vaio burst through the defence and only a splendid Christian Abbiati reaction save prevented the striker from breaking the deadlock.

The Rossoneri welcomed Paolo Maldini back to the starting line-up three months after he damaged knee ligaments. The veteran immediately proved crucial with a desperate challenge on Hidetoshi Nakata.

Parma were already without Sebastien Frey when Claudio Taffarel appeared to pull a thigh muscle within the first 15 minutes. The Brazilian limped off soon after in favour of 18-year-old 'keeper De Lucia.

Di Vaio eventually broke through when he out-paced Jose Chamot on the counter-attack and slid a low drive past the helpless Abbiati.

Young shot-stopper De Lucia proved immediately decisive on coming out to block a perilous Serginho cross.

Milan came out fighting for the second half with substitute Andrea Pirlo and within the first minute Antonio Benarrivo's goalline clearance prevented Gennaro Gattuso from drawing level.

The equaliser finally came when Jose Mari's cross-cum-shot was met by Filippo Inzaghi by the near post. The former Juve man had already scored the winner in Milan's 1-0 win at the Stadio Tardini earlier this season.

De Lucia showed extraordinary bravery to make a double save on a Cosmin Contra rocket, Inzaghi's header and Martin Laursen's close-range follow-up. The teenager could do nothing on Massimo Ambrosini's header which shaved the crossbar. Abbiati also proved decisive on Di Vaio's free kick as the game remained wide open.

It took a truly magnificent strike to get past debutante De Lucia and Pirlo provided just that. The Under-21 international curled a free kick in by the near post, leaving the 'keeper without a chance.

Pirlo was again involved in the third and final goal. The creative midfielder's long ball into the box was controlled and volleyed in by Superpippo Inzaghi.

Milan: Abbiati; Contra, Chamot (Laursen 63), Maldini, Kaladze; Gattuso, Albertini, Ambrosini, Serginho (Pirlo 46); Josè Mari (Donati 80), Inzaghi

Parma: Taffarel (De Lucia 15); Djetou, Ferrari, Cannavaro; Diana, Appiah, Boghossian (Sensini 66), Nakata, Benarrivo; Di Vaio, Sukur (Micoud 71)

Ref: Farina

Milan eye new midfielders
30.3 || scharatz

Milan are on the lookout for midfielders to reinforce the squad over the summer.

The top name on the list is Chelsea’s Samuele Dalla Bona. The club has been linked to the Italian youngster for many months and although some claim a deal has already been done, the Stamford Bridge outfit are putting obstacles in their path.

The alternatives can already be found within Serie A. Parma’s Frenchman Sabri Lamouchi (pictured) has been instrumental in their escape from the relegation zone and his goal sealed last week’s 1-0 win over title-chasing Juventus.

The other possible new arrival is Francelino Matuzalem. The 21-year-old Brazilian would give extra creativity to the Milan midfield, but his future again depends on Parma.

The former Napoli man is currently co-owned by Piacenza and the Gialloblu. If, as expected, Parma do not take up their option then the Biancorossi could sell Matuzalem on for around £5m.

The Rossoneri are also chasing French defender Sylvain Armand. The 21-year-old has impressed during Nantes’ Champions’ League campaign and is also tracked by Juventus and Lazio.

However, Milan have already made first contact with the club to beat off competition from Barcelona.

Nonetheless, the youngster is adamant that he is not ready for a Serie A move yet. “I am honoured by all this interest in me, but I’d like to stay at Nantes for one more year.”

Maldini boost for Milan
30.3 || scharatz

100 days after suffering a serious knee injury, Paolo Maldini has returned to the Milan team for today’s clash with Parma.

The defender sprained his left knee and damaged ligaments during the Dec 19 match against Atalanta.

"Paolo is a reference point for the team due to his experience and charisma,” explained his former teammate and now Coach Carlo Ancelotti. “His absence was the most damaging for the squad this season.”

The Rossoneri have been hit by a spate of injuries and the latest saw Alessandro Costacurta ruled out for three to four months after rupturing knee ligaments.

“Maldini is back just in time to help me,” admitted Ancelotti. “He can replace Costacurta in central defence, which will also aid his recovery as it involves far less running and physical effort than his habitual left-back role.”

Originally the legendary defender had been told his injury would keep him on the sidelines for only two months, but complications and his desire not to undergo surgery had made him fear for his spot in the 2002 World Cup.

Now Milan and Italy boss Giovanni Trapattoni can watch Maldini regain match fitness during the remaining six games of the season.

Milan clubs chase Mendieta
29.3 || webmaster

Gaizka Mendieta has become a summer target for both Milan and Inter. The Lazio midfielder was expected to return to Spain but the San Siro giants are set to table bids.

The former Valencia man arrived at the Olimpico last summer in a £29m deal. But the international has failed to settle and has been a shadow of the player that led Valencia to two consecutive Champions’ League Finals.

And with Lazio already lining up Leeds star Olivier Dacourt and Mark Van Bommel of PSV Eindhoven, Mendieta will be cashed in on.

Inter boss Hector Cuper is well aware of Mendieta’s ability after they were together at Valencia, while Milan have already tried to sign the talented player in the past.

The 28-year-old is expected to fetch somewhere in the region of £20m after sitting most of this campaign on the bench. But an auction could develop which would see his price increase.

Meanwhile, UEFA have announced that Francesco Toldo and Francisco Farinos will miss the first leg of the UEFA Cup semi-final against Feyenoord on Thursday through suspension.

While midfielder Gigi Di Biagio and Ivan Cordoba have been warned that another yellow card will see them pick up a one-match ban.

Ancelotti wants more of the same
29.3 || webmaster

Carlo Ancelotti is hoping to extend Milan's three-match winning streak started against Torino two weeks ago, when they play Parma tomorrow.

Ancelotti, however, believes that in order to defeat the Gialloblu, who themselves are fighting to avoid relegation, his club will have to hit the same heights as they have in recent matches.

"It's going to be a peculiar game and what truly matters is that AC Milan must play like they did in the last few games if they want to win it," he explained.

"We will need character and determination. The team has to stay focused for the entire length of the game.

"Most of all we need to be very aggressive in the midfield. That's why I am yet to choose between Serginho, who's a very fast player, and Andrea Pirlo, who's a great anchor."

On-loan Bierhoff set for Monaco exit
29.3 || webmaster

Germany international Oliver Bierhoff looks set to leave Monaco, where he has been on loan from Milan, after a fall-out with Didier Deschamps.

French World Cup winner Deschamps, who is now in charge of the Le Championnat outfit, has had a string of run-ins in the past with some of his more senior players, and, after a fall-out with Bierhoff, the German is set to call time on his stay in the Principality.

The striker claims he can no longer trust Deschamps after the boss played him carrying an injury to cater for fellow Monaco frontman Shabani Nonda recently being away in Mali for the African Nations Cup.

Bierhoff said: "I cannot stay here and am impatient for the season to end so I can leave.

"I have sweated blood for Deschamps, particularly when I played in the first team even though I was injured, but Deschamps pleaded with me to play through the pain barrier because Shabani Nonda was in Mali."

"However, I have received no gratitude for that. When someone tells you something to your face and then says something else behind your back then all trust is lost and that is the case between myself and Deschamps," Bierhoff told L'Equipe.

Kaladze talks about his kidnapped brother
29.3 || webmaster

After AC Milan last training session in Rossoneri's headquarter Milanello, Georgian player Kakha Kaladze started to talk about his brother Levan that was kidnapped ten months ago in Georgia. "I kept silent, - the defender told Milan's official site, - for 10 months but now I want to talk. I won't play in Georgia national side until someone can tell me what is going on with my brother. I feel something is changing and I'm sure my brother is still alive. The kidnapping wasn't made to get money".

Milan warn rivals off star duo
28.3 || scharatz

AC Milan have issued a hands-off message to clubs interested in signing striker Andriy Shevchenko and midfielder Gennaro Gattuso.

A club statement said the pair were "not for sale, in spite of rumours about their future".

Real Madrid have expressed a desire to sign Ukraine international forward Shevchenko, while a possible swap deal involving Gattuso and Alessio Tacchinardi of Juventus has been mooted.

Shevchenko has been out of action for three weeks following a tackle with team-mate Martin Laursen during a training match.

The striker was in Antwerp on Wednesday to visit Doctor Marc Martens to assess the cause of the muscular problem that is keeping him on the sidelines. The 25-year-old will return to Belgium in a week's time to hopefully learn how long it will be before he can return to action.

Shevchenko will not be the only Milan player to meet Doctor Martens this week. Martens will operate on Alessandro Costacurta on Thursday after the experienced defender picked up a ligament injury in the weekend match with Piacenza.

The former Italy international could be available in July but he will have to decide if he wants to try to play for another season or to start a career with Milan's backroom staff.

"At the moment I can't decide anything about my future," Costacurta admitted.

Galliani set for Milan Presidency
28.3 || scharatz

Adriano Galliani is expected to become the new President of Milan once legislation is introduced which will force Silvio Berlusconi to step down.

The Italian Prime Minister will no longer be allowed to hold a position at the club he made great due to a conflict of interest law.

And although speculation has suggested that Galliani would face competition from Franco Baresi and Piersilvio Bersluconi – son of Silvio – the latter claims that the now Vice-President will get the reigns.

"I believe that the idea is to continue with familiarity so therefore Adriano Galliani will probably be President," revealed Piersilvio.

"He is the one person that in recent seasons has been 100 per cent focused on the running and future of the club, with his heart and all his energy."

Galliani praises returning duo
27.3 || scharatz

Milan vice president Adriano Galliani says that the return of Manuel Rui Costa and Filippo Inzaghi has kick-started his team's season.
A couple of months ago, Galliani had said that with all of the first-choice players available, Milan would be a strong team again.

During the recent run in the last six games, the team's standing in the table may not be enough to prove him right but Galliani remarks the fact that in these last three weeks, when crucial players like Inzaghi and Rui Costa were once again available, the team collected three victories in a row, quite a record for a club that took almost ten games to win a single match in the second half of the season.

He said: "The recent results are the proof that without injured players this team can compete for the top spots.

"Now we want to do well in the UEFA Cup and we're awaiting the match against Borussia Dortmund.

"They are a very good team but I'm convinced that we can beat them."

Galliani has also expressed his hope that Inter will succeed in winning their semi-final against Feyenoord, so that the final will be an All-Milano affair.

He adds: "We've won a derby each in the Campionato this season. A UEFA Cup final against Inter Milan would be a magnificent occasion to play the deciding game."

Redondo may return next season, Galliani hopes
27.3 || scharatz

AC Milan deputy chairman Adriano Galliani has expressed a hope that Argentinean midfielder Fernando Redondo, who hasn't played in an official match for his side up to now due to an injury, can play again, the newspaper Marca stated.
"I haven't lost my hope and think that Redondo can return to the field next season. But I don't want us to seduce ourselves with hopes after all these events occurred."
Galliani says that the UEFA Cup final match between Milan and Inter FC would be good completion of the season for both clubs.
"UEFA Cup final against Inter? The season couldn't end more nicely. But before that we must win over Borussia Dortmund who are strong rivals. However, I think we will manage to win over them," Milan chairman concluded.

Maldini on the mend
27.3 || scharatz

Paolo Maldini has admitted that he is close to returning to first team action after injury.

The Milan star has been out of action since December but he maintains he will be back in the next few weeks.

"I’ve been looking to stay as close as possible to the side," Maldini stated. "I really want to get back into action as soon as possible.

"Hopefully by the end of this week I will be back in training with the first team squad. All I’m waiting for now is for the pain to decrease and I’ll be ready for selection."

The Italian captain had been expected to return to action by now after picking up a knee injury at Atalanta. But he’s still looking forward rather than to the past.

"In the last two years a lot has happened around Milan. But we as a club are certainly not going to give up this term. We can win the UEFA Cup and still get fourth place in Serie A and Champions’ League qualification."

Maldini also had words of encouragement for teammate Alessandro Costacurta who has been ruled out for the next four months with knee ligament damage.

"I’ve spoken to Billy and I’m sad for him and the side. Because at this point of the season the club needs his experience."

Maldini, Italy’s most capped player, is also looking to re-find his form with the World Cup Finals just around the corner.

AC Milan vs. Parma - match preview
27.3 || scharatz

The Rossoneri have notched up two consecutive wins, but their bid for the fourth and final Champions’ League spot could hit a snag against Parma.

Pietro Carmignani’s men sealed a crucial 1-0 win against Juventus last week and have proved a very difficult opponent for the big clubs this season. Their interest could again peak with a trip to the San Siro.

Milan will be desperate for points here as with Chievo and Bologna facing tough trips to Perugia and Roma respectively, this is their chance to cut the gap ahead of the Easter break.

However, the injury crisis continues as the season is over for Alessandro Costacurta. The defender ruptured right knee ligaments during last week’s match, while Manuel Rui Costa also limped off with a thigh strain. Andriy Shevchenko remains in doubt with a bruised thigh, so veteran Marco Simone continues to partner Filippo Inzaghi.

Parma may have boosted their campaign with the victory against Juventus, but bookings in that game have left them without Mathias Almeyda, Sabri Lamouchi and Luigi Sartor for this encounter. Sebastien Frey and Nestor Sensini remain on the injury list.

Milan: Abbiati; Contra, Roque Junior, Chamot, Kaladze; Gattuso, Albertini, Ambrosini, Serginho; Inzaghi, Simone

Parma: Taffarel; Djetou, Ferrari, Cannavaro; Benarrivo, Appiah, Boghossian, Nakata, Junior; Di Vaio, Bonazzoli

AC look for PC help
27.3 || scharatz

AC Milan and a computer firm are working on a revolutionary project that will allow them to prevent several injuries of their players.
This new project named PAS, will enable the team's medical staff to predict how long it will take for a player to get in shape and how well he will perform.

Most importantly PAS will also tell what kind of injuries a player is most likely to suffer.

Apart from traumatic injuries such as bone fractures, which are of course impossible to predict, AC Milan's staff will soon be able to tell if a player may be about to suffer from a muscular and articular injury.

The PAS system will be in use from this summer's training camp and should be able to give the team a complete profile on each player at the end of the 2002-2003 season.

Costacurta faces surgery on wounded knee
26.3 || scharatz

AC Milan's veteran defender Alessandro Costacurta faces surgery on his injured knee, the Italian first division outfit announced Tuesday.
Costacurta will travel to Antwerp in Belgium on Wednesday to meet specialist Marc Maertens who will decide whether surgery or another treatment is the best way forward.
"The examinations to which Alessandro Costacurta has been submitted have confirmed an injury to the collateral medial ligament of the right knee," said the Milan statement.
That more or less rules out Costacurta for the season after the injury sustained during Sunday's 1-0 victory at Piacenza.
Former Italian international Costacurta, 35, is one of the few Milan players who have been at the club during the entire reign of club president Silvio Berlusconi who took control of the outfit in 1986.

Milan set season objectives
25.3 || scharatz

Milan have continued their Serie A charge for Champions’ League qualification but have admitted that winning the UEFA Cup is just as important.

The Rossoneri won at Piacenza on Sunday to keep the pressure on fourth place challengers Bologna and Chievo.

But both Coach Carlo Ancelotti and Vice-president Adriano Galliani have warned that the UEFA Cup semi-finalists will not under value winning in Europe.

"We are looking to win the UEFA Cup and get that fourth place finish. But if I really had to choose then I would take the Cup because it is an ambitious trophy," Ancelotti said.

While Galliani argued: "Qualifying for the Champions’ League does have economical advantages but the UEFA Cup is a competition that we still haven’t collected."

The San Siro outfit won their third straight game yesterday even if fortune was on their side in a match where Piacenza deserved at least a point.

"Our last three results have all been positive and they have allowed us to work in calmer waters. We’re improving and we are demonstrating that fact in every game that we play," Ancelotti added.

But there was more bad news for the side as Manuel Rui Costa and Billy Costacurta both picked up injuries. The latter is now expected to be out for the rest of the season.

The former Juventus boss concluded: "We really didn’t need them to get injured. It has come at a bad time because it was just when we had started to get most of the squad fully fit.

"We’ve certainly been unlucky with injuries but we have a big enough group of players to cope."

Serginho boosts Champions League hopes
25.3 || Tom

24 March 2002 (Teamtalk) -- A Serginho penalty gave Milan a priceless victory at Piacenza and strengthened their hopes to finish fourth and win a Champions League spot.
Milan started well and in the second minute a header from Filippo Inzaghi went just wide before, minutes later, Marco Simone fired over.

Carmine Gautieri had a great chance for the home side on 12 minutes but his shot was cleared off the line.

Then the goal came in the 20th minute when Inzaghi was adjudged to have been brought down inside the box by Alessandro Lucarelli.

The penalty kick awarded to the rossoneri gave Serginho the chance to put his team ahead, which he did.

But Milan suffered a blow at the end of the half when they lost Manuel Rui Costa to injury; last week's goal hero, Massimilano Ambrosini, replaced the Portugese midfielder.

Piacenza hit back and Dario Hubner swerved past Alessandro Costacurta and fired in a shot that AC's defence was miraculously able to clear.

Just after the restart, Christian Abbiati made a great save from Hubner and in the 58th minute, Nicola Caccia missed a gilt-edged chance.

Milan's injury problems worsened on the hour when Costacurta sprained his knee, and he made way for Roque Junior.

Soon after, the rossoneri spurned a great opportunity to double their lead when Martin Laursen's header shaved the bar while a minute later, Abbiati was quicker to the ball than Caccia after a huge goal-mouth melee.

Then in the 75th minute Vittorio Tosto passed up another opportunity for Piacenza as his header went wide and three minutes later Abbiati denied Sergio Volpi.

Costacurta career under threat
25.3 || Tom

Sunday 24th March 2002

AC Milan veteran Alessandro Costacurta, who has been at the club for 15 years, may have made his last appearance for the Rossoneri after sustaining ligament damage in a clash with Piacenza's Dario Hubner.

Costacurta's contract is due to expire in June, and Milan will be unlikely to renew it if 'Billy' is not fully fit.

The 35-year old sprained his left knee early in the second-half, leaving a lesion on his ligaments, the same injury that sidelined team-mate Paolo Maldini.

Costacurta, a firm fans favourite, will undergo further tests on Monday, and may even be forced to undergo surgery.

'Billy' came through the youth team set-up at Milan and, apart from a brief spell on loan at Monza, has only ever worn the red and black shirt.

He burst onto the scene in 1987, and has had a glittering career for both club and country, earning sixty caps for Italy.

Adriano Galliani has assured Costacurta throughout the season that he has a future at the San Siro, despite a high profile fall-out with former boss Fatih Terim and rumours of a move to the Major Soccer League in the United States.

Costacurta had been hoping for a one-year extension to his contract, but his future at the club may now be confined to the backroom staff, following in the footsteps of former team-mates Franco Baresi (Youth team coach) and Mauro Tassotti (Primavera coach).

Milan may have won the game 1-0, but it was a bleak day for the Rossoneri as play-maker Rui Costa also suffered a serious injury.

The Portuguese international could be out for up to three weeks after damaging a muscle in his right thigh in the first-half.

Season over for Costacurta
24.3 || webmaster

Milan’s injury crisis continues as Alessandro Costacurta will be out for the rest of the season.

The defender, and temporary captain in the absence of Paolo Maldini, sprained his right knee during today’s 1-0 win at Piacenza.

More tests are needed to discover if the knee ligaments have also been damaged.

The injury was suffered during a fortuitous clash with Dario Hubner. The striker fell onto Costacurta’s leg, visibly twisting it forwards.

The Rossoneri are also looking into an injury sustained by Manuel Rui Costa during the same match.

The Portuguese international appears to have suffered a mild thigh strain and could be out for between two weeks and a month.

Piancenza - AC Milan - post-match comments
24.3 || webmaster

Walter Novellino: We must keep going despite the fact this result is very unfair considering the performance. If a team had to win in then it should have been Piacenza. In any case, we must look to the future and if we continue to play like this then we’ll avoid the drop for sure. It’s a shame as we have been playing well for the last three months but do not reap the rewards.

Carlo Ancelotti: We really needed to notch up a string of results that would allow us to work in a more relaxed manner. The team is growing and it shows. It was a careful performance and we dropped off a bit after the goal. We really could have done without the new injuries. Just as we get some important players back, others are ruled out. Nonetheless, I am optimistic.

Piacenza 0 - 1 AC Milan - match report
24.3 || webmaster

Scorer: Serginho 21 (pen.)

Milan have notched up their second consecutive win in a very tense encounter at the Garilli Stadium.

Filippo Inzaghi had his first start since rupturing knee ligaments in November and the Piacenza native has had quite an impact on Milan's season.

The striker was brought down by Alessandro Lucarelli for a penalty, but it was Serginho who stepped up and converted to give the visitors a precious lead.

Piacenza were very angry at the decision and began to pour forward in search of an equaliser. Stefano Sacchetti, Dario Hubner, Vincenzo Sommese and Carmine Gautieri went close before Christian Abbiati's reaction save on a Hubner header.

Milan's injury problems continue as Manuel Rui Costa limped off towards the end of the first half with a suspected thigh strain, while Alessandro Costacurta followed with a sprained right knee.

The Rossoneri 'keeper again proved decisive with a spectacular save on Hubner's lob as they held on for the points. Inzaghi caused further controversy in the final minutes as he was blocked for a very dubious offside ruling.

Piacenza: Orlandoni; Sacchetti, Cardone, Lucarelli, Mora (Tosto 65); Gautieri, Volpi, Matuzalem, Di Francesco (Patrascu 85); Sommese (Caccia 54), Hubner

Milan: Abbiati; Contra, Chamot, Costacurta (Roque Junior 59), Kaladze (Laursen 46); Gattuso, Albertini, Serginho; Rui Costa (Ambrosini 40); Simone, Inzaghi

Ref: Trentalange

Rui Costa "is reborn"
23.3 || scharatz

Manuel Rui Costa is at last back to his old self and ready to inspire Milan towards a spot in the Champions’ League.

“It was a difficult time for me,” he admits, “but the worst part of it was having to defend myself from false accusations.”

“Some people said that I did not work hard and give 100%. That simply is not true. Just as it isn’t true that Milan are dependent on me. It is too good a team to rely on any single player.”

The former Fiorentina captain has struggled to settle since his summer move and was sidelined with a series of injuries, including a sprained right ankle, damaged metacarpus, twisted elbow and fractured right hand.

“If the team had not suffered from so many injuries the season could have been very different,” continued Rui Costa. “This is a squad that can compete with anyone.”

“As for myself, perhaps I should have taken my time to return without rushing the fitness preparation. I played many games with a swollen ankle.”

Now that some of the long-term casualties, such as Filippo Inzaghi and Massimo Ambrosini, have returned to the fray the Rossoneri can look towards the rest of the campaign with optimism.

“I am pleased with my performance against Hapoel Tel Aviv,” he said of the 2-0 UEFA Cup Quarter-Final win, “but I am not satisfied. I know we all have margin for improvement.”

The Portuguese international also commented on the problems Italian sides have been having in Europe and linked it to his situation at the San Siro.

“We are subjected to trials each and every day. This is not the right way to go about it. It’s no wonder the Serie A clubs are struggling on the continent.”

“Of course everyone is at fault for defeats, from the players to the management. But the entire system in Italy is at fault. Certain criticism does not allow us to work in a relaxed manner.”

“I know that people were disappointed with my performances,” added Rui Costa, “but I couldn’t have suddenly forgotten how to play football. I hope people understand that the job of a fantasista is not easy. And that a player cannot be made to feel guilty for suffering an injury.”

He has finally hit the kind of form that set his £27m price tag and is ready to transfer it to Serie A.

"I am convinced,” he concluded, “that after the UEFA goals I can score in the League. Perhaps I was scared to try certain moves in case they went wrong and I was booed for it. But not anymore. Rui Costa has been reborn.”

Piacenza vs AC Milan - match preview
22.3 || scharatz

"Better late than never" is a saying that makes little sense in the world of calcio since silverware in the game is won by consistently performing at the highest levels, and not by mediocre performances suffixed by a burst of form.

AC Milan have had an extremely poor season to say the least. They were well and truly out of the scudetto race before even the halfway stage was reached and they fell to Juventus in the Italian Cup soon after. However, after struggling with injuries and bad form, the team finally looks to be playing like it is meant to. Continuity, however, will be the key come Sunday night when they face a tricky trip to relegation-threatened Piacenza. Milan are facing the prospect of another season out of Europe's elite club competition and nothing but victory will suffice if they wish to keep in the hunt for that fourth place for the next seven weeks.

Novellino's men are also in desperate need of a win to pull away from the bottom four. Fiorentina and Venezia look like certain candidates for the drop and Lecce are increasingly looking to join them. However, the race to avoid the last relegation berth is heating up and Piacenza could really suffer if they lose to Milan on Sunday. They have a murderous schedule ahead of them with Atalanta, Fiorentina, Bologna, Juventus and Inter waiting in line to play them and will really have to win against at least a few of these to avoid the drop.

Piacenza last 6 (all comps): DWLDWD
A few weeks ago, to Walter Novellino's self-confessed astonishment, Piacenza thrashed bottom club Venezia 5-0. Since then, they have gone on to pick up five more vital points and have played some excellent games versus Parma, Piacenza and Udinese.

AC Milan last 6 (all comps): LLLLWW
After losing four straight games and not scoring a single goal in any of them, Milan have bounced back in style. They beat the granata last Sunday and outplayed Hapoel Tel-Aviv midweek to book their place in the UEFA Cup semifinals. More importantly, the team looks to be recovering their form and that of former Viola star, Manuel Rui Costa.

Former Parma stopper Matteo Guardalben is out injured and so is striker Paolo Poggi. Francesco Statuto got sent off in last week's clash versus Udinese and will be replaced by the Brazilian Matuzalem.

Piacenza (4-5-1): Orlandoni; Sacchetti, Cardone, Lamacchi, Tosto; Gautieri, Sommese, Volpi, Matuzalem, Di Francesco; Hubner
Injured: Guardalben, Poggi
Suspended: Statuto

Ancelotti's injury woes seemed to be getting better of late, only for Shevchenko and Mari to join the long list of absentees. To add to the injury list is the fact that two players who recently returned to the pitch – Inzaghi and Ambrosini – have been overworked in the last two games and will probably not last the entire 90 on Sunday.

AC Milan (4-3-1-2): Abbiati; Contra, Chamot, Costacurta, Kaladze; Gattuso, Ambrosini, Serginho; Rui Costa; Inzaghi, Simone
Injured: Shevchenko, Maldini, Helveg, José Mari, Aliyu & Redondo
Suspended: -

Novellino is expected to play a packed midfield, which has proved to be the most effective strategy to date against this Milan side. Piacenza's in-form wingers Carmine Gautieri and Eusebio Di Francesco, both of who have been getting on the score sheet a little too often recently will be handed the task of supplying the balls to the lone striker. Who will be up front: None other than 2002's prime candidate for the cappocanioneri, Dario "The Bison" Hubner. With 21 goals, the striker has outscored both Shevchenko and Inzaghi put together. Matuzalem will also play a key role and will find himself in hole between midfield and attack trying to make the most of Milan's sole defensive midfielder.

Ancelotti will not want to change a winning combination and will probably stick with the team that did so well against Verona, the only exception being the inclusion of Simone in attack in place of the injured José Mari. However, there are numerous doubts surrounding the participation of three players: Massimo Ambrosini, Filippo Inzaghi & Andriy Shevchenko. While Ambrosini and Inzaghi are suffering from excessive fatigue and may have to start from the bench (in which case Moreno and Albertini will step in), Shevchenko may come on later in the game, subject to a late fitness test. Chamot and Costacurta will continue their defensive partnership and the great Rui Costa, who seems to finally have returned to form, will orchestrate the offensive plays.

Borussia v Milan: German club representatives' comments after draw
22.3 || scharatz

As a result of the draw Borussia Dortmund will play a UEFA Cup semifinal against AC Milan, and the representatives of the Borussia don't hide their desire to reach the final of that Eurocup.
Gerd Niebaum (president): We will play against a high-class team, and this is a good motivation for achieving a good result. The forthcoming game is also a stimulus to our fans to support us for reaching the UEFA semifinal.
Matthias Sammer (head coach): There are no weak teams in the UEFA Cup semifinal. As a result of the draw we must play against a world-class team, so fans will be the eyewitnesses of two interesting matches. My guys do their best to reach the final.
Stefan Reuter (captain): The draw was in favour of us. I have pleasant memories linked to the stadium of Milan. I hope that as a result of two legs we will reach the UEFA Cup final.

Draw keeps Milan sides apart in Uefa Cup semi final
22.3 || scharatz

The Uefa Cup final could be a battle of the two Milanese giants after Internazionale and AC Milan were kept apart in the draw for the semi-finals. The Nerazzurri face Feyenoord while Milan have been drawn against Borussia Dortmund.

If Feyenoord, who beat PSV Eindhoven on penalties on Thursday night, can get by Inter, they will play the final on home ground in De Kuip.

Borussia Dortmund coach Matthias Sammer, meanwhile, could be facing a Uefa Cup final against Inter, the team he represented with such distinction in the 1992-93 season.

Draw in full:
Internazionale v Feyenoord
AC Milan v Borussia Dortmund

Ancelotti relieved as Milan hit form at last
22.3 || scharatz

AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti has admitted to a great sense of relief after his side turned on the style to beat Hapoel Tel Aviv in Thursday's Uefa Cup quarter-final. "At last we managed to play as we wanted to," he said.

Ancelotti has been under intense pressure as Milan have drifted off the pace in the title race and gone out of the Coppa Italia, winning just three of their last 14 games leading up to Thursday's game.

But a 2-0 win at the San Siro, overturning a one-goal first leg deficit has done much to restore confidence.

"The way the team played is as important as reaching a Uefa Cup semi-final," Ancelotti said. "We played very deep with Filippo Inzaghi and Marco Simone, but we had no choice with Serginho and Cosmin Contra both out.

"The team played well and we really did play some good football. The team looked much more confident that in the match against Torino."

And Ancelotti also paid tribute to the fans at the San Siro, who have not been universally supportive in recent weeks. "We are happy because the crowds encouraged and supported us as they did a few months ago.

"Winning back their love was a great satisfaction for everybody. You know that we have not had this support in the last few months."

Chelsea Linked With £13 Million Albertini
21.3 || scharatz

Chelsea have today been linked with a move for AC Milan midfield general Demetrio Albertini.

The Blues will again be looking to strengthen the midfield area this summer, and may have to buy in order to replace Sam Dalla Bona who could be on his way back to Serie A at the end of the season.

Albertini has not had an impressive campaign with the Rossoneri and a change of scenery may now appeal after 14 years at the club.

£13 million, however, would appear excessive for the 30-year-old and Chelsea would surely be looking to negotiate at under the £10-million mark for a player whose best years are generally thought to be behind him.

AC Milan 2-0 Hapoel - match report
21.3 || scharatz

Milan had to overturn the 1-0 first leg defeat suffered on the neutral ground of Cyprus, and it took just five minutes for Manuel Rui Costa to even the aggregate scoreline out.
The Portuguese international has really hit form after an injury-hit seven months at the club and his curling free kick gave the team a blistering start.

Although Andriy Shevchenko is still out injured, Filippo Inzaghi and Massimo Ambrosini made lively comebacks after their long term fitness problems.

The midfielder had two scoring opportunities punched out in the first half, while Rui Costa, Inzaghi and especially Marco Simone, whose cross-cum-shot struck the bar, came close to doubling their lead.

However, it took a fortunate incident for the Rossoneri to net their second. An inspired Rui Costa cross floated into the box saw Gershon head into the back of his own net in an attempt to anticipate Inzaghi's finish.

The Israelis pushed forward after the break in a desperate attempt to score the away goal that would see them through to the Semi's. Hapoel have so far scored in every single UEFA away game this season.

Christian Abbiati proved crucial on two Domb headers, but once again Rui Costa was unfortunate to see his effort clatter the upright.

Nonetheless, the Rossoneri held on and deservedly pass through to the UEFA Cup's final four.

Milan: Abbiati; Chamot, Laursen, Costacurta; Kaladze, Gattuso, Albertini, Ambrosini; Rui Costa (Brocchi 93); Inzaghi (Javi Moreno 90), Simone (Donati 81)

Hapoel Tel Aviv: Elimelech; Bakhar, Gerson, Domb, Hillel, Pisont, Abukasis, Halmai, Onischenko (Toema 67), Cleshenko (Balili 73), Osterc

Ref: Fandel (Ger)

Milan's Javi Moreno Agrees Deal With Atletico Madrid
21.3 || scharatz

Milan striker Javi Moreno has signed a contract with Spanish second division side Atletico Madrid for next season. The red and white outfit, who are set to join La Primera Liga again after a two year spell in the Segunda Division, were looking for a striker to boost their 'new attack' and the two choices Atletico boss Luis Aragones indicated to management were Athletic's Urzais and AC Milan's Moreno.

It appears Aragones preferred the Basque tower to the former Alaves striker, but failed negotiations between the Madrid and Bilbao sides opened the doors to Javi Moreno's arrival in the Spanish capital.

AC Milan vs. Hapoel - match preview
21.3 || scharatz

Hapoel Tel Aviv coach Dror Kashtan has insisted that his side have nothing to fear when they face AC Milan in the second leg of their Uefa Cup quarter-final on Thursday. "Milan are a great side but we also know how to play and aren't afraid of anyone," he said.

Hapoel go into the game holding a one-goal lead from the first leg and Kashtan believes his side, having already knocked out Chelsea and Parma, are ready to cause another upset.

"At these levels and against such strong sides, they will not invent something new," he added. "We have been monitoring AC Milan for a while and studied their formations so we will not be surprised.

"[Milan coach] Carlo Ancelotti can field different players in his starting line-up, but the system will still be the same because this is what they do in practice.

"We have a one-goal advantage from the first leg which is a great achievement for the club and Israeli football.

"But, even though we managed a nice victory in a neutral venue, it doesn't change the fact that the result at half time is still 1-0 and we have another 90 minutes to play."

With Yigal Antebi serving a one-match suspension, 36-year-old defender Ya'acov Hillel, who was called up as cover for Assi Domb during the return leg in Parma, has been drafted into the side.

In order to assist the veteran defender against the pace of the Milan forwards, Kashtan is set to move right-sided midfielder Denys Unishenko to the left with Istavan Pishont switching to the right.

Keeper Shavit Elimelech insisted that his side would not be overawed by the occasion.

"It is just another football match and as usual I will do everything to keep the ball from crossing the goalline."

Hapoel, who will have the support of 10,000 fans behind them at the San Siro, 7,000 of whom have travelled from Israel, are the only Israeli side to ever get this far in the competition and Hungarian midfielder Gabor Almai admitted that playing at the San Siro would be a special experience whatever the outcome.

"It is the church or shrine of European football," he said after stepping out onto the pitch on Wednesday. "The feeling was absolutely amazing.

"I'm not young anymore and have played during my career in some of Europe's biggest stadiums - at Old Trafford against Manchester United whilst at Honved, and at Genoa against Sampdoria.

"But, this is something special as we are fighting for a place amongst the top four in the competition."

Kashtan added: "It makes you feel special to play in such a place - for the players, the club and even myself."

Milan playmaker Rui Costa insists the San Siro club can still progress, but admitted that the clash could make or break his side's season.

Costa, who impressed in last week's 2-1 win over Torino, said: "The Uefa Cup is a competition we strongly care about so next Thursday's match with Hapoel is a crucial challenge in our season. We must turn the 0-1 defeat around at all costs."

He added: "I'm happy about my performance against Torino and I desperately want to prove myself at this level especially because our fans have been waiting to see the real Rui Costa."

A further incentive for Milan is a possible semi-final showdown with arch-rivals Internazionale, who face Valencia in the last eight.

Danish defender Martin Laursen is aware Hapoel cannot be taken lightly.

"Hapoel are a balanced team and they are really dangerous on the break," he said. "We must pay great attention and not give them a chance to punish us."

Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti must do without star striker Andriy Shevchenko, who has a thigh injury while Spanish centre-forward Jose Mari is a major doubt.

Former Juventus striker Filippo Inzaghi is therefore tipped to lead the line alongside Javi Moreno.

AC Milan (probably): Abbiati, Chamot, Laursen, Costacurta, Kaladze, Gattuso, Albertini, Ambrosini, Rui Costa, Inzaghi, Simone

Hapoel Tel Aviv (probably): Elimelech, Bachar, Gershon, Domb, Hillel, Unishenko, Almai, Abuksis, Pishont, Kleschenko, Osterc

We will progress - Ancelotti
20.3 || scharatz

Carlo Ancelotti is convinced that despite the 1-0 defeat to Hapoel last week his squad will qualify for the next round of the UEFA Cup tomorrow.
"For us the UEFA Cup semi-finals are a very important goal," he said.

However Ancelotti believes that regardless of what his team will do tomorrow, the difficulties Italian football is experiencing in Europe will remain.

The former Juve coach however is convinced that the reason for this situation lies in the fact that in Italy there's too much pressure on the teams.

"I believe that the problem for Italian football will remain no matter what happens to us tomorrow. It's not a matter of players. It's not a matter of playmaking and it's a matter of psychological pressure.

"Of course, we managers also have our responsibilities for this, but I believe that what's important is to try to understand why our ideas do not work beyond our country.

"But I also believe that the Italian media should try to talk more about the way we play, instead of criticizing us depending only on the results we obtain."

Fans greet Inzaghi return
20.3 || scharatz

Filippo Inzaghi received a warm welcome from the fans when he made his comeback against Torino following three months out through injury.
Despite the fact that the team has often been criticised by the supporters lately, Inzaghi was continually cheered as he warmed up prior to stepping onto the field.

The Italy international repaid them with a very good performance and a goal that may have been ruled out by the referee, but was certainly not forgotten by the supporters.

"Coming back has been an incredible emotion and the way fans welcomed my return has been unbelievable," he said.

"Never in my entire career have I felt so appreciated and respected as here at AC Milan, I sincerely hope this will be the last jersey I'll ever wear.

"I'm sorry that my goal was disallowed, but the most important thing was to win the match and we succeeded in doing so and this is all that counts.

"I'm sure that from now on the team will always be capable of playing as we did on Sunday and to offer convincing performances.

'Super Pippo' has also said he is sure that the rossoneri will be able to qualify for the UEFA Cup semi-finals after all, despite the 1-0 defeat to Hapoel Tel Aviv in Cyprus last week.

"We are so eager to go ahead in this tournament and we know that on Thursday no mistakes will be allowed," he continued.

"I really hope that the fans will stand by us, because playing this game with their support would be much easier.

"It is understandable for a fan to have expectations and to hope that his team will always win. And of course fans are free to protest whenever they feel the need, but always within the boundaries of respect."

Despite his long absence from the football pitch, Inzaghi confesses that he is hoping to retain his place in Italy's squad and leave for the World Cup in Korea and Japan with the rest of the Azzurri.

"I've always had a an excellent relationship with coach Giovanni Trapattoni and since he became Italy's boss I always played whenever I wasn't injured.

"Therefore I am facing these last two months with a calm and peaceful attitude, knowing full well that playing for the national team is very important, but that right now I must focus on AC Milan first."

Ambrosini hopes nightmare is over
20.3 || scharatz

Massimo Ambrosini, who scored the match-winning goal against Torino, says he is hoping that this will mark the end of the his injury nightmare.
Ambrosini has been sidelined for almost a year with a knee injury and believes last night's win could spark a Milan revival.

He said: "Moments like last night's make you understand how much you have suffered. Right now even being able to play three games in a row will be a great achievement for me.

"I believe, however, that the real AC Milan is the one we saw in the second half of last night's match and I think we have a good chance of beating Hapoel in the Uefa Cup on Thursday.

"The victory over Torino has to represent a starting point for us, a new beginning and we have to rejoice not just for the result but for our performance aswell.

Shevchenko can miss Piacenza match
20.3 || scharatz

Ukranian national team and AC Milan striker Andriy Shevchenko faces some difficulties in connection with his injury. According to AC Milan official website the striker won't be fielded against Hapoel Tel Aviv in Thusrday's UEFA Cup match. At the same time there is also the possibility that he will not be included in the reserve list. There are still doubts about his presence for Sunday's Serie A match against Piacenza.

Exceptional security for AC Milan-Hapoel Tel Aviv
20.3 || scharatz

Exceptional security measures will be in place for Thursday's UEFA Cup quarter-final second leg match between AC Milan of Italy and Israel's Hapoel Tel Aviv at the San Siro, ANSA news agency reported Tuesday.
With an estimated 8,500-10,000 Israeli fans expected to attend the match all precautions are being taken to avoid possible terror attacks against the visitors or any more regular incidents of hooliganism.
Before they even arrive at the turnstiles fans will be searched and have their tickets examined at two security cordons, a decision taken by Vincenzo Boncoraglio, Milan's police commissioner.
"We are doing everything we can to guarantee that the match can unfold in as normal circumstances as possible," said Boncoraglio. "All the measures are at the level required of the situation."
There will also be heightened vigilance at airports, in city centre sites and other possible flashpoints while a tight security cordon has been imposed around the Hapoel team's hotel.
Meetings will take place with AC Milan supporters groups on Wednesday to persuade them to desist from any chanting or behaviour that could be provocative to the visitors.
Fans have specifically been requested not to display Palestinian flags or wear the kefiah headgear associated with the Palestinians and the trademark of their leader Yasser Arafat, occasionally seen worn in scarf-form in fashion-conscious Milan.
Milan's Prefect of Police Bruno Ferrante was confident that the occasion would pass off peacefully, saying: "Let's live the event for what it is - a sporting occasion and nothing more. Something that has nothing to do with events far away."
Hapoel beat Milan 1-0 in the first leg which was played at Nicosia in Cyprus on the orders of European governing body UEFA for security reasons despite the intervention of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
No Israeli team has ever gone so far in European competition, hence the huge number of Israeli fans expected to travel to Italy.
Sporting occasions involving Israeli competitors have always been considered high risk since the 1972 massacre of 11 Israeli hostages by the pro-Palestinian Black September movement at the Munich Olympics while tension is particularly high since the deterioration of the security situation in the Middle East.

Rui Costa and Costacurta decisive to win over Hapoel
20.3 || scharatz

AC Milan are decisive before the match against Hapoel and in good atmosphere for the first time this season. Midfielder Manuel Rui Costa, who proved in the match against Torino that he has recovered completely, burns with the desire to play against the Israeli side.
"We need the UEFA Cup and that's why the game against Hapoel is very important for us. We must overcome the unpleasant impression from the first leg against Israelis. And to do that we must win in the second leg," Rui Costa stated.
Costa is pleased with his performance against Torino and hopes that he will play against Hapoel well too: "Our fans have waited me long. It's a pity that I didn't play so as I wanted but I have a time to demonstrate myself. Nevertheless, the whole team played superbly on Sunday."
Alessandro Costacurta shares Costa's opinion: "I am satisfied with being a Milan player. When I enter the field I try to use my capabilities completely as I did on Sunday. Now we hope to gain positive results. I think my side are improving day after day. To see the results of your efforts always takes time. We hope that the win over Torino will help us much and join us with our fans."

Injured Leonardo forced into retirement
20.3 || scharatz

Flamengo forward Leonardo has announced his retirement from football, citing recurring injury problems and the ongoing crisis at the club. "I have asked to have my contract with Flamengo terminated because I cannot play and it is not fair for me to receive wages," the former AC Milan star said.

"This is a decision I've been thinking of taking for a long time, but I decided that the moment is right," the 32-year-old went on.

Last Friday, 50 supporters invaded the Flamengo training ground and threatened Leonardo and goalkeeper Julio Cesar, as part of their protest against the team's poor form. "That helped me take the decision, but it was not the main reason," Leonardo said.

Leonardo maintains the Gol de Letra foundation to help poor children with former Paris Saint-Germain star Rai, and in his retirement plans to dedicate most of his time to the enterprise.

"This is a huge satisfaction for me," he said. "Many of the problems the country is facing are due to the poor conditions in which the children grow up.

"But before that I will work as a commentator on Japanese television during the World Cup."

When Leonardo moved to Milan in September 1997, more than a few eyebrows were raised. While the Brazil international was undoubtedly an accomplished footballer, many wondered just how this footballing nomad would fit in at the San Siro.

Leonardo certainly showed his worth in 1998-99, scoring 12 goals in propelling the Rossoneri to the title. In footballing terms, he was a genuine globetrotter, but he was also a winner.

In addition to the Scudetto, he won a Brazilian championship and a World Club Championship at Sao Paulo and a J-League title at Kashima Antlers.

He also won the World Cup with Brazil in 1994 (although he was suspended for the final after viciously elbowing Tab Ramos) and the Copa America in 1997. In addition, he captained the Brazil team that reached the World Cup final at France 98.

He began his career as a left wing-back, but at Milan he played either on the left side of midfield or in the hole behind the two strikers. Creative and intelligent player, his left foot struck fear into opposing goalkeepers, especially from free-kicks.

He bid farewell to Milan after the 2000-01 season to return home to play for former club San Paolo and captained Milan on his final appearance at the San Siro, a 1-1 draw against Brescia.

"The team elected him captain," said coach Cesare Maldini. "It's fair this way - and a great gesture towards a player who has given so much to the club."

Milan Linked With Gudjohnsen
18.3 || webmaster

Although AC Milan's interest in Chelsea midfielder Sam Dalla Bona is well publicised, it is now being reported that they are keen to acquire his teammate Eidur Gudjohnsen.

The Rossoneri are set to begin a major rebuilding process in the summer and top of their list is likely to be a new forward player to partner Andriy Shevchenko.

Gudjohnson has surprised many this season and his goal against Sunderland at the weekend was his 22nd of the campaign in all competitions.

However, it is very unlikely that Chelsea will be willing to let go of their second top goalscorer, meaning Milan may again have to look to Tottenham's unsettled Ukrainian forward Sergei Rebrov.

The 27-year-old is desperate to get away from White Hart Lane and the idea of linking up with former Dinamo Kiev teammate Shevchenko is sure to appeal.

Ancelotti hopes to occupy fourth place in Serie A
18.3 || webmaster

After yesterday's 2-1 win over Torino, AC Milan head coach Carlo Ancelotti announced: "It was very important for us to win. The team deserved to gain that victory because they made big efforts. Besides, it was not easy for us to play at that stadium, where cold atmosphere reigned. Irrespective of everything, I am pleased with the play of my guys. Now we are ready to struggle for the fourth place."
Ancelotti was also glad for the return of Ambrosini and Inzaghi.
He said: "These two players are very important for us. Ambrosini possesses a fine tactic of performance. The whole team demonstrated their spirit. The protest of fans? We understand them, and everything passed without extraordinary events, and the supporters didn't offend us. Of course, as a result of it, the stadium was empty - our fans had decided to punish us."
Torino head coach Giancarlo Camolese is not depressed at the defeat of his side to Milan.
He announced: "Both teams thirsted for a win but everything was decided thanks to merits of certain players. We didn't concede but Milam compelled us to play according to their will. Of course, we responded as we could, sometimes things occur that you can't control. Our midfield failed to link attack with defence. But we understand that it is soon to surrender. We will start our fight on Sunday and, in general, results must be counted at the end."

Ancelotti urges Milan to solve boos problem
18.3 || webmaster

Under-pressure AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti hopes Sunday night's victory over Torino will get the San Siro crowd off the team's back.

"It is really difficult playing in that environment, with our fans ready to boo us at every moment," he explained.

After four consecutive defeats, Milan are in grave danger of missing out on a spot in the Champions' League next season. The weekend victory leaves them four points behind Bologna, who sit in the coveted fourth spot.

But Ancelotti was pleased to have ended a dismal run. "The win finally came and that was really important in our situation," he said. "I hope this could be the way to get the love of our fans back and improve the atmosphere inside the squad.

"This match tested the personality of the team in a difficult situation and I think we can feel optimistic after how we came through."

Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani increased the pressure on Ancelotti by describing the Serie A defeat to Bologna last weekend as a "catastrophe".

Galliani later gave his backing to the beleaguered coach, before Milan slumped to a 1-0 defeat by Hapoel Tel-Aviv in the first leg of their Uefa Cup quarter-final.

Inzaghi and Rui Costa thank fans
18.3 || webmaster

Milan celebrate their first home win of 2002, three months after the Dec 23 victory over Verona.

Most of this match was played out in an eerie silence or with jeers from the angry Tifosi who prepared a protest against their recent results.

One of the only players met with a warm reception was Filippo Inzaghi, making his comeback four months after undergoing knee ligament surgery.

“I am really happy,” exclaimed the striker. “The knee has healed, I am healthy and back to my old self.”

“I must thank everyone who was close to me during this troubled time: my family, the team and especially the fans. They gave me a real push to get better. I hope this win is a turning point for Milan.”

Some claim Inzaghi could start Thursday’s crucial UEFA Cup Quarter-Final against Hapoel Tel Aviv. “It is a very important game for us and our season overall. I am ready to do whatever the Coach needs. If he asked me to start this game I certainly wouldn’t say no.”

Manuel Rui Costa also had a good performance and was named Man of the Match. “We really needed this win and I am also content with my game. I hadn’t played like this in a long time.”

“We expected the fans to be angry with us,” conceded the former Fiorentina captain, “after four consecutive defeats. I understand how they feel as I also expected a rather different season.”

“Things did not go as we all planned but it was not through a lack of effort. There were a series of circumstances, some very unlucky indeed, which brought us all to this point.”

Torino were unsurprised by the defeat and took the result philosophically. “We played a good game against a great team,” commented President Attilio Romero. “We did well in the first half but after the break they played like Milan and there was little we could do about it.”

Coach Giancarlo Camolese was slightly more critical of his men. “The team went out there with the right determination. It’s a shame as we could have equalised at the death.”

“We wanted to put their defence under pressure,” continued the Granata boss, “but we were unable to close up the midfield. In my opinion we allowed them too much room.”

Supporters complain about Milan and Lazio
18.3 || webmaster

The last week was really difficult for two famous Italian clubs – S. S. Lazio and AC Milan. Both received lots of complaints from their supporters. After last week's heavy defeat in a derby against AS Roma, Lazio fans attacked with stones at the club’s headquarters in Formello. Besides, on Saturday, on the eve of the Italian championship match against Mazzone's team, another violence was exerted towards Castroman and Dino Baggio. After yesterday’s game, with regard to these violent events, Zaccheroni stated that he can accept civil complaints but not the violence.
After yesterday's match between AC Milan and Torino, red and black supporters waited for AC Milan at the stadium's gate to demonstrate their attitude for the last negative results. The fans blocked the access to this part of the stadium that remained empty during the whole spell of the match.
"Players, coach and management: you exasperated our patience," fans said. But the complaint didn't end in this way. Supporters whistled when the speaker was announcing AC Milan line-up, and they only applauded for the names of Inzaghi and Ambrosini, who entered the field in second half and gave important help to the team. Fans also whistled to Ancelotti. Whistles and complaints continued in the first half. Whistles turned into applause only when AC Milan scored. Fans also greeted Ambrosini, who scored the winning goal.

AC Milan 2-1 AC Torino - match report
17.3 || webmaster

Scorers: Kaladze 51 (M), Ferrante pen 64 (T), Ambrosini 79 (M)

The Rossoneri earn their first home win of 2002 and the influence of Filippo Inzaghi and Massimo Ambrosini - two of the long-term injury lay-offs who returned in this game - proved decisive.

Milan went into this match with four consecutive defeats behind them in Serie A and UEFA. The fans staged a bitter protest in which the 'Fossa dei Leoni' end was left empty and the players booed as they stepped onto the field.

Andriy Shevchenko is still out injured so the Rossoneri fielded Spanish front pairing Jose Mari and Javi Moreno. The best early chance came after 14 minutes when Luca Bucci tipped a Kakha Kaladze cross-cum-shot over the bar. Soon after Javi Moreno wasted two golden opportunities by kicking the ball straight at the 'keeper and a backheel attempted dribbled wide of the far post.

The former Alaves hitman was replaced at half-time by Filippo Inzaghi, making his first appearance since rupturing knee ligaments in November. The side was immediately more ambitious and the ex-Juve man went close to opening the scoring.

It was Kaladze who eventually broke the deadlock with a spectacular and fortunate effort. The Georgian international was falling down as he struck the ball, but it lifted over the 'keeper and slotted into the empty net.

There was controversy on 62 minutes as Marco Ferrante fell under Cosmin Contra's challenge and the referee pointed to the spot. The striker converted the penalty to draw level in Torino's first shot on goal.

Massimo Ambrosini made his Serie A comeback from yet another knee injury and soon after coming on as a substitute the midfielder rose to nod in a corner kick and restore Milan's lead.

Inzaghi thought he had scored on his comeback during stoppage time but the striker was ruled offside and forced to cut his celebration short.

The final scare was for Milan as Cristiano Lucarelli found room for a low drive that squeezed inches wide of the far post.

Milan: Abbiati; Contra, Costacurta, Chamot, Kaladze; Gattuso, Albertini (Ambrosini 72), Serginho (Roque Junior 81); Rui Costa; Josè Mari, Javi Moreno (Inzaghi 46)

Torino: Bucci; Galante, Fattori, Delli Carri; Comotto, De Ascentis (Castellini 72), Vergassola, Maspero (Scarchilli 55), Mezzano (Franco 81); Lucarelli, Ferrante

Ref: Braschi

Albertini: "No revolution"
16.3 || webmaster

Milan’s continuing failure could prompt a revolution at the club this summer, but Demetrio Albertini maintains they need only a few adjustments.

The Rossoneri are almost certain to miss out on the Champions’ League for the second year running and are at risk of UEFA Cup elimination at the hands of Hapoel Tel Aviv.

One of the most criticised members of the squad is veteran midfielder Albertini. “We had a similar situation in 1998,” recalled the Italian international.

“Back then I also had my head on the block and there was strong talk of selling everyone so that we could start from scratch. But I sincerely believe that a complete revolution is not necessary. A few adjustments will fix things.”

Some elements of the press have accused Albertini of saving himself for the upcoming 2002 World Cup.

“I don’t think that I am the cause of problems here either,” he assured. “To those who think it right to sacrifice me, I say no, it would not be right. The ability to take criticism is part of our job. I am thinking only of the next game with Torino, nothing more than that.”

“There are no problems concerning the old guard at Milan, nor the new players. It is a question of organisation and the collective. Some say that there are factions within the team, but that isn’t true. Perhaps us old guard members have more of an attachment to this jersey.”

Vice-President Adriano Galliani lay much of the blame for this difficult season at the door of the many injuries that have befallen the squad.

“I don’t want this to seem like an alibi,” agreed Albertini, “but I am convinced that with the absent players here we would have done better.”

Among those on the sidelines for months on end this year were Paolo Maldini, Filippo Inzaghi, Massimo Ambrosini and Fernando Redondo.

“I only got to full fitness around January,” revealed the veteran. “Before then I was playing with pain-killing injections due to the surgery on my knee.”

The Rossoneri face Torino this weekend with a run of four consecutive defeats behind them between Serie A and the UEFA Cup. What can Albertini say to the fans in this situation?

“It is only normal that they are angry and that they expect results from us. At the moment I’d say it was easier to reach the UEFA Semi-Finals than the Champions’ League spots.”

Atletico claim Moreno capture
16.3 || webmaster

Atlético Madrid are reported to have sealed the transfer of AC Milan's Spanish striker Javi Moreno for the start of next season.

Local daily As has claimed that Pupas sports manager Paulo Futre arranged the deal during a visit to Italy last week and although no transfer figure has been mentioned, Milan would expect to rake in around £17million for the former Alavés marksman.

Atleti were rumoured to have attempted to loan Moreno at the start of the year but later decided against making a move while the player was given a second chance with The Rossoneri under new coach Carlo Ancelotti.

Moreno has not had the best of luck in Serie A but his strike-rate in cup competitions has seen him become a favourite with Ancelotti and the club's fans.

Atleti coach Luis Aragonés specifically requested the striker when he replaced Marcos Alonso as team coach last summer but Moreno decided against a move to any of the interested Spanish clubs, including Valencia, Deportivo and Barcelona, to try his luck abroad.

Inzaghi back against Torino
16.3 || webmaster

Italian international striker Filippo Inzaghi is set for his return to first-team action Sunday during a Serie A match between his club AC Milan and Torino at the San Siro.
Inzaghi has been out with injured knee ligaments sustained on December 2 in his side's 3-2 victory over Chievo at the San Siro but is expected to feature in Sunday's match, probably as a substitute for around 20 minutes.
"I am well and that's the most important thing," said Inzaghi Saturday. "But now I must work to get back into tip-top condition."
Inzaghi's return, as well as being a boost for beleaguered Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti, is also a lift for Italy coach Giovanni Trapattoni less than three months before the World Cup.

Ancelotti blames luck and refereeing for defeat
15.3 || webmaster

AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti insisted luck was against his side after they slumped to a 1-0 defeat against Hapoel Tel-Aviv in the first leg of their Uefa Cup quarter-final on Thursday night. "We deserved to win," he claimed.

"We were determined. My guys played as I asked them. We were unlucky with Hapoel's goal. Roque Junior slipped, then Cosmin Contra got a touch on the shot from Sergio Cleshenco which deceived Christian Abbiati in goal."

The pressure, though, is mounting on Ancelotti, who was given a vote of confidence by the Milan board earlier this week following successive defeats to Internazionale and Bologna.

"Unfortunately this period has not been lucky for us - and the referee
denied us a clear penalty tonight," he added.

The former Juventus boss remains optimistic about his side's chances of progressing. "It doesn't matter. I'm sure we will recover in the San Siro," he said.

But to make matters worse for the Rossoneri, Contra, Serginho and Roque Junior all picked up yellow cards, meaning they will be suspended for the second leg.

"It's not a problem," Ancelotti retorted. "I will have Shevchenko again and Inzaghi. We'll get it back."

Ambrosini wants more from Milan
15.3 || webmaster

AC Milan midfielder Massimo Ambrosini believes the team must realise that their performances are still below what is expected at the club.

"The real problem here is that each and everyone of us thinks that he is giving his best, when in reality it’s not like this," he said.

Ambrosini also responded to the coach of their next UEFA Cup opponent, Hapoel Tel Aviv, whom after watching the game between AC Milan and Bologna apparently said that his team has quite a few chances to qualify.

"It would have been best if he kept this thought to himself," he noted. "But this means that we'll take even more satisfaction in defeating them."

Ambrosini also admitted that despite the fact that he’s been out with injuries almost for the entire season, he’s still hoping to be included in Italy’s squad for the upcoming World Cup.

"I'd be lying if I'd say that I'm no longer thinking about this. Of course a month ago I still had more chances, now I only have a month and half left to prove my worth."

AC Milan vs. AC Torino - match preview
15.3 || webmaster

The Sunday evening match up this weekend takes place at the San Siro where a beleagured Milan host Torino in what could be the last chance for Carlo Ancelotti to put his side back in contention for a Champions League spot. Milan have had a dreadful season, but their worst form has come at home where they are yet to win a game in the year 2002. The fact of the matter is that most Milan tifosi have already written off this season seeing that Bologna have all but sealed ownership of the coveted fourth spot. Chievo Verona are the Rossoblu's closest challengers, three points behind whilst Milan lie six points adrift with just eight games to go.

Torino have run into some patchy form after winning three games on the trot, but have still looked far better than their weekend hosts. Against Milan, Camolese's men will look to pick up all three points in an attempt to push for a European place and move further away from the bottom four in the process.

Torino have actually won the last two meetings between the clubs though one of them was a Coppa clash in which Milan fielded a second string team. Last time the clubs met was earlier this season and Torino won 1-0 condemning the then coach, Fatih Terim, to an early exit. Will Carlo Ancelotti face a similar fate? If Milan go down again this weekend and then are dumped out of the UEFA Cup, I believe he will.

AC Milan last 6 all comps): WWLLLL
Milan have now failed to score for six hours in all competition and have lost four games on the trot in regulation time (they beat Roda on penalties). They played well midweek in Nicosia, Cyprus but were let down by their finishing. The morale in the squad is at an all time low and they may be far too tense after putting themselves on the backfoot in the onlly competition they are still left in.

Torino last 6 (all comps): DDWDLD
Torino's form may not appear impressive, but have put in some typical granata performances: fiery and full of heart. If they play against Milan like they played versus Juventus (though it's hard to replicate that sort of passion) they will surely beat this crippled side. However, they did show their weaker side last weekend when they failed to beat Chievo despite the sending off of Roma-bound Manfredini.

AC Milan (4-3-1-2): Abbiati; Contra, Roque Jr., Costacurta, Kaladze; Gattuso, Albertini, Serginho; Rui Costa; José Mari, Shevchenko

AC Milan may be in a very bad period, but on Sunday they will have one thing to smile about. Four of Milan's best players return to league action after being out due to injury for various time periods. Andriy Shevchenko, Serginho, Massimo Ambrosini and crowd favorite Pippo Inzaghi are all back. The former two will be in the starting lineup while the latter will be on the bench.

Torino (3-5-2): Bucci; Galante, Fattori, Delli Carri; Comotto, De Ascentis, Vergassola, Cauet; Lucarelli, Ferrante

Only one big name missing for Camolese; Antonio Asta is stil injured but the void has been well filled by Gianluca Comotto so far. Apart from Asta, Torino will have their best eleven on the pitch, something Milan can only dream about.

Massimo Ambrosini (AC Milan):
The delight was evident in the Milan camp as far as one thing was concerned. Massimo Ambrosini came unscathed through 75' of play. Although he may not get a start on Sunday, he is sure to feature at some point and beware…. cause Max always gives 200 per cent and usually leaves his mark on a match.

Christiano Lucarelli (Torino):
Christiano Lucarelli's more illustious teammate and stirke partner Marco Ferrante may have caught up with him at 9 goals in the league, but Lucarelli (who has been followed by Milan for quite a few seasons now) has always played great games versus Milan. He sunk them earlier this season, and might just sink them again if Milan don't keep an eye on him.

Hapoel Tel-Aviv 1-0 AC Milan - match report
15.3 || webmaster

Hapoel Tel-Aviv added AC Milan to their list of big-name European scalps on Thursday night when they defeated the Italian giants in the first-leg of this Uefa Cup quarter-final in Nicosia, Cyprus.

Hapoel, who have already defeated Lokomotiv Moscow, Parma and Chelsea this season, were unfazed by the three-times European Cup-winners and defender Ilan Bachar volleyed over the bar from close range on four minutes.

Sergei Kleschenko sent a warning of what was to come on 11 minutes when he headed over and, two minutes later, the Moldovan hit the target when he buried a cross from midfielder Yossi Abuksi after eluding his marker.

Milan were stunned and came within inches of conceding a second four minutes later as a Gabor Almai shot cannoned on to the crossbar.

Soon after, Assi Domb produced a last-gasp block to deny Milan striker Jose Mari.

Milan went close again immediately after the break through Massimo Ambrossini, who latched on to a Jose Mari cross only for Shavit Elimelech to produce an outstanding save.

The Italians threw men forward, but when they broke down the defence - comprised of Shimon Gershon, Domb, Ilan Bachar and Yigal Antebi - Elimelech stood firm.

Hapoel: Elimelech, Bachar, Gershon, Domb, Antebi, Almai, Abuksis, Unishenko, Pishont (Tuamah 69), Kleschenko (Balili 81), Osterc

AC Milan: Abbiati, Contra, Roque Junior, Costacurta, Chamot, Ambrosini (Kaladze 78), Serginho, Albertini, Rui Costa (Pirlo 67), Moreno, Jose Mari

Hapoel Tel-Aviv vs. AC Milan - match preview
14.3 || webmaster

AC Milan are without striker Andriy Shevchenko for their trip to Cyprus to take on Israeli side Hapoel Tel Aviv in the quarter-final of the Uefa Cup.

The Italian side are also without the suspended Gennaro Gattuso, although Massimo Ambrosini and Serginho are both back after shaking off injuries.

Filippo Inzaghi will have to wait until the league match against Torino on Sunday to make his comeback from a long-term injury.

Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti will be desperate for his side to bounce back from their disappointing defeat at Bologna at the weekend. Ancelotti reportedly gave his side a verbal lashing after that game, but he insisted on Wednesday: "There was no confrontation.

"The players were psychologically down after the Bologna game, but they have been working hard in training since then and are fully focused on the game in Cyprus."

Hapoel, who are the first Israeli side to reach the quarter-finals for the Uefa Cup, have been forced to play the home leg away from their Bloomfield stadium because of security fears in Israel.

Hapoel coach Dror Kashtan welcomes Shavit Elimelech and Assi Domb back from suspension.

Hapoel Tel Aviv (probable): Elimelech, Bachar, Gershon, Domb, Antebi, Almai, Unishenko, Pishont, Abuksis, Kleschenko, Osterc

AC Milan (probable): Abbiati, Contra, Laursen, Costacurta, Chamot, Brocchi, Albertini, Kaladze, Rui Costa, Javi Moreno, Jose Mari

Milan May Tempt Real With Huge Offer For Figo
14.3 || webmaster

It is being reported in the Spanish press that Milan may be set to tempt Real Madrid into selling Luis Figo with a huge player plus-cash deal.

Javi Moreno and Cosmin Contra are the two players in question and DiarioSport suggests that they will be offered to Real along with 21 million Euros for the Portuguese star.

The pair were signed in the summer from Alaves but have failed to settle in Milan and may now be keen on a move back to La Liga.

Real were one of three or four clubs interested in signing Contra at the end of last season but the Romanian instead chose the Italian route- a decision which he has indicated he now regrets.

Figo, meanwhile, has suggested that he has one more move left to make in his career and joining one of Serie A's biggest clubs may well appeal.

Milan approach Ajax for Zlatan
13.3 || webmaster

AC Milan are interested in Ajax Amsterdam striker, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, according to Ajax chairman Michael van Praag. Van Praag said, "three weeks ago AC Milan asked me whether they could buy him already". The interest will come as a major surprise to Ajax supporters who have watched Zlatan make little or no impression this season.

The Swede who is of Bosnian-Croatian origin, was Ajax's record purchase last summer from Malmö FF. However, Zlatan has only managed to score five goals in 19 matches this season, and is currently being ousted from the starting line-up by Greek striker, Nikos Machlas. Last week manager Ronald Koeman was said to have been so critical of the Ibrahimovic's attitude at training that he took immediate action by throwing him out of the session and summoning him to a meeting straight afterwards.

Capello considers Roma future
13.3 || webmaster

Fabio Capello has admitted he is unsure whether or not his future lies at Roma but has dismissed suggestions he will move back AC Milan.

The former AC and Real Madrid coach, who is on course for a possible Serie A and Champions League double, is one of the most sought-after coaches in Europe and has been linked with a possible move to Spanish giants Barcelona in recent weeks.

Roma president Franco Sensi has made it clear that he is ready to extend Capello's deal at any time but contrary to all expectations Capello says his future is uncertain, leaving the door open to a possible move to another club.

He said: "I don't have agents or managers and I'm very proud of this. I am my own manager.

"Those who say that they're speaking in my name are only lying, however, at the moment I cannot rule out any possible option for the future.

"Anyone who does my same job knows that we can't rule out any possibility. However, by saying this I'm also saying that I can't rule out the possibility of signing a new deal with Roma either."

But Capello suggested that if he were to move any time soon it would more than likely be to a club he has yet to manage.

He added: "I wouldn't go back to AC Milan. It's been a wonderful experience but I already did what I could there.

"I made the mistake of going back once, because I felt I had a debt of gratitude to President Silvio Berlusconi, but I wouldn't do that again."

Despite talk of a possible move, Capello is focused on Roma's current programme which sees them competing in both the Serie A title race and the Champions League.

Capello insists the Europe's prestigious club competition is the one that his players will be looking to do well in, with a win over Galatasaray tonight almost certainly securing them a place in the quarter-finals.

He said: "Besides the World Cup and the European Championship this is the most prestigious trophy a player can hope to win.

"We are fully competitive both in the Champions League and in the Serie A and we are very determined to do well.

"The game with Galatasaray is very important because winning against them would mean going to play in Liverpool with a certain peace of mind."

Hapoel boss uninspired by Cyprus setting
13.3 || webmaster

Hapoel Tel Aviv owner Moshe Theumim has admitted to a sense of anti-climax after his side arrived in Cyprus to prepare for Thursday's first leg of his side's Uefa Cup tie against AC Milan. "The stadium is brilliant but, Bloomfield is Bloomfield and you can't replace the atmosphere that 16,000 fans can give you," he said.

Uefa have ordered Hapoel to play the home leg of their quarter-final tie in Cyprus because of the deteriorating security situation in Israel, and Theumim was making no secret of his disappointment.

"I have mixed feelings from all this," he said. "Normally a home match has a different excitement to an away match. But, now I can't explain exactly what I feel as this is a home match which we have been forced to play away from home."

A third of the 4,500 strong Cypriot police force were on hand to escort Hapoel from the airport at Larnaka to Nicosia, where the game will be played on Thursday.

"There hasn't been any special threat but, we are taking all the necessary precautions," said Israel's head of Interpol Asher Ben Arzi. "With a large number of fans expected to arrive from Israel, the local police will try and ensure that nothing will happen."

That several Palestinian organisations have their head-quarters in Cyprus has only heightened tensions.

"It's a bizarre feeling to fly out of Israel for a match you are supposed to host," said Hapoel captain Shimon Gershon. "If we score, does that count as an away goal?"

Only around 2,000 Hapoel fans are expected to make the trip to the 25,000-capacity GSP stadium, and Theumim, who has offered to subsidise the cost of travel admits that that is a cause for concern.

"I guess the thing that bothers me most is that not all of our fans who ought to be here will be able to make the trip," he said."

Ben Luz, who is suffering from a hamstring injury, was the only player in the squad who didn't take part in Tuesday's training session, and he is doubtful for the match.

But Omri Afek, who has recovered from a shoulder injury, was back in the squad while Assi Domb and Shavit Elemelech, who were suspended for the second leg in Parma, are back in contention.

Huge security op for the match vs. Hapoel
12.3 || webmaster

Cypriot authorities Tuesday launched one of their biggest ever security operations for a football match to ensure the UEFA Cup quarter-final first leg between Israel's Hapoel Tel Aviv and AC Milan goes ahead without incident.
"Police are ready to take on the security arrangements and to ensure fans are perfectly safe and law and order is maintained," Cyprus police spokesman Stelios Neophytou told AFP.
"This is a big event and it's our duty to make sure it passes without incident. We are in constant contact with the Israeli and Italian authorities about measures to be taken and fan safety," he added.
The game is to be played at the neutral venue of Nicosia on Thursday following a UEFA decision to ban international fixtures in Israel because of the risks from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The venue for the controversial tie is the recently-built 25,000-capacity GSP stadium on the outskirts of the capital.
More than 1,000 law enforcement personnal will be involved in policing the match, including armed anti-riot police and the island's crack anti-terrorist squad, said Neophytou.
Authorities expect around 8,000 Israeli fans to turn up for the match in nearby Cyprus.
The number of fans from Italy expected for the evening game is yet unclear.
Cypriot media reported Tuesday that the Hapoel squad will be accompanied by agents of the Israeli intelligence service Mossad and escorted by Israeli fighter planes for the short flight to Cyprus.
The place where the Hapoel team will stay is being kept a closely guarded secret.
The Cyprus Football Association gave the green light to the match being played here following a request by its Israeli counterparts, and once the Cyprus government said it would vouch the teams' and the supporters' safety.
UEFA refused to change its mind over switching the venue despite Israeli protests, including one from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Milan confirm attacking trio
12.3 || webmaster

Milan Vice-president Adriano Galliani has maintained that Manuel Rui Costa, Andriy Shevchenko and Filippo Inzaghi will spearhead the Rossoneri attack again next season.

Speculation had suggested that the threesome could be broken up in the summer with the club expected to have a mass shake-up after a disappointing campaign this term.

But Galliani has rubbished claims that any of the three will be sold, with reports suggesting that Real Madrid were chasing Shevchenko while Inzaghi had been linked with Roma.

"Rui Costa, Shevchenko and Inzaghi will be the attacking trio for the club next season. Unfortunately they have only played for a handful of minutes together this term but hopefully that will change next year," Galliani promised.

The club were heavily criticised at the weekend following a nightmare display in the 2-0 loss at Bologna, which has put into doubt the possibility of a fourth place finish. Even if hope is the last thing to die for Galliani.

"We’ve been unfortunate and the blame for this term needs to be divided between the club, Coach and the players," he added.

"But let us remember that we are still in the running for the UEFA Cup and a Champions’ League finish. Milan’s season is not over. Up until May 8, the date of the final in Rotterdam, we will keep working hard to reach our objectives."

Coach Carlo Ancelotti was again backed by the Milan giants, despite claims that his job was on the line. Galliani concluded: "Ancelotti runs no risk of being sacked. Not this season or next."

Inzaghi begs Milan boss for Torino run-out
12.3 || webmaster

AC Milan forward Filippo Inzaghi has confirmed that he will start next weekend's game against Torino on the bench following three months out with a knee injury. "It would be great if Ancelotti lets me play 20 minutes. I've no fear," he said.

Inzaghi was speaking after playing - and scoring in a specially-arranged friendly match at the Milanello training-ground on Monday.

"I can reveal that next Sunday I'll be on the bench against Torino. I'm ready even if it will take me some time to be back to my best form.

"During my months out I have felt the love of all the Rossoneri supporters. They helped me a lot as has Mr. Galliani, whose presence was very important - as were the rest of the directors."

The former Juventus forward admitted at the weekend: "I'm happy because I'm feeling as I did before the injury. I've got no fear and the psychological point is the most important one when you're recovering from an injury like mine."

Inzaghi moved to Milan last summer after failing to win over Juve fans despite a constant supply of goals. And he immediately hit it off with the Milan faithful after starting the 2001-02 season in imperious fashion.

He formed a lethal partnership with Andriy Shevchenko until disaster struck when he injured his knee during the game against Chievo at the beginning of December.

But Inzaghi is now close to completing his recovery and the £16 million striker recently said that he wanted to finish his career with Milan. "I have never felt as loved as I am here. I'll end my career in Milan," he said.

Milan rule out Terim return
11.3 || webmaster

Milan Vice-president Adriano Galliani has dismissed reports that Fatih Terim is set to replace Carlo Ancelotti at Milan.

The Rossoneri are in the midst of a crisis after their hopes of grabbing a Champions’ League place took a massive blow on Sunday when they were beaten 2-0 by fourth placed Bologna.

And with Ancelotti only picking up nine points in the second half of the season so far, there were claims that the Turk could be brought back to the San Siro just months after Ancelotti replaced him.

"The stories are untrue," insisted Galliani. "I’m aware that we are in difficulty but it is only natural that this is the case at the minute.

"We started this season with a striking partnership of Pippo Inzaghi and Andriy Shevchenko. Today we can’t count on any of them because of injuries.

"And let us not forget that we have also had Paolo Maldini, Serginho and Massimo Ambrosini out for long periods. Unfortunately this is just one of those years."

Ancelotti has failed to impress since he replaced the former Galatasaray boss in November. The ex-Juve boss has averaged 1.3 points a game in his Milan stint, while Terim picked up 1.6 points per encounter.

The Rossoneri are currently six points adrift of the final Champions’ League spot. Although they are still in the UEFA Cup and take on Hapoel Tel Aviv on Thursday in the quarter-final first leg.

Galliani still wants final push
11.3 || webmaster

The defeat with Bologna has probably marked the end of AC Milan's Champions League hopes, but Adriano Galliani still wants a final push
"We didn't offer a convincing performance against Bologna, and we must do something about it," he said. "If we want to win we've got to stay united and understand that whenever you loose it is everybody's fault. It's the player's fault, it the coach's fault and the management's fault too."

However Galliani says that Carlo Ancelotti will remain AC Milan's coach and says that this situation was also determined by the many injured players.

"Let me tell you once again that Carlo Ancelotti remains our coach and that goes for the next season as well. This is an unlucky season for us that's been filled with injuries.

"Yesterday for example we had [Paolo] Maldini,[Massimo] Ambrosini,Serginho, [Filippo] Inzaghi and [Andrei] Schevchenko out with injuries."

Galliani has also confirmed that none of the team's top players will be surrendered at the end of the season.

"Rui Costa, Sheva and Inzaghi will be AC Milan's front line next year too," he added. "Unfortunately this season the three of them were able to play together only for a few minutes."

Ancelotti stands by Rui Costa
11.3 || webmaster

Carlo Ancelotti has defended under-fire midfielder Manuel Rui Costa after today's 2-0 defeat to Bologna saying the whole team are to blame.

The Portuguese midfielder has taken some of the flack for AC's recent poor form that has seen their Champions League aspirations diminish, compounded by today's defeat to one of their rivals for the European spot.

However, when asked about the performance of Costa, who has had a spell of bad luck with injury, Ancelotti insisted the whole team must be held to blame for their poor results.

He said: "Rui Costa? I don't think is fair to focus on a particular player because the entire squad has under-performed.

"We know that we have failed. We are well aware of the fact that contrary to our expectations we've played a very bad season.

"There really isn't much to say. Today the team has played badly."

Milan board back beleaguered Ancelotti
11.3 || webmaster

AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti has received a vote of confidence from the club's board following Sunday's 2-0 defeat at Bologna. "Everybody is guilty, but I want to confirm that Carlo Ancelotti will be manager of Milan next season," said vice-president Adriano Galliani.

"This morning I had a meeting with the technical and medical staff and with all directors: we decided that the best way to move out from this crisis is to stay together," Galliani went on.

"We're still in the race for fourth place and I'm still confident. From now until May 8, the club will be focused on achieving a Champions' League place."

Yet on Sunday, Galliani was heard to call the defeat "catastrophic", prompting an embarrassed reaction from Ancelotti, who insisted the season isn't over.

"I spoke with president Silvio Berlusconi and obviously he's not happy," Galliani said. "But he's the Prime Minister at the moment and he can't do anything about it. I'm responsible for this situation and I'm the first that feels upset by it. I live this experience with passion and I didn't sleep on Sunday night. It's the first time that my job has caused me such feelings."

And Galliani was bullish about Milan's chances next season, insisting that this season's woes are the result of a string of injuries.

"Filippo Inzaghi will be the key of our revenge," he said. "When he was out, we lost his goals and even Shevchenko felt his absence. Sheva-Inzaghi-Rui Costa: how many minutes have this trio played together? [585]

"Next year they will be the attacking trio of Rossoneri because we want to see them in action before we judge them."

Ancelotti took over from Fatih Terim in November, but has endured a difficult start to his San Siro coaching career. Milan lie sixth in Serie A, 15 points off the top, and five points behind Bologna, who occupy the fourth and last Champions' League place.

Ancelotti won virtually everything there is to win in a glittering playing career with Roma and Milan, but the 42-year-old has struggled to produce the same success as a coach with Parma and Juventus.

At the Stadio delle Alpi, his time was characterised by having defeat snatched from the jaws of victory. His team lost the Scudetto to Lazio in the final game of the 2000 season and blew a 2-0 goal lead to Manchester United in the 1999 Champions' League semi-final.

When Juve ended as runners-up for the second consecutive year last season, the Turin club decided that Ancelotti should go, replacing him with Marcelo Lippi.

Inzaghi "back to my old self"
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Pippo Inzaghi has recovered in record time from a ruptured knee ligament and his comeback is set for next week’s clash with Torino.

The Milan hitman was forced to undergo surgery after damaging his knee during December’s 3-2 win over Chievo.

“Everything is proceeding well,” beamed the Italian international in an interview with satellite station Milan Channel. “I am happy and satisfied.”

“I feel as if I am back to my old self. The most important aspect psychologically is that during training I do not fear a relapse."

"I hope that next week’s match with Torino is the right occasion for a return to first team action.”

A speedy recovery would allow Inzaghi two months of Serie A football in which to get 100% fit for the World Cup, starting on May 31.

Bologna 2 - 0 AC Milan - match report
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Scorers: Fresi 3 (B), Cruz 24 (B)

This was effectively a play-off for the fourth and final Champions' League spot and leaves Milan six points adrift of that goal.

The drama was increased before the starting whistle. The kick-off was delayed by 15 minutes as Milan's team bus took a wrong turn on its way to the Dall'Ara Stadium.

Beppe Signori made his first start since November in order to replace the suspended Lamberto Zauli and once again the striker proved just how important he is to this team. The veteran's free kick ricocheted off the upright and into the path of Salvatore Fresi's diving header to open the scoring after just three minutes.

Signori had the opportunity to double their lead on 19 minutes, but incredibly he miss-hit with only the 'keeper to beat. The second goal came soon after as Julio Cruz beat the offside trap and waltzed past Christian Abbiati.

The Rossoneri were without injured star striker Andriy Shevchenko and surprisingly fielded Marco Simone upfront. Milan were particularly toothless in attack and had their first shot on goal at the half-hour mark with a diving Jose Mari header.

Milan fans protested at this disappointing display by leaving the Stadium over half an hour before the final whistle.

Bologna: Pagliuca; Falcone, Fresi, Castellini; Nervo, Olive (Firmani 83), Brighi, Tarantino; Pecchia; Cruz (Bellucci 91), Signori (Brioschi 73)

Milan: Abbiati; Contra, Costacurta, Roque Junior, Kaladze (Chamot 46); Gattuso, Albertini (Javi Moreno 46), Brocchi (Umit 62); Rui Costa; Simone, Josè Mari

Ref: Collina

Kaladze: "I am happy to help Georgia"
9.3 || webmaster

AC Milan defender Kakha Kaladze's recent reports on became a subject for top sensation for both Georgian and Ukrainian media. Kaladze had earlier stated he is ready to quit his national team, become a citizen of Ukraine and play in Ukrainian jersey in case the law-enforcement bodies of his country fail to find his brother Levan, who was kidnapped May 23 2001 in Tbilisi. The defender was surprised be in the limelight and made a new statement:
"I was well-aware of my popularity in Georgia and Ukraine but did not expect such a boom over my reports. I was glad to chat with a lot of people who called me and expressed their opinion on my official website. I am thankful to all these people who really care about me.
At the same time I observed a number of people calling me a betrayer. In one of the remarks I even saw a statement, which blamed me for creating this situation on purpose to move to a stronger national team. I think it is quite senseless to mix up professional plans with HUMAN TRAGEDY. I am offended by similar remarks, as I am sure I have never given food for any doubts over my willingness to play for Georgia, which I did since I was 18. Georgia national team may not be the strongest in the world, but it is MY NATIONAL TEAM, MY NATIVE COUNTRY and I am happy to help it. I want to make it clear: I have lost my brother and I decided to throw down a challenge to the law-enforcement bodies to work more effectively."
Meanwhile, the players of the Georgia national team demanded from the country's president and the officials of the law-enforcement bodies to intensify the investigation procedures to find Kakha's brother Levan. Georgian political party "Ertoba" also joined the claims of the players. Mikhail Korkiya, a member of the mentioned party and ex-star of basketball, called the country's president to convince Kaladze to stay with Georgia national team.
The members of the political party also claimed they are ready bring up a question on the resignation of the law-enforcement body leaders in case they fail to find the player's brother.

Inzaghi ready to return
9.3 || webmaster

AC Milan forward Filippo Inzaghi has targeted next weekend's game against Torino for his comeback following three months out with a knee injury.

The former Juventus forward admitted on Saturday that this weekend's game against Bologna comes too early for him, but that he expects to play a role against Torino the following week.

He said: "I'm happy because I'm feeling as I did before the injury. I've got no fear and the psychological point is the most important one when you're recovering from an injury like mine. I hope that I will make my return in the Milan-Torino game.

"Sunday's game against Bologna is crucial for our ambitions to play in the Champions' League next season. The game is decisive and I don't even want to consider defeat," he added.

Inzaghi moved to Milan last summer after failing to win over Juve fans despite a constant supply of goals. And he immediately hit it off with the Milan faithful after starting the 2001-02 season in imperious fashion.

He formed a lethal partnership with Andriy Shevchenko until disaster struck when he injured his knee during the game against Chievo at the beginning of December.

But Inzaghi is now close to completing his recovery and the £16 million striker recently said that he wanted to finish his career with Milan. "I have never felt as loved as I am here. I'll end my career in Milan," he said.

Milan must contend with fit-again Signori
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Bologna will turn to fit-again Beppe Signori when they step up their bid for a Champions' League spot against AC Milan on Sunday.

"Signori is like a new signing for us," said defender Marcello Castellini, whose side miss the suspended Lamberto Zauli.

"He is important for Bologna, just like Zauli, because they can control the ball and know when to attack. They also know when to apply pressure, to defend," he added.

Fourth-placed Bologna will be desperate to bounce back from last weekend's heart-breaking last-minute defeat at Juventus, when Massimo Tarantino gifted the Turin club a 2-1 win with an own goal.

If Bologna take the points at the Renato Dall'Ara, they will be favourites to secure the fourth and final Champions' League place.

"Our target was a Uefa Cup spot, but now we dream about a Champions' League spot - and if we beat Milan, Ancelotti's team will be in a very difficult situation.

"We don't have anything to lose, but we know that Sunday's match will be just like a final.

"Bologna would remember a place in the Champions' League for many years, as we are a team many supporters thought would struggle to survive in Serie A this season."

Signori, injured four months ago, replaces the man bought to replace him, Zauli, who is out following a red card for fighting last Sunday.

Without Shevchenko vs. Bologna
9.3 || webmaster

AC Milan striker Andriy Shevchenko will miss tomorrow’s match against Bologna because of contusion received a few days ago.
Javi Moreno is likely to complete the attack line instead of him. This is the possible solution for Carlo Ancelotti because Filippo Inzaghi can return to field next week. Tomorrow’s match is a good scoring chance for Milan midfielder Rui Costa, because he had missed for a long timedue to many injuries.

Cyprus venue for Milan UEFA tie
8.3 || webmaster

Milan’s UEFA Cup game against Hapoel Tel-Aviv on Thursday will be played in Nicosia, Cyprus.

The European Footballing Body announced the venue after it ruled that the first leg could not be played in Israel due to safety fears.

The Rossoneri had said that they were happy to make the trip to Tel Aviv, with Israeli President Ariel Sharon even phoning Silvio Berlusconi – the Milan President and Italian Prime Minister – in order to change their minds.

However, UEFA’s decision was made all the more important after a Press release by the Al-Aqsa terrorist organisation.

It read: "We cannot guarantee the safety of this match if it is played in Israel. The police officers at the game are part of the forces occupying Palestinian territories."

The game will be the first time Milan have ever played on Cypriot soil.

Laursen: "Bologna game is crucial"
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AC Milan's Martin Laursen has admitted that their match against Bologna is a make-or-break game for Milan's season.

"It's going to be a crucial game for us," said the Danish defender. "We must win it at all costs. For us it's now or never."

A victory over Francesco Guidolin's side would allow the Rossoneri, who are currently sixth, to catch up with Bologna, currently fourth with three more points, in the league table.

Laursen admits that Lamberto Zauli's absence could be crucial to the Rossoblù, but says that with a player like Giuseppe Signori back on the field, AC's defence will certainly have to be on the look-out.

"They'll be missing Zauli and that's certainly good for us but they have a very important player back. Signori's free-kicks are deadly just like Julio Cruz, who's doing very well lately."

Laursen also spoke about his future saying that he knows nothing about the possible interest of Premiership club Tottenham in him.

"Honestly I know nothing about this. I love playing here and I do not intend to leave.

"I think that I'm a player worthy of wearing AC Milan's jersey, but it will be up to the management to decide at the end of the season."

UEFA will not budge on Tel Aviv decision
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European football's governing body UEFA has turned down a last-ditch plea by Israel here Thursday against the suspension of European football in the country.
UEFA general secretary Gerhard Aigner met face to face with Israel's minister for sport Matan Vilnai at a top hotel to listen to Israel's argument for the staging of the match in question.
A quarter-final, first leg tie between Hapoel Tel Aviv and Italian giants AC Milan was due to be held in Israel on March 14.
But on Wednesday UEFA suspended all European competition matches in the conflict-torn country until further notice because of the escalating violence there, prompting stiff criticism from Israel.
UEFA's stance on the issue was reinforced 24 hours later when Aigner said Israel had nothing new to offer in the way of security guarantees.
"We have listened to the delegation from Israel incuding the minister. We have not heard anything that we have not heard before. Nothing has changed," Aigner said following the one-hour meeting with Vilnai.
"There were no new elements. They gave arguments why it (the match) should be played in Israel but our decision is final."
Aigner added that while assurances had been given about security, he noted that security around the game was one thing but the general climate in the region was another.
Vilnai said he gave assurances to Aigner that "no players would ever be harmed".
But he conceded that Tuesday's terrorist attack on a fish restaurant in Tel Aviv, in which three people were killed and 31 injured, could be the principle reason behind UEFA's decision.
"I appreciate that UEFA agreed to see us but I'm sorry the decision has not been changed," said Vilnai after the meeting.
"The government of Israel can assure every team that comes here that no player will ever be harmed. Aigner told us that it was not secure to be there (Tel Aviv) so he can't let them (the teams) play there.
"The incident in Tel Aviv, I believe, is the reason for this decision."
Earlier Thursday UEFA president Lennart Johansson said he would not bow to pressure as long as security was at stake.
"Since (we made) this decision we've been under a lot of pressure, mostly concerning the match between Hapoel Tel Aviv and AC Milan," said Johansson Thursday.
"We took this decision for reasons of security, and we will not be persuaded otherwise," added the UEFA president.
On Wednesday Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon had complained: "The UEFA decision is a grave one and we need to change it."
The March 14 match is scheduled to be played at a neutral venue. UEFA have until midday Friday to come up with another venue.

Israelis disappointed by UEFA's decision
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The suspension of European football games in the Jewish state stripped the Israelis of the only good news to have made the headlines in recent months and prompted the government to deploy maximum efforts to reverse the ruling.
In the light of the escalating Israeli-Palestinian violence, the European football governing body UEFA decided Wednesday that the quarter-final clash in its cup competition between Hapoel Tel Aviv and European giants AC Milan should be staged at a neutral venue for security reasons.
The decision came after a week of round-the-clock violence which has claimed some 100 lives, including another suicide attack in a Tel Aviv restaurant which killed three people and injured 30 Wednesday .
"It is a very disappointing decision. We are going to try to change this decision and to convey the message to UEFA that AC Milan will be given full security," said Moshe Teomim, hoping the ruling could still overturned.
"Tel Aviv was expecting a lot to come out of this prestigious club's trip here. AC Milan players weren't afraid to come. It's a stupid, unfair, revolting anti-Israeli decision," said Ilan Greislammer, a Tel Aviv scholar.
Defence Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer called the UEFA decision a "surrender to terror," his office communique said.
"The moment European football's governing body UEFA ordered that games no longer take place in Israel but rather they take place at neutral venues - this is a surrender to terror, and surrendering to terror is a guaranteed prescription for an increase in terror," he said.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Wednesday that "the UEFA decision is a grave one and we need to change it."
But UEFA turned down the last-ditch plea, in a meeting between UEFA general secretary Gerhard Aigner and Israeli Sports Minister Matan Vilnai in Zurich.
Aigner said Israel had nothing new to offer in the way of security guarantees.
"There were no new elements. They gave arguments why it (the match) should be played in Israel but our decision is final," he said.
Aigner added that while assurances had been given about security, he noted that security around the game was one thing but the general climate in the region was another.
Vilnai said he had assured Aigner that "no players would ever be harmed", while adding, "the incident in Tel Aviv, I believe, is the reason for this decision."
On February 28, Hapoel Tel Aviv became the first ever Israeli club to reach the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup when they stunned struggling Italian outfit Parma in the second leg of their fourth round clash.
The win had been welcomed as a spirit-lifting event amid spiraling Israeli-Palestinian violence, and had made the front page of many newspapers despite some of the most devastating Israeli operations in the occupied territories since the beginning of the intifada 17 months ago.
Sharon and his foreign minister, Shimon Peres also personally implored Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who owns AC Milan, to intervene in their favour with UEFA.
"It is not by surrendering to terrorism that you can fight against it," Vilnai said.
However, some officials judged the UEFA decision logical.
"The security situation in Israel has worsened. Everyone sees the pictures on TV and this time there was no choice," following the Tel Aviv suicide attack, said Jacob Erel, a former chairman of the Israeli football association and a member of UEFA.
"I said my piece, which of course opposed having the game relocated. But you must understand that no amount of guarantees will be enough," he told the daily Haaretz.
"I agree with the UEFA," said Haaretz sports journalist Avi Ratzon, explaining that the European body's decisions was "logical".
"Sharon has to solve the problems, not sport. I understand that Israelis want to live a normal life but I don't believe that the visit of the football players will solve our problems," he added.

Bologna - AC Milan - match preview
7.3 || webmaster

After spending successive seasons in Serie C1 and Serie B, Bologna returned to the top tier of Italian football in 1996. However, despite valiant efforts from the team, all they have to show is a host of mid-table finishes. This year, though, promises to be a different story. The Rossoblu have clawed their way slowly but surely into fourth place and are ten match days away from clinching a Champions League spot for the first time in their 93-year history.

In their way stand Milan and Chievo, and it is the former that Guidolin and his men shall host on Sunday. AC Milan have had a rather poor season so far and just when they were starting to show signs of recovery, they were downed by a Christian Vieri strike in the Milanese derby. Now, their season rests on lifting the under-rated UEFA Cup trophy and qualifying for Champions League 2003. In other words, they must win at the Renato Dall'Ara or face an exodus of star players and the wrath of the fans.

Bologna versus Milan has never been regarded as one of the big games of the season. But, this season, the clash bears special meaning. A Bologna win will surely all but end Milan's hopes, while a Milan win might rekindle the embers of a dying red and black season.

Bologna last 6 (all comps): LDWWWL
Bologna have won nine of the thirteen games that they have played this year at the Dall'Ara losing only to Roma and Udinese. They have conceded just 12 goals in these games and are strong favorites to pick up all three points on Sunday despite losing to Juventus at the Delle Alpi last week.

AC Milan last 6 (all comps): DDWWWL
Milan have been in anything but good form. Their only convincing performance came in the comprehensive win over Venezia two weekends ago. However, it must be noted that they have improved steadily in recent times and were a tad unlucky to lose the Milan derby last week despite a good performance. Milan have won more games away than at home this season and this may just work in their favor come Sunday.

Bologna (3-4-1-2): Pagliuca; Falcone, Fresi, Castellini; Nervo, Brighi, Olive, Tarantino; Pecchia; Signori, Cruz
Injured: Cipriani, Macellari, Locatelli, Zaccardo
Suspended: Zauli

Even though everyone is expecting the great Beppe Signori to stride out into the center on Sunday night, it is still not a certainty that he will be in the starting eleven. The former cappocanioneri is still recovering from a long-term injury and his fitness is due to be tested in Bologna's friendly versus Castel San Pietro tomorrow. Influential veteran and club top scorer, Lamberto Zauli is suspended for two match days and will not feature. Signori or Bellucci will take his place.

AC Milan (4-3-1-2): Abbiati; Contra, Costacurta, Roque Jr., Chamot; Gattuso, Albertini, Kaladze; Rui Costa; José Mari, Shevchenko
Injured: Maldini, Inzaghi, Serginho, Helveg, Ambrosini, Redondo, Aliyu
Suspended: -

Milan's offensive troubles continue with both Shevchenko and Rui Costa struggling for form, but the fans must know that Filippo Inzaghi is ever closer to returning to the starting lineup and may even be on the bench in Bologna. However, in his absence, José Mari, Milan's away game man, will start confining Javi Moreno to the bench for the nth time this season. Billy Costacurta has recovered from his muscular troubles and will start.

Albertini questions UEFA Cup switch
7.3 || webmaster

AC's Demetrio Albertini believes keeping next week's UEFA Cup clash against Hapoel Tel Aviv in Israel would have sent out "a message of peace".

UEFA announced today that it decided "in light of the current tragic events in Israel that no European competition matches can be staged in the country until further notice", and that Hapoel's UEFA Cup clash with AC Milan would now be switched to an as-yet unnamed neutral venue.

However, veteran midfielder Albertini insists his side were ready to play the game in Israel despite the events over the last couple of days. And he believes playing the game there would have gone some way to improving relations but says he can understand a decision had to be made.

He said: "We were ready to go, even if I must admit yesterday's attempt had given us a few worries. However, I do believe that playing this game in Tel Aviv could have been the chance to give a message of peace, but unfortunately fear and worries just kept on growing day after day until this decision had to be taken.

"I think Hapoel will no doubt be sorry not to be able to play in front of their fans."

Meanwhile, despite all the disruption the 30-year-old insists AC will have to concentrate if they are not to fall to the same fate as Chelsea and Parma before them.

He said: "They're a strong team, especially when they play away. We're going to need a great deal of concentration and determination because they have players who can take advantage of even of the slightest mistake of yours to score."

Even before next week's UEFA Cup clash AC's position in Serie A is under threat from Bologna, who they face in the league on Sunday.

Bologna are currently three points behind AC in sixth position and a win would see the sides level on points, but Albertini says AC's league position is far more important than UEFA Cup success this season.

He said: "If I could choose between winning the UEFA Cup and ending the season in fourth spot I'd pick the latter. However, in order to do so we must try to collect as many points as possible and we can only do that if we start playing well game after game."

New Paraguayan defender with AC Milan
7.3 || webmaster

According to the recent rumours in Brazil, AC Milan completed a deal with Paraguayan defender Carlos Gamarra from Flamengo. Gammara is currently on loan in Europe with AEK Athens. He will arrive next season and it seems that his name has been underlined by Cesare Maldini, current Paraguay's coach. However, AC Milan also seem to be interested in Dellas (Perugia) and Falcone (Bologna).

Flamengo's Gamarra interests Milano
6.3 || webmaster

Paraguayan defender Carlos Gamarra seems set to move to Milan in June but to which side of the city remains in doubt. The former Atletico force was tracked last year by former coach Fatih Terim but he then moved back to Brazil to play for Flamengo.

He was then loaned to AEK Athens and was linked with Inter as recently as last month but Paraguay and former Milan coach Cesare Maldini has encouraged Milan to make an offer for the rated defender.

Albertini: "I'm still in World Cup squad"
6.3 || webmaster

The 23-man squad making the trip to Japan and Korea this summer is beginning to form, but there could be some shock changes in the final months.

Coach Giovanni Trapattoni has experimented with several players in midfield and newspaper ‘Il Giornale’ suggested that Milan veteran Demetrio Albertini would miss out on the tournament.

“I spoke with Trapattoni,” assures the Rossoneri star, “several times in recent months. He did not tell me that I would be watching the World Cup at home, unless,” he joked, “I blanked out during part of the conversation.”

Milan’s poor form of late and Albertini’s injury problems have affected his standing within the Italy line-up and the midfield maestro was not even called up for last month’s friendly with the USA.

“I am not worried at the possibility of being left out,” added the 30-year-old, “because a football player must always be open to criticism.”

“I must earn my place in the Azzurri team. I’ll do everything I can to reach the Finals in the best possible condition to experience that tournament in centre stage.”

It will be Albertini’s third World Cup after USA ’94 and France ’98.

Hapoel-AC Milan tie to be played on neutral ground
6.3 || webmaster

Israel's Hapoel Tel Aviv and AC Milan of Italy will play next week's UEFA Cup quarter-final first leg tie on neutral territory instead of in Tel Aviv, the Italian first division club told AFP on Wednesday.
European governing body UEFA have sanctioned the move because of the worsening security conditions in the Middle East.

15-year-old among mooted candidates for presidency
5.3 || webmaster

The 15-year-old son of AC Milan boss Silvio Berlusconi could replace his father as president of the Italian football giants, it was reported here Tuesday.
Luigino Berlusconi was among six people mooted by the Gazzetta dello Sport for the job, which will come vacant if Berlusconi senior steps down as expected.
Berlusconi is widely reported to be on the brink of relinquishing the president's post, to avoid a conflict of interests between his job as Italy's prime minister and his many business interests.
Tuesday's Gazzetta identifies five men and the boy, three of whom are members of the Berlusconi clan, as possible successors to the premier who took the reins at AC Milan in 1986 and will remain the owner even if he quits.
The paper admits Luigino is a long shot but adds: "After his dad Silvio he is the biggest Milan fan in the family. He may be 15 but who knows?"
It goes on to suggest that Luigino could be given the title of president with current AC Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani acting as a sort of Prince Regent, gradually grooming Luigino.
Berlusconi's oldest son Piersilvio and his brother Paolo have also been tipped to fill the position while AC Milan playing legend Franco Baresi, a member of the board, is also favoured by many.
Many feel Galliani would be the sentimental choice as he has been president in all but name since Berlusconi moved into the world of politics.
The least likely of the six candidates mentioned in the paper is Italian politician Fausto Bertinotti whose name was only mentioned as a joke by Paolo Berlusconi.
Like the centre-right prime minister, Bertinotti is a fanatical AC Milan fan but is also a hardline Communist. Paolo Berlusconi believes his brother could woo more left-wing voters by giving Bertinotti the job.

AC Milan unfazed by trip to Tel Aviv
5.3 || webmaster

AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti said Tuesday he was unconcerned about next week's UEFA Cup quarter-final first leg match with Hapoel Tel Aviv of Israel in spite of the escalating conflict in the Middle East.
Even before the recent escalation Tel Aviv has been a bridge too far for many top footballers with several players with English club Chelsea refusing to travel for a UEFA Cup tie earlier in the season while Parma recently omitted two Muslim players - Turk Hakan Sukur and Frenchman Sabri Lamouchi - when they travelled to Israel, ostensibly for 'technical reasons'.
Ancelotti said AC Milan were happy to fulfil the fixture, adding: "We will go and play a match in the knowledge that this match can represent an important message of peace.
"It is an important match both for Milan and Hapoel and a big international commitment that Milan will not undervalue."
AC Milan's Spanish striker Jose Mari admitted to some concerns, saying: "Clearly we are worried but we are not as frightened as we are made out to be."

Kaladze to become Ukrainian in kidnap protest
5.3 || webmaster

AC Milan defender Kakha Kaladze has threatened to renounce his Georgian citizenship and play for Ukraine if his country's authorities do not secure the release of his brother, who was kidnapped nine months ago, before May 1.

"I feel hurt that almost every day my family and I hear from the government and the law-enforcement bodies that they are conducting full-scale investigations – and yet they have achieved nothing," the 24-year-old said.

Levan Kaladze was kidnapped in Tbilisi last May, but his whereabouts and the identity of his assailants remain unknown.

"It disgusts me that every conceivable high-ranking Georgian official considered it necessary to declare his personal participation in the investigation, but their involvement is nothing but populist fuss, just hot air spouted because they fear they will lose their jobs."

Kaladze has continued playing in Serie A, but he admits that he thinks about little but his missing brother. "Every day I wake up and I fall asleep thinking about nothing but Levan," he said on his official website.

"I don't know whether he is dead or alive. Every morning I ask God to let me see him again alive and smiling. It seems that God is the only body in which it is possible to hope and to which it is possible to appeal in today's Georgia."

Kaladze has won 31 caps for Georgia, but he feels that switching allegiance to Ukraine, where he spent two and a half seasons with Dynamo Kyiv, is the only way to register his protest at the Georgian authorities.

"Ukraine has become a second homeland for me,' he explained. "It was there that I became a top-level player with Dynamo.

"If my brother is not found by May 1, or if the law-enforcement bodies cannot prove that they are nearing a solution to the problem, then I will accept Ukrainian citizenship and play for Ukraine rather than Georgia in the future."

It remains doubtful, however, whether Fifa would sanction such a switch. Under present rules, once a player has represented a country, he cannot then turn out for another one.

"I will ask Fifa to make an exception," he said. "I am in an unbearable situation, and I hope they will stretch out a hand to me when I need their support."

Juve interested in Coco
4.3 || webmaster

It is being reported that Juventus may make a summer move for out-of-favour Barcelona defender Francesco Coco.

The Italian International is on loan from AC Milan and although the Catalans have an option to buy him at the end of the season, they are unlikely to take it up.

If they don't, his future will be in the hands of Milan and it remains to be seen whether they will want to keep him or discuss a deal with Juventus or Inter who are also said to be interested in the player.

Costacurta's derby admission
4.3 || webmaster

Milan defender Alessandro Costacurta says his team's performance against Inter was hampered because they were tired from their European exploits.

Milan played Roda on Thursday night in a game that went to extra-time, and the veteran says that took a lot out of the players. He said: "Inter Milan have probably given a better performance for the full 90 minutes but I believe that we have paid a high price for the unfortunate match with Roda, especially in the last 15-20 minutes when we didn't really have any strength left."

Costacurta also reveals that he was forced to leave the field during the second half after he sustained an injury earlier in the game.

He says: "I injured myself after 15 minutes but I tried to hang on and despite the pain, I played half of the second half. "I realise that when you're 36-years-old you often have to face opponents who are in their 20s and are quicker and stronger than me but nevertheless, I'm happy because I believe that last night's match has proven that I'm still able to compete."

Milan's form has been erratic this season and they are well out of the title race, but Costacurta says that Juventus will win the championship come the end of the season, because they will get the lucky bounces, something Milan have not got this year.

He added: "I believe that Juventus are the team that have the best chance to win this year's title. Marcello Lippi's team deserved the victory over Bologna and I believe that what happened yesterday with Tarantino's own goal is the proof of how important luck is.

"I believe that sometimes things like this can also be interpreted as a sign."

Meanwhile, despite their defeat, Rossoneri vice president Adriano Galliani was not displeased with the performance, but they were just unlucky to lose to their rivals.

He said: "We certainly played better that they did, at least until they scored and may I say in a quite unbelievable fashion.

Hapoel reject stadium move for Milan tie
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Hapoel Tel-Aviv have decided to stage the home leg of their Uefa Cup quarter-final against AC Milan at their compact Bloomfield ground, rejecting the chance to play at the national stadium in Ramat Gan.

Speculation suggested Hapoel would opt to move the match to Ramat Gan due to its 44,000 capacity.

But following a board meeting, it was decided to exploit the intimidating atmosphere at Bloomfield that has played such a key role in Hapoel's progress in the competition so far.

The Israelis have already disposed of European giants Chelsea and Parma and are the first-ever team from their country to reach the last eight of the Uefa Cup.

Meanwhile, Hapoel return to league action on Monday against Betar Jerusalem and Betar's Itzik Zohar has admitted Saturday's terrorist attack in Jerusalem has affected preparations.

“A terrorist blew himself up, so it is not the easiest thing to put everything aside and think of football,” he said.

Inter heroes spurred on by revenge
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Internazionale coach Hector Cuper insisted that his side's derby win on Sunday was down to the league leaders' thirst for revenge. "All of us knew that we conceded ten goals in the last two derbies: our thoughts were filled with these memories," he said.

Cuper was not disappointed after he demanded the very best corazon y convincimiento – heart and conviction – from his players, he was not disappointed.

Cuper was quick to praise his team, and Clarence Seedorf and Nicola Ventola were singled out for their performances.

"Ventola is really useful to the team because he helps a lot in midfield. Seedorf also played a great match, especially in the second half, when he kept the ball, allowing our team to control the game."

The Inter boss also believed that the departure of Alessandro Costacurta in the Milan defence was a deciding factor, believing that the opposition "suffered more after he went off".

Inter were not on sparkling form but held on after Christian Vieri's late strike. The win ended a frustrating trend of derby losses and brought relief for Cuper, who noted that "the only important thing in a derby is to win and we finally did it".

He added: "It's an important win, but not a crucial one. There are too many matches still to play and anything can happen."

AC Milan 0 - 1 Inter - match report
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Scorer: Vieri 78

As so often this season, Christian Vieri has rescued Inter from a disappointing performance, while Milan are once again left to rue missed chances.
The last encounter ended 4-2 for Milan with Fatih Terim at the helm. Although this is Carlo Ancelotti's first San Siro derby as a Coach, the former midfielder has been through this tie many times.

Manuel Rui Costa had a rare start in the Milan line-up but despite his two goals at Venezia, Javi Moreno was relegated to the bench.

There were many individual battles on the field - most notably the right flank duel between Clarence Seedorf and Kakha Kaladze, and the sprint racers Andriy Shevchenko and Ivan Cordoba.

The first real opportunity fell to Milan just before the break when Cosmin Contra's perfect cross was floated into the box, but Jose Mari incredibly nodded wide of an open goal.

Soon after Vratislav Gresko proved crucial in preventing Rui Costa's header and Francesco Toldo made a desperate save on Kaladze. The second half continued to see Ancelotti's men having the better of the play and Shevchenko's angled drive shaved the far post.

Christian Vieri was generally kept quiet and the first time he was able to find space the hitman fired over from a good position. Alvaro Recoba was particularly disappointing and stormed off without saluting Cuper when he was replaced.

Vieri has rescued Inter so many times this season and again the Italian international broke the deadlock with an individual moment of brilliance. The striker combined well with Nicola Ventola and pounced on the loose ball from Christian Abbiati's reaction save.

Javi Moreno was thrown onto the field but in the final minutes Abbiati was forced to slap Cristiano Zanetti's effort onto the post.

Milan: Abbiati, Contra, Costacurta (Laursen 70), Roque Junior, Chamot; Gattuso, Albertini (Ba 80), Kaladze; Rui Costa; Shevchenko, Josè Mari (Javi Moreno 86)

Inter: Toldo; J Zanetti, Cordoba, Materazzi, Gresko; Seedorf, Di Biagio, C Zanetti, Recoba (Conceicao 66); Vieri, Ventola (Kallon 80)

Ref: Collina

Bons Baisers From Ronaldo
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Ronaldo will watch Sunday night's derby from his beach house in Rio. However he has voiced his support for his team-mates, whom he believes have the chance to enact revenge upon AC Milan after last year's humiliations.

"And AC Milan have suffered a lot to beat Roda, going all the way to extra time. Maybe they will be more tired than us?".

Ronaldo also had words of praise for Inter's battling performance in Athens against AEK: "They were really brave". Especially Vratislav Gresko, who went ballistic agaist the Greeks.

Donati desperate to stop Inter succeeding
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AC Milan's Massimo Donati is not afraid of admitting that his team would do anything to prevent city rivals Inter from winning the Scudetto.

Donati openly declares that the main reason for wanting to defeat Inter on Sunday is to make the title hunt a little harder for them.

"We want to collect three points because we don't want Inter to win the Scudetto," he said. "The last derby has given me an incredible emotion even though I only got to play the last 10 minutes.

"However I believe that the Derby everyone will always remember is last year, when AC Milan crushed Inter 6-0."

Back then, however, Donati was impressing at Atalanta, but he has disappointed since his big move to AC Milan.

However the Under-21 player refuses to be blamed for his lacklustre performances, and says that he can't be expected to work miracles.

"It's not true that I'm a player who has let down his supporters. The whole team performed badly this season but I've been targeted because I'm the youngest one here," he said.

"I did what Carlo Ancelotti wanted me to do, but the fans can't expect me to swerve past the entire defence of our opponents and score.

"I simply am not playing at the same level I had with Atalanta, because in Bergamo I used to play every week, while here I play a match every five games."

Free-scoring Ventola sets sights on Milan
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Nicola Ventola has set his sights on shooting down city-rivals Milan after scoring in his third consecutive match to take Inter into the Uefa Cup quarter-finals.

"I'm in good form at the moment and that's why I'm scoring decisive goals, and I want to continue scoring against Milan," he said.

AEK, trailing 3-1 from the first leg, briefly looked like enjoying a memorable evening on Thursday when Demis Nikolaidis put them 2-1 ahead on the night after the break, but his team-mates were still celebrating when Nicola Ventola stole in to restore Inter's two-goal aggregate cushion and earn the Italian side a quarter-final place.

Hector Cuper's Inter are sitting at the summit of Serie A, and Ventola has played an important part in that success, scoring in the 3-2 victory over Udinese last weekend.

Now the Nerazzurri are out to avenge the 4-2 defeat inflicted by their rivals early in the season in Sunday's Milan derby.

Ventola was on target in that game, and is keen to repeat the feat in the San Siro this weekend, but he emphasised that the intense rivalry will not obscure Inter's championship ambitions.

"I would like to score against Milan again, like I did in the first match of the season," he said. "But if you ask me if I would prefer a goal in the derby or to win the title, I would have no doubt about the answer – the Scudetto."

In the absence of Ronaldo, Ventola has fought off the challenge of Alvaro Recoba and Mohammed Kallon to establish himself as Christian Vieri's strike partner in recent matches.

Vieri has already scored 17 goals in 16 Serie A games this season and Ventola has weighed in with nine himself.

"I'm proud to play alongside as great a player as Christian Vieri, but it is also my job to score goals, that is what brings me happiness," he said.

Inter are having a successful season, with Argentine coach Cuper turning around their fortunes by introducing some consistency to Serie A's perennial under-achievers.

Ventola has played a crucial role in this revival, coming into his own in the Inter set-up for the first time since his £10 million transfer from Bari.

After a successful spell on loan to Atalanta in the 1999-2000 season, the young Italian began to fulfil his promise with some impressive performances in the absence of Ronaldo and Vieri last season.

The Nerazzurri will now hope to continue reaping the rewards of Ventola's emergence against Milan on Sunday.

Contra defers penalty glory to Abbiati
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Cosmin Contra scored the decisive penalty in AC Milan's tense Uefa Cup shoot-out victory over Roda but claimed that all praise for the win should go to keeper Christian Abbiati.

"Abbiati was the one who ensured we won," the Romanian defender said. "When it looked like we were going to collapse, he saved two penalties and gave us hope."

Milan underwent a gruelling 120 minutes against the Dutch side, failing to score despite Roda playing with ten men for part of the game.

Marco Luijpers shocked the near empty San Siro to make it 1-0 on the night and levelling the tie on aggregate.

"We had chances to score, but we failed to convert them. After several good matches we made a big mistake with their goal tonight, Now, it's derby time: it could be more important for us than for Inter Milan," said the Romanian left-back.

Abbiati was in an understandably jovial mood after the game, but remained modest about his heroics.

"When things go the right way, it is easy for the supporters to love their team - I'm joking, obviously," said a smiling Abbiati.

"The simple fact is that I was luckier than Roda's goalkeeper. As a goalkeeper you have nothing to lose - If you save you're a hero - If you don't... well it was a penalty. I dedicate my saves to my mum and dad," he added.

Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti, who rested star striker Andrei Shevchenko, was pleased by the result, and dismissed the idea that his side had been saving themselves for the derby.

"We didn't play well but I'm still happy. We created a lot of chances but they scored in their only attempt.

"It's not true that we were thinking ahead to the derby. Now we are in the quarter-finals and we can begin thinking about Sunday's match more calmly.

"Rino Gattuso captained the side for the first time. I had Albertini, Costacurta and Maldini out, so he was the oldest player on the pitch.

"We played with courage and I'm entirely satisfied. I'm sure that on Sunday we will play with even more determination, as the we'll be playing for the leadership of the city," he concluded.

New law ousts Milan supremo
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AC Milan president Silvio Berlusconi will step down as AC Milan president after the Italian parliament passed conflicts of interest legislation.

The Italian government has told the club's president, who is also the country's Prime Minister, that he will have to leave his position after 16 years at the San Siro.

Berlusconi may also have to hand over some of his other assets, such as his newspaper company, shopping malls and insurance firms.

However, he will be able to retain ownership of his TV network, Mediaset (among other things), but Parliament has insisted that he resigns from his post as president of the Rossoneri.

The AC Milan presidency will remain in the family, as the senior Berlusconi will pass on the job to his eldest son Piersilvio. Adriano Galliani, who has so far been taking care of the team since Berlusconi started his political career back in 1993, will retain his post as the team's managing director and vice-president.

AC Milan 0 - 1 (3-2 on pen.) Roda - match report
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Milan are through to the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup after a penalty shoot-out win against Roda JC.

The Rossoneri had to thank the heroics of goalkeeper Christian Abbiati and Cosmin Contra for converting the final spot-kick in a game Milan will want to erase from their memories as quickly as possible.

Having won 1-0 in Holland a week ago, Carlo Ancelotti was expecting a comfortable ride at the San Siro. But after Roda’s 70th minute goal he may have been regretting the decision to rest star striker Andriy Shevchenko.

Roda started the game in confident mood and caused panic in the Milan rearguard after just eight minutes when Contra got himself in trouble before recovering the ball to safety.

On 13 minutes Roda were then denied a penalty after what seemed to be contact between Tchoutang and Abbiati. Milan looked disjointed and Roda were clearly the team in control in the first 45 minutes.

The second half saw a more aggressive Milan side. Manuel Rui Costa saw his free-kick expertly saved by Kalac. But Ancelotti’s men failed to take any control and their offensive play was nothing but predictable.

The Rossoneri were punished for their desperate performance on 70 minutes when a stunning left footed volley from Luijpers left Abbiati helpless, as the ball sneaked under the bar to draw the aggregate score level.

Marco Simone was brought on for his first European start of the season and he went close on a number of occasions before Roda were left with 10 men following the dismissal of Vrede for two yellow cards.

However, the Dutch side held on to take it into extra-time. The extra 30 minutes came and went with both sides having opportunities in a game that had little shape or rhythm.

Jose Mari wasted two prime chances for the home side to go through when he somehow contrived to miss both.

Roda started the shoot-out and did look likely to go through after both Jose Mari and Kakha Kaladze missed their kicks.

But Abbiati did his side proud with consecutive saves against Soetaers and Luijpers. And when Van Der Luer blasted Roda’s last kick over the bar, Contra stepped up to book a quarter final place against Hapoel Tel Aviv – victors of Parma earlier in the evening.

Milan: Abbiati; Contra, Roque Junior, Laursen, Chamot, Kaladze, Gattuso, Donati (Pirlo 105), Rui Costa (Simone 70), Jose Mari, Javi Moreno (Brocchi 81)

Roda JC: Kalac; Sonkaya, Vrede, Luijpers, Lachambre (Sonko 46, Van Der Luer 120), Tchoutang, Rudge, Nygaard, Van Dessel, Lawal, Anastasiou

Ref: Stark (Germany)

Sent Off: Vrede 86

Roda> Anastasiou (goal), Lawal (goal), Soetaers (miss), Luijpers (miss), Van Der Luer (miss)
Milan> Brocchi (goal), Jose Mari (miss), Kaladze (miss), Pirlo (goal), Contra (goal)

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