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The Archive

March 2004

Chelsea warned over Sheva
31.3 || scharatz

Milan have told Chelsea to forget about making any sort of offer for star striker Andriy Shevchenko.

English media reports have suggested that the Ukrainian is high on the outfit’s wish list after another sensational season with the Rossoneri.

Yet the European Champions insist that they will not entertain any bid – no matter how high it is.

"We are not a club that sells our best players," stated director general Ariedo Braida. "That obviously includes Shevchenko."

The former Dynamo Kiev ace has been the side’s main goal threat this term after netting 20 goals in Serie A.

The player himself has admitted in the past that he would like to remain with the club for life and his agent has confirmed that view.

"Let us not forget that Andriy is tied to the club until June 2006," stated Fabio Parisi. "Therefore we are in no real rush to talk about his future.

"We will only start to discuss the possibility of a contract extension at the end of this campaign.

"For now, Shevchenko is just focused on winning everything that there is left to win this term."

Nesta set for return
31.3 || scharatz

Alessandro Nesta believes he could be back for Milan this Sunday after recovering from injury.

The international picked up a muscle strain in the recent 3-1 win at Juventus but he is hoping to play at Modena this weekend.

"I’m feeling good and I could return to the team in the next game," he stated. "I’ll have a few tests carried out on Wednesday before resuming full training."

The Rossoneri certainly seem to have missed the international in recent weeks. That was evident in the 2-2 draw with Chievo.

"It is only normal that the defence may have had a few difficulties as the Coach has been forced to play with the same men all of the time," he added.

"We’ve had a lot of injuries back there but let’s hope that a few players will be able to get a break soon."

Nesta was also questioned on whether teammate Paolo Maldini could be a part of Euro 2004 with Italy.

"Paolo knows that all of us in the squad would be happy if he joined us again because he is an important player," added the former Lazio man.

"However, he will have the final say on the matter because he is the best person to decide on whether he should return or not."

Maldini, 36, retired from the Azzurri scene after the 2002 World Cup Finals.

Rui denies Benfica deal
30.3 || scharatz

Manuel Rui Costa insists his future is at Milan despite talk of a summer switch to Benfica.

The midfielder has been heavily linked with a return to his former club but he has denied speculation that a deal has been done.

"I have no agreement with Benfica," said the Portuguese star. "Whoever says I have are kidding themselves and everybody else.

"I have not spoken to any Benfica officials and I still have two years left on my Milan contract."

The midfielder has admitted that he would like to end his career with his ex-club and they are keen on having him back.

It is understood that the Italian giants would like to keep hold of him for one more season but rumours suggest that the international may put in a transfer request.

Rui Costa, also wanted by Paris SG, has sat out most of the second half of this season thanks to the fine form of Brazilian ace Kaka.

The playmaker caught the eye of many of Europe’s top clubs after spending three years with Benfica in the early 90s.

A move to Fiorentina followed before he was sold for financial reasons to Milan in the summer of 2001.

Berlusconi excludes Davids bid
29.3 || scharatz

Milan chief Silvio Berlusconi has ruled out the summer capture of Barcelona star Edgar Davids.

The Dutchman, who is currently on loan in Spain from Juventus, will be available on a free transfer at the end of this season.

Milan are known to be interested in bringing him back to the San Siro, after his previous spell with the club, but the Rossoneri President has excluded a bid.

"I don’t think it will be easy for us to take him away from Barca," he stated. "They want to keep hold of him so I can’t see him leaving.

"Anyway, after three years of heavy spending we believe it is right to have a break and keep an eye on our finances.

"We won’t be making any massive buys once the next transfer window opens. There will be just one addition in defence."

It is expected that the stopper Milan will swoop for is Lazio ace Jaap Stam. He has already hinted that he is keen on a move to the Rossoneri.

Rossoneri go bargain hunting
28.3 || scharatz

Milan aim to bring in three experienced stars at cut-down prices for next season to strengthen an already solid squad.

The San Siro giants have been very astute on the transfer market over the last year, bringing in Marcos Cafu and Giuseppe Pancaro on a free while paying under £5m for Brazilian starlet Kaka’.

Vice-President Adriano Galliani now aims to repeat that trick by signing Jaap Stam, Edgar Davids and Jonathan Zebina for a similar sum.

Lazio defender Stam has already made it clear that he wishes to join Milan despite interest from Inter and Juventus.

His contract with the Capital club expires in 2005 and he will be sold in the summer to avoid him leaving for nothing a year later.

This is the situation that is currently developing at Roma, as Zebina has still not signed a new deal and will be out of contract in July.

The real surprise will seemingly be the return of Edgar Davids to the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza.

The Dutchman is currently on loan at Barcelona, but his contract with Juventus is out in the summer and he could join Milan on a free transfer.

It would not be the first time he has worn the red and black jersey, as Davids first joined them from Ajax in 1996.

His time was short-lived due to problems within the squad and a broken leg, but he showed his true worth at Juve and could now take another stab at glory with Milan.

AC Milan 2:2 Chievo Verona - report
28.3 || scharatz

Sculli 22 (C), Perrotta 39 (C), Pirlo 80 (M), Shevchenko 96 (M)
Stadio San Siro

The Rossoneri completed another incredible comeback to draw 2-2 after being 2-0 down for much of the game.

Milan are possibly the on form team in Europe right now and earned praise from across the globe for their 4-1 demolition of Deportivo La Coruna midweek. Carlo Ancelotti opted to rest Andriy Shevchenko in favour of Jon Dahl Tomasson for this match.

Chievo have struggled somewhat this year compared to previous campaigns, but retain their ability to frustrate opposition midfields. Mario Alberto Santana and the suspended Amauri were out of action, so Giuseppe Sculli partnered Federico Cossato.

As expected, Chievo opted to sit back and smother the play with occasional long-range efforts from Luciano and Cossato.

Pippo Inzaghi is still looking for full fitness and he was unable to make the most of an inspired Kaka' pass after ten minutes.

However, it was Chievo who struck first with a classic counter-attack. Luciano charged up the field and Cossato's dummy was crucial in giving Giuseppe Sculli the space to sidefoot home.

The Flying Donkeys could have doubled their lead moments later, only for Cossato to scuff his shot.

Inzaghi had the perfect opportunity to draw level when he sprung the offside trap and went round the goalkeeper, but he then incredibly fired over a completely open goal from twelve yards.

It proved a very costly error, as Simone Perrotta skipped past Paolo Maldini and placed a powerful shot into the roof of the net past the helpless Dida.

Milan continued to waste chances as Giuseppe Pancaro's free header on an Andrea Pirlo free kick was over the bar from less than seven yards.

The Rossoneri needed to push and went for an all-out attack squad with Manuel Rui Costa and Andriy Shevchenko replacing Clarence Seedorf and Tomasson.

Milan thought they had got one back with a looping Shevchenko header, but Luca Marchegiani flew to prevent a certain goal.

It was a siege on the Chievo goal, but they held out well at the San Siro, Marchegiani again performing a fine save on Rui Costa's shot.

Yet the Flying Donkeys thought they had made it 3-0 when Dida dropped Perrotta's drive and Cossato turned in the loose ball, but it was disallowed for an offside position.

Moments later Dida rushed off his line to clear off Marco Malago' as it was end to end stuff with continual counter-attacks from both sides.

Their hopes were reignited with a magnificent strike from Andrea Pirlo. The midfielder picked up the ball from Rui Costa a good 35 metres out and blasted home an unstoppable shot that curled away from Marchegiani's hand to slot into the far corner.

Moments later substitute Massimo Ambrosini's shot nutmegged a defender but skimmed the near post.

Five minutes of stoppages were awarded, but more had to be added on as Marchegiani required treatment for a thigh injury. Chievo had completed their substitutions, so he had to hang on with gritted teeth.

It proved a disaster for them, as in the closing ten seconds of play Shevchenko rose to nod in from eight yards and Marchegiani could not stretch enough to palm it over the bar.

Milan: Dida; Cafu, Costacurta, Maldini, Pancaro; Gattuso (Ambrosini ), Pirlo, Seedorf (Rui Costa 46); Kaka; Inzaghi, Tomasson (Shevchenko 46)

Chievo: Marchegiani; Moro, Barzagli, D'Anna, Lanna; Luciano (Malago' 64), Perrotta, Baronio (Morrone 87), Semioli; Sculli (Pellissier 79), Cossato

Ref: Paparesta

AC Milan vs. Chievo Verona - preview
27.3 || scharatz

The Rossoneri are charging towards the Scudetto, but face a tough test against a side known for frustrating opposition midfields.

Milan are temporarily ten points clear at the top awaiting the rescheduled Rome derby, but risk distraction from their midweek Champions’ League clash with Deportivo La Coruna. Alessandro Costacurta may be rested as he filled in for the injured Alessandro Nesta, giving Danish international Martin Laursen a look in. Andriy Shevchenko and Kaka could also step aside for Manuel Rui Costa, Pippo Inzaghi and Jon Dahl Tomasson, as the Dane bagged a brace in last week’s 3-1 win over Parma.

Chievo are not quite as impressive as in previous campaigns, but remain a tough nut to crack, especially on their travels. The Flying Donkeys have picked up 18 of their total 32 points away from home – including a stalemate with Inter in the San Siro earlier this month.

Goals have been a real issue this season with just one goal in their last five games, and that was a Lorenzo D’Anna penalty. Amauri is suspended with Sergio Pellissier, Federico Cossato and Mario Alberto Santana injured, so young hitman Giuseppe Sculli could come in as a long striker with support from Luciano. The midfield has always been Gigi Del Neri’s strong point and he will order his men to close off Milan’s creative centres.

Milan (probable): Dida; Cafu, Laursen, Maldini, Pancaro; Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf; Rui Costa; Tomasson, Inzaghi

Chievo (probable): Marchegiani; Moro, Barzagli, D’Anna, Lanna; Malagò, Perrotta, Baronio, Semioli; Luciano; Sculli

Kaka' eyes Brazil spot
27.3 || scharatz

Kaka’s first Serie A season has earned him international praise, but the next step up the career ladder is a place in the Brazil squad.

“Despite everything I am doing with Milan,” noted the 21-year-old, “I am certainly not guaranteed a spot in the Selecao line-up.”

The former Sao Paolo starlet has taken a massive step up since his summer move to the Rossoneri and set the Champions’ League alight with a brace against Deportivo La Coruna.

“With all the great players that Brazil can count on, it is not a sure thing that I will make it into the side.”

Kaka’s arrival pushed Rivaldo out of the Milan squad and he seems to have replaced the veteran in his homeland as well.

The creative midfielder was expected to take time in order to settle into the European style, but he has made a remarkable impact.

“I was told that I’d find all sorts of difficulties when coming to Serie A,” he explains. “The truth is that the biggest difference has been tactical discipline, which is very rigorous in Italy compared to Brazil.”

“I tried to adapt myself to this new style of play without leaving behind my tendency to improvise. That was the key.”

Maldini: We're the Real deal
26.3 || scharatz

Paolo Maldini celebrates Silvio Berlusconi’s 18th year of Presidency by claiming Milan are better than Real Madrid and can still improve.

“This is the most technically gifted and innovative side I have ever played in,” revealed the legendary captain.

“We are as strong as Real Madrid going forward, but have a much better defence and I wouldn’t ever change places with the Spaniards.”

The Rossoneri are currently among the favourites – along with Madrid and Arsenal – to lift the Champions’ League trophy following their 4-1 demolition of Deportivo La Coruna.

This is a very special week for Maldini, as he is set to extend his contract until 2006 and celebrates the 18th anniversary of the day President Silvio Berlusconi took charge.

Berlusconi took over the club on March 26 1986 and since then has picked up six Scudetto titles, four European Cups, four European Supercups, four Italian Supercups, two Intercontinental Cups and a Coppa Italia.

“After the Deportivo game,” reveals the defender, “the President came into the dressing room and said he enjoys our style of play so much that even if we don’t win he is happy anyway. That filled us with pride.”

However, the 36-year-old admits that Milan could further improve their squad next season with the increasingly likely return of Edgar Davids.

“We should change our approach to games so we can start strongly instead of always changing gear after the break, but there could be a new arrival in the summer.”

Davids has already spent just over a year with this club, but broke his leg and moved to Juventus when he resumed full fitness.

“He arrived in a difficult time for Milan,” assures Maldini, “but although he has a strong personality there were never any real clashes with his teammates. He would be very welcome if he were to return.”

Benfica line up Manuel
26.3 || scharatz

Benfica have made initial contact with Milan to enquire about Manuel Rui Costa, according to reports.

The Portuguese side took advantage of their UEFA Cup trip to Inter, which they lost 4-3 last night, by meeting with the Rossoneri.

The midfielder has admitted that he would like to end his career with his former club and they are keen on having him back.

It is understood that the Italian giants would like to keep hold of him for one more season but the international may put in a transfer request.

Rui Costa, also wanted by Paris SG, has sat out most of the second half of this season thanks to the fine form of Brazilian ace Kaka.

The playmaker caught the eye of many of Europe’s top clubs after spending three years with Benfica in the early 90s.

A move to Fiorentina followed before he was sold for financial reasons to Milan in the summer of 2001.

Giggs impressed by Milan
25.3 || Seamus

Ryan Giggs commented Milan's brilliant performance against Deportivo, stating that no one can stop the rossoneri from reaching a second consecutive final.

The Manchester United winger declared: "I watched the match between Milan and Deportivo La Coruna on tv and I was very impressed by the rossoneri. They were already my favourites to win the Champions League and yesterday's match confirmed this. I can't see how anyone can stop them from reaching the final."

Maldini set for Euro 2004?
25.3 || Seamus

Milan legend Paolo Maldini has revealed that he may be tempted to return to the international scene.

The stopper quit the Azzurri after the 2002 World Cup but there are calls for him to be a part of Euro 2004.

Although he had insisted that he will not wear the Italy shirt again, he has today admitted that he could have a rethink.

"If I changed my mind then I would talk to boss Giovanni Trapattoni directly and not via the media," he stated.

There have been suggestions that there is some friction between Maldini and some sections of the Azzurri squad that may be blocking his return.

But the captain has dismissed such a claim. "I’ve never had any trouble with anybody and that includes Francesco Totti," he stated.

While the 36-year-old wasn’t too sure about his international future, he did confirm that he would continue his club career with Milan.

"My contract expires in 2005," he added. "I still haven’t signed a new deal but an agreement is in place which will keep me here until 2006."

Maldini, who is having another fantastic season at the San Siro, has been at the club for over 20 years.

Maldini: Minister of defence
24.3 || scharatz

The Italian Prime Minister will try to persuade Paolo Maldini to come out of international retirement for Euro 2004.

"Maldini is in great form," said Silvio Berlusconi, who is also the Milan President. "I think he could be of real use to the national side."

The legendary Milan defender quit the Azzurri scene after the 2002 World Cup but many believe he should be brought back into the side.

Italy boss Giovanni Trapattoni has asked him to return on a number of occasions but with no success.

But now Berlusconi has revealed that he will discuss the matter with the 36-year-old after another extraordinary season.

"Paolo would be a very important figure in Portugal," he continued. "I’ll work hard to convince him to wear the Azzurri shirt again."

Milan switch improved Kaka
24.3 || scharatz

The agent of Milan ace Kaka believes his move to Italy has seen his client move onto another level.

"I think that people need to praise those who had faith in him," said Giovanni Branchini. "This is not the Kaka that people saw in Brazil.

"This is a different player, one that has found the right surroundings in Milan to explode onto the football scene."

The Brazilian, signed in the summer from Sao Paulo for just £4.5m, impressed the whole of Europe last night.

The attacking midfielder scored twice in a splendid display during the 4-1 destruction of Deportivo La Coruna.

The South American’s performance was also approved by President Silvio Berlusconi. "He was extraordinary," stated the Italian Prime Minister.

"We scored four goals but they could have been much more. There were three wrong offside decisions which would have led to goals."

Another key figure in the win was Andrea Pirlo, who curled in Milan’s fourth with an effortless free-kick.

"I’m playing well but so too is the team," said the former Inter flop. "We are a very determined side."

The Rossoneri now look likely to face Porto in the semi-finals but the Italian ace wasn’t getting carried away.

"We still have the second leg to play so we really shouldn’t look too far ahead," he added. "An ideal final? Let’s say Milan-Real Madrid."

The Spaniards take on Monaco this evening in the first leg of their quarter final tie.

Maldini: "Milan Are Good For Football"
23.3 || webmaster

Paolo Maldini and Andriy Shevchenko reveal the secret to Milan’s success and believe this team is “good for football.”

Paolo Maldini was a risk going into this game with a muscular problem, but insisted Milan have shaken off their ‘dull’ reputation.

“I am truly proud of being the captain of this squad that wins and plays great football. To have a side like this is a good thing for the sport and I think even neutral viewers will appreciate us,” said the veteran defender.

Deportivo took the lead with an early goal that saw the Milan defence uncharacteristically caught short.

“These games are always tense and we conceded a goal with their first real attempt. But our strength is that we remain united all the time and think things through without panicking, so we were able to play our way out of trouble.”

Milan have played in La Coruna twice and won both times, including last season’s 4-0 victory, but above all remain unbeaten away from home in Europe this season.

“It is a great result,” noted Maldini, “and we know full well that if we play the way we have on our travels so far this season, we’ll get a goal at the Riazor.”

Porto are on target to reach the final four after beating Lyon 2-0 in the first leg of their encounter.

“I prefer to wait until after the second legs before making any statements on the semi’s,” said Andriy Shevchenko.

“This is a great squad and deserves everything it is achieving this season. We all work together and I wanted Pippo Inzaghi to score as you could tell he really wanted it. I believe he did score and it was disallowed for an incorrect offside decision.”

The Ukrainian is currently the Serie A top scorer, but has never won the Italian title since arriving at the San Siro.

“The Champions’ League is certainly more important than the Scudetto, but we are currently on target for both of them and it would be a great double.”

“The fans are enjoying our football and we are certainly having fun out there on the field, and that is our secret.”

Deportivo La Coruna Coach Javier Irureta realised that taking this team to its first ever semi-final spot is a difficult task.

“I think that the first goal hit us hard, but the second one after just 20 seconds really knocked the wind out of my men.”

“In the space of eight minutes they really did take full advantage of the situation and made the match very difficult to recover.”

“Reaching the quarter-finals is now very complicated for us,” continued Irureta, “but there are another 90 minutes at the Riazor and we will aim to score early on.”

Deportivo have won all their home games in this edition of the Champions’ League and this gives them hope of turning the tie around.

“We have a good home record, but scoring three goals and keeping a clean sheet will be a tough ask against this Milan side.”

Ancelotti: "We Want To Win In Spain"
23.3 || webmaster

Milan have a 4-1 lead over Deportivo, but Carlo Ancelotti insists they will go to the Riazor with the intention of attacking.

“The right tactic is to go to the Riazor and try to repeat this same performance,” commented the Coach. “We have a consistent and deserved lead, so we must attempt to increase it in the second leg.”

The Rossoneri were 1-1 at half-time, but in the space of eight second-half minutes pierced Molina’s net three times.

“We had a good first half as well with plenty of chances, even if we went to sleep on the Deportivo goal, but after that we increased the pressure and deserved to equalise.”

The lead could have been even more substantial had the Russian linesman not raised his flag a little too hastily.

“Some of those offside flags certainly seemed to be incorrect,” sighed Ancelotti, “but it was a great performance from the side that continued our fine form.”

No club side has ever retained the trophy since the inception of the Champions’ League, but after this performance Milan are among the favourites.

“This is a very strong side that seems to find everything easy at the moment. In my view it is the strongest I have ever Coached or been a part of.”

“Everyone deserves praise for the wonderful team spirit that has surrounded this side all season. Kaka’ is particularly impressive and often finds himself going for goal, which is valuable for a Trequartista.”

Ancelotti was known as a ‘loser’ up until lifting this trophy in May, but he could be heading for the European and Scudetto double.

“We are really in fifth gear now and want to stay there,” insisted the former Juventus boss. “The team is healthy and must only concentrate on keeping up this extraordinary pace.”

Ancelotti also explained the tactical changes that saw Milan emerge victorious after a difficult start.

“Andrea Pirlo struggled to control Valeron at the start, but we moved Gennaro Gattuso over a little and that gave him the kind of freedom to roam and do his inimitable thing.”

And yet he admits that after half an hour of play he did fear that it would not be Milan’s day.

“When you concede such a silly early goal then some doubts come to mind, especially as recently we haven’t been keeping many clean sheets, but the team reacted in the right way and we can now work on this aspect.”

AC Milan 4:1 Deportivo La Coruna - report
23.3 || scharatz

Pandiani 11 (D), Kaka' 45, 49 (M), Shevchenko 46 (M), Pirlo 53 (M)
San Siro

Kaka' bagged a brace as Milan recovered from an early goal to thrash Deportivo La Coruna 4-1 in the quarter-final.

Milan are the only remaining Italian team in the Champions' League and the trophy holders came face to face with Deportivo La Coruna, the side that conquered Juventus in the second round.

Carlo Ancelotti made just one change from the formation that beat Parma 3-1 at the weekend, bringing back Pippo Inzaghi in place of Jon Dahl Tomasson. Both Dida and Paolo Maldini recovered from fitness worries, while Alessandro Cosacurta filled in for the injured Alessandro Nesta.

Maldini was a risk with a slight muscular problem, but took the field for his 130th European club match.

The Rossoneri had a good start, but Clarence Seedorf's cross was just a little too deep for Marcos Cafu at full stretch, while the Spaniards aimed to sit back and soak up pressure.

Costacurta performed a crucial intervention before Walter Pandiani could pounce, but on the resulting corner kick the Uruguayan was left completely unmarked to nod in from six yards as the defence was caught ball-watching.

It was a rare and appalling defensive error from Milan and an away goal could prove crucial in this tie. Deportivo were unbeaten in their two previous trips to the San Siro, but Milan have won both their games in La Coruna.

The home side poured forward soon after, but Inzaghi's first touch let him down on Cafu's centre in what was a very promising scoring opportunity.

Moments later Kaka' volleyed Seedorf's long cross wide from five yards at the back post, but the Brazilian may have been distracted by Andriy Shevchenko's attempted header.

Seedorf then went for glory himself with a fierce left-foot drive from almost 20 metres, but it whistled inches wide of the upright.

There were a series of Milan chances squandered, as on 24 minutes Shevchenko sprung the offside trap only for his glancing header to go off target.

Less than a minute later Inzaghi flicked Giuseppe Pancaro's cross with the outside of his foot, but it was a very difficult move that did not find the net.

Kaka's dummy was deflected back to him and the young Brazilian's follow-up was straight at Molina as the pressure increased.

It turned into a siege and Capdevila bravely intercepted the ball before Seedorf could aim his angled drive at the far corner.

Then Inzaghi chested the ball past his marker, but Molina rushed off his line to clear with his knee.

But this left them unbalanced at the back and Aldo Duscher fired wide after some great approach play from Valeron. That chance eased the pressure on Deportivo and Milan began to run out of steam as half-time approached.

However, in the final minute of the first half Milan finally grabbed their deserved equaliser through Kaka'. The Brazilian held up Cafu's curling cross and thumped it into the net on the half-volley past a helpless Molina.

The goal sparked their enthusiasm and the fans thought a second had been scored when Seedorf's long cross found Inzaghi, but his header was incredibly off target at the back post.

The players certainly seemed to hold on to that thought throughout the break, as within 20 seconds of the restart Shevchenko gave Milan the lead with a fantastic solo effort. The Ukrainian flicked the ball round Mauro Silva, dribbled past Naybet and slid an angled drive into the far corner.

There was controversy three minutes later as Inzaghi hit the back of the net, but his effort was cancelled out due to a very dubious offside decision.

The fans didn't have long to wait as moments later Kaka' bagged his second of the game by gathering Seedorf's cutback on the edge of the box and driving a precise low drive past Molina.

Deportivo were shaken and Milan kept on putting the knife in as Andrea Pirlo curled in a magnificent free kick despite Molina getting a hand to it as it flew in under the crossbar.

Including the first half, the Rossoneri scored four goals in 14 minutes of football and confirmed their tendency to improve results after the break.

Pirlo then showed his ability at placing accurate long passes and Inzaghi's glancing header was well controlled by the Spanish goalkeeper.

Deportivo had a good chance wasted by Pandiani, as the Uruguayan's volley was well over the bar, then Dida plucked his header out of the air.

The visitors introduced attacking midfielder Fran in place of Aldo Duscher in an attempt to get another away goal, but Pandiani turned another couple of efforts off target.

Pancaro was not 100 per cent fit and asked to be substituted, so Carlo Ancelotti threw on pacey winger Serginho for the left-back role.

Deportivo took the initiative as Milan got their breath back, but Dida blocked a fierce Fran effort from distance.

The Brazilian goalkeeper was in doubt ahead of this game with a back problem, but he performed a crucial save on Pandiani's bullet header.

Massimo Ambrosini replaced Inzaghi to shore up the midfield and protect this result in the final minutes.

Shevchenko was heading for his second of the match eight minutes from time, but his run was halted for a very dubious offside decision.

It was his last move, as Jon Dahl Tomasson came on after scoring a brace against Parma last Saturday.

Kaka' had the opportunity to complete his hat-trick soon after when Cafu cut back for him unmarked on the edge of the box, but he ballooned it over the bar.

Milan battled with the linesman during the Second Round win over Sparta Prague and there were further problems when Tomasson was stopped for an incorrect offside decision as he broke away from the defence.

Milan: Dida; Cafu, Costacurta, Maldini, Pancaro (Serginho 72); Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf; Kakà; Shevchenko (Tomasson 84), Inzaghi (Ambrosini 79)

Deportivo La Coruna: Molina; Scaloni, Andrade, Naybet, Capdevila; Mauro Silva, Duscher (Fran 66); Sergio (Manuel Pablo 81), Valeron, Luque (Tristan 83); Pandiani

Ref: Ivanov (Rus)

Carlo has Deportivo doubts
22.3 || scharatz

Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti says he has just two injury concerns for the Champions’ League tie against Deportivo La Coruna.

The Spaniards visit the San Siro tomorrow night in the first leg of the quarter-finals and it is unclear at this stage whether goalkeeper Nelson Dida and captain Paolo Maldini will be available.

"The squad is in good shape," stated the tactician. "I just need to evaluate the fitness of Dida and Maldini.

"Nelson is still in pain from the knock he received in the Parma game and he will therefore need a test before the start of the game. I’m optimistic about Paolo though."

Ancelotti wasn’t giving much away with regards to his starting line-up, even if he did reveal that Pippo Inzaghi would start after he was rested at the weekend.

Milan have regularly faced Deportivo in recent seasons but Ancelotti believes that won’t make a difference on Tuesday.

"They are certainly a side that we know well but every game is different," he said. "After all we beat them 4-0 in Spain last year before losing 2-1 once we had already qualified."

Milan have been flying high in Italy but Ancelotti has surprising admitted that he would be happy with a 0-0 draw.

"We are playing at home first and that is no advantage," he added. "We must give our best but a draw wouldn’t be the end of the world. It is just important to not concede a goal."

Ancelotti added that he perhaps would have been happier facing Real Madrid rather than Deportivo at this stage of the season. "Real seem in more difficulties at this moment in time," he stated.

However, Real director general Jorge Valdano also stated today that he is confident his side will do a League and Cup double.

"Our two objectives this term are winning our League and the Champions’ League," said the Argentine. "We have a great chance of collecting both."

Milan probable: Dida (Abbiati); Cafu, Costacurta, Maldini, Pancaro; Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf; Kaka; Inzaghi, Shevchenko

AC Milan vs. Deportivo La Coruna - preview
22.3 || scharatz

There seems to be a mistaken belief around the football world that Milan's path to the final is a foregone conclusion after they were placed in the opposite half of the draw to Real Madrid and Arsenal.

True, if they get past Deportivo in this mouth-watering quarterfinal they will be hot favourites to beat either Porto or Lyon but that is a big if. Depor have shown time and time again that they can play ball on the big European stage and they aren't about to role over now.

Any team that disposes of Juventus with such ease over two legs must be considered a threat. And this is a more hardy Depor side than in previous seasons. With Jorge Andrade –excellent in the 1-0 Delle Alpi win- enjoying a rocklike season at the back, the Galicians are a far more durable outfit than in previous years. The big Portuguese centre-back has made all the difference, and one senses that he may just be playing his football with Barcelona or Real Madrid in a season or two.

Of course, Andrade is not the only thing Depor have going for them. Javier Irureta's side play some of the most entertaining football in Europe on their day, and in subtle playmaker Juan Carlos Valeron, midfield ball-winner Mauro Silva and elegant winger-come-striker Alberto Luque, they have three players who would grace any stadium.

Milan, Depor will soon find out, are a different prospect to Juventus. Carlo Ancelotti's 'machine' just churns out result after result, with Parma the latest victims to be brushed aside by Kaka and co. Jon Dahl Tomasson and Andriy Shevchenko may have scored the goals, but the Brazilian wonder kid stole the headlines once again with another stellar display.

The Rossoneri have no obvious weakness, with a solid goalkeeper and defence, a midfield with the ability to win the ball back from the opposition and start new attacks at the flick of a boot, and three in-form strikers who look like gobbling up any chances that come their way.


Milan's Last Six Matches: DWWWWW

Milan reached the quarter finals after a 4-1 aggregate win over Sparta Prague in the previous round. In the league, wins over Lazio, Sampdoria, Juventus and Parma have seen the Rossoneri move ten points clear at the top.

Deportivo's Last Six Matches: WLLWLW

Depor's domestic form has been patchy. Had they not lost to Barcelona, Valencia and Mallorca, Irureta's side would not be a full eight points behind the out-of-form Real Madrid.


Milan: Dida and Paolo Maldini are both doubts for the match. Ancelotti seems more optimistic about the latter than Dida. He also confirmed that Inzaghi would start the match.

Deportivo: Victor is suspended, so it is likely that Sergio will move out onto the right wing, and Aldo Duscher will be introduced into the centre of midfield. Enrique Romero could replace Joan Capdevila at left-back.


Kaka (Milan): the young Brazilian seems to hold all the cards. Whether running with the ball from deep, or sliding an incisive ball through to one of the strikers, Kaka has the ability to destroy any defence.

Jorge Andrade (Deportivo): the Galicians will need a strong performance from their imposing Portuguese centre-back.


Milan: Dida or Abbiati, Cafu, Costacurta, Maldini, Pancaro; Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf; Kaka; Shevchenko, Inzaghi

Deportivo: Molina; Scaloni, Naybet, Andrade, Romero or Capdevila; Sergio, Mauro Silva, Duscher, Luque; Valeron; Pandiani.

Milan hail King Kaka
22.3 || scharatz

Key figures at the San Siro have underlined how important the summer arrival of Kaka has been to Milan.

The Brazilian, signed from Sao Paulo for just £4.5m, has had a great first term in Italy where he has undoubtedly helped the Rossoneri onto another level.

"I don’t know whether I can say that he is the best player Milan have ever had during my time here," noted President Silvio Berlusconi.

"I can certainly say that I’ve never seen a 21-year-old do the things that he is doing for us right now."

The attacking midfielder, who has relegated Manuel Rui Costa to the bench, was sensational in the 3-1 win over Parma at the weekend.

"He is a phenomenal player, a true great," added Danish striker Jon Dahl Tomasson, who benefited from Kaka’s skills on Saturday night.

"The thing that really surprises me is that he doesn’t play like an emerging talent of the game.

"His performances are those of an established player who has great experience. He’s quite simply extraordinary."

Kaka, who is already being tipped to win the Golden Ball in the near future, has netted nine Serie A goals so far this term.

Ancelotti: Milan are magic
21.3 || scharatz

Carlo Ancelotti has praised the extraordinary form of Milan and revealed some changes for the Euro clash with Deportivo.

“Everyone should be happy with this performance,” he said of their 3-1 victory, “as it is never easy to take on such an aggressive and fast-paced side as Parma.”

The Rossoneri were riding their luck to begin with, as a Mark Bresciano goal was controversially disallowed and Simone Barone thumped the woodwork.

“It was certainly tough early on, but right now our main strength is that we can have the patience to break down a side and can change the tempo at will.”

Last year this team was lacking width, but Marcos Cafu and Giuseppe Pancaro were constantly providing crosses.

“We have a lot of different options at the moment and Kaka’s run down the right was extraordinary. The team really is on stunning form,” added Ancelotti.

However, he refused to hear talk of a Scudetto party even after taking a seven-point lead.

“All we must think about is taking it one game at a time, because the team is enjoying it and we are entertaining the fans. That is the important thing.”

The attention now goes to Tuesday’s Champions’ League quarter-final against Deportivo La Coruna.

“We don’t have many days to recover our energies, but Pippo Inzaghi will certainly play from the start. I’ll decide on the other ten later,” he joked.

Paolo Maldini was also substituted in the closing stages, but is not at risk for the midweek match.

“Maldini felt a little tired and so I opted to rest him for the final minutes as it wasn’t worth taking risks.”

Cesare Prandelli was proud of his men after they were unlucky not to get more than one goal at the San Siro.

“It was a good game and we tried to match them every step of the way,” said the Parma boss, “but despite the result it remains a great performance and we put Milan under pressure.”

“All I can do is compliment my players for giving 100 per cent until the final whistle and we are one of the few sides that gave them problems this season.”

Parma are perhaps the side that have put Milan under the most pressure in their two Serie A meetings this season.

“We tried to cut off their creative centres, but conceded that opener with a defensive error. You need luck in these games and we didn’t have that stroke of good fortune to turn it in our favour.”

Alberto Gilardino has come into his own since the departure of Adriano and is linked with a big name move in the summer.

“Gilardino is really maturing into a star and he always manages to find the right position inside the box,” assured Prandelli. “The whole squad is very young, but kept its cool when it could easily have collapsed in front of this Milan side.”

Davids confirms Milan approach
21.3 || scharatz

Edgar Davids’ agent has confirmed that he was approached by the Rossoneri for a return to the San Siro.

“It is true that Milan want Edgar for next season,” said representative Robert Geerlings.

“I can confirm that they have made their interest in my client very clear, but in any case Davids will give priority to Barcelona.”

The Dutchman is still owned by Juventus, but he will be out of contract in the summer and could cut his loan spell at Barca short.

It is reported that he is aiming for a new four-year deal worth approximately £2.6m per season.

A quick comeback to Serie A was always thought to be on the cards, but up until now the only clubs named were Inter and Roma.

It is a surprise move, as Davids left Milan in a cloud of controversy after teammate Alessandro Costacurta referred to him as “a bad apple.”

The midfielder joined from Ajax in 1996 and failed to make much of an impact at the San Siro, sitting out for several months with a fractured leg.

AC Milan 3:1 Parma - report
20.3 || webmaster

Scorers: Tomasson 34, 52 (M), Shevchenko 65 (M), Gilardino 82 (P)

Jon Dahl Tomasson bagged a brace and set up the third as Milan maintain their blistering title pace.

The Rossoneri chose to rest Pippo Inzaghi for this tricky game, but fielded the more muscular front two of Jon Dahl Tomasson and Andriy Shevchenko. Alessandro Costacurta stood in for the injured Alessandro Nesta.

Parma were able to welcome back Manuele Blasi after his five-month doping ban expired on Wednesday, while Benny Carbone continues to fill in for Domenico Morfeo.

The Gialloblu are the only Serie A side this season to have prevented Milan from scoring in their 0-0 draw at the Tardini, as they have found the net at least once in all their other 25 games.

There was a scare for the home side after just two minutes, as Dida ran out and clattered into Alberto Gilardino, leaving the ball for Mark Bresciano to turn in. The goal was disallowed for a foul on the goalkeeper who fell heavily on to his back, but replays suggest that it was Dida who accidentally ran into his opponent.

Milan began to slowly take control of the game and went very close on 22 minutes. Marcos Cafu's floated cross found an acrobatic Clarence Seedorf attempt that was almost turned in at the back post by Tomasson, but the Dane just failed to reach it with his head.

Moments later Parma went even closer, as a corner kick came out to Simone Barone and his fierce drive rattled the woodwork above a helpless Dida.

The game sprung into life and Shevchenko's looping header was just off target.

On the half-hour mark Milan fans were convinced they had scored. Kaka's backheel found Shevchenko and his angled drive somehow struck Tomasson on the goalline and went out off the back of his foot.

The Dane made up for that shocking mistake moments later as he peeled off from his marker to nod in Giuseppe Pancaro's curling cross.

The Rossoneri were putting in a lot of crosses from the two fullbacks and Cafu's centre caused panic in the box as Shevchenko's effort was smothered by Castellini and Sebastien Frey.

Kaka' attempted a spectacular second just before the break, as he just failed to backheel a taut Andrea Pirlo free kick into the far corner.

The Brazilian then forced Sebastien Frey into a tough save on his powerful angled drive.

Kaka's strong run at the dawn of the second half could have given Milan a great start, but his cutback was just past Shevchenko and Tomasson so the chance went begging.

Soon after the Brazilian was rather more accurate. He galloped down the right flank and placed in a perfect pass that Tomasson just had to tap in at the back post.

Confidence was high and Frey got down well to block Gennaro Gattuso's low drive, then flew to fingertip Seedorf's cross away from danger.

Tomasson made a rare start in this match and could have gone for the hat-trick, but when he gathered Seedorf's through ball he cut across for the unmarked Shevchenko to turn in. Parma can again complain, however, as the Dutchman appeared to handle as he chested down the ball.

Carlo Ancelotti must keep an eye on the upcoming Champions' League quarter-final with Deportivo La Coruna, so Kaka', Shevchenko and Paolo Maldini were allowed a rest for the closing stages.

Manuel Rui Costa was eager to show his worth and within minutes of coming on intelligently skipped past his marker, but Frey managed to smother the pass before Tomasson could pounce.

Parma refused to give in and when Gilardino sprung the offside trap, Dida bravely rushed off his line to smother the shot.

The Under-21 international finally got his goal with eight minutes left on the clock. He chested down a long ball into the centre, turned substitute Martin Laursen and flicked it over Dida.

Moments later Gilardino wanted a penalty for Laursen's challenge, but the Danish international made a clean challenge.

Tomasson thought he had completed a hat-trick by tapping in Serginho's cross, but the goal was disallowed for his shirt tug on Potenza.

Milan: Dida; Cafu, Costacurta, Maldini (Laursen 79), Pancaro; Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf; Kakà (Rui Costa 69); Shevchenko (Serginho 74), Tomasson

Parma: Frey; Castellini, Ferrari, Cannavaro, Seric (Potenza 62); Barone, Blasi; Marchionni, Carbone (Zicu 65), Bresciano; Gilardino

Ref: Farina

AC Milan vs. Parma - preview
20.3 || scharatz

LIVE on British Eurosport (7.30pm UK time)

Milan will be keen to maintain their seven-point lead at the top of the table after their exploits in Week 25. They beat Juventus 3-1 in Turin, just hours after fellow Scudetto contenders Roma drew 0-0 at Reggina. Expect Parma to become their next victims.

The Rossoneri have been outstanding this season and have now won 11 and drawn one of their last 12 League games. They’ve already collected more points this term than they did in the last campaign, and they are threatening to destroy the Serie A points record which currently stands at 75.

Boss Carlo Ancelotti has few selection problems with Cristian Brocchi and Alessandro Nesta the only players on the treatment table. Nesta limped out against Juve with a thigh strain, Billy Costacurta should replace him in the centre of the defence.

Parma are actually only one of five clubs to have taken points off Milan this term after the 0-0 draw at the Stadio Tardini earlier this season. Yet it will take some effort at the San Siro even if they are looking for points that could ensure them a place in the top four.

Morfeo, Seric and Cardone will be unavailable. Paolo Cananavaro returns after suspension though. Midfielder Simone Barone and striker Alberto Gilardino will be keen to impress as both have been linked with moves to the San Siro in the summer.

Manuele Blasi may also feature at some stage as he has now served his doping ban. The player tested positive for nandrolone earlier this term and was forced on the sidelines despite protesting his innocence.

Milan (probable): Dida; Cafu, Costacurta, Maldini, Pancaro; Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf; Kaka; Shevchenko, Inzaghi

Parma (probable): Frey; Bonera, Ferrari, Cannavaro, Castellini; Donadel, Barone; Marchionni, Carbone, Bresciano; Gilardino

Ancelotti wants it all
20.3 || scharatz

Carlo Ancelotti maintains the recent praise heaped on Milan won’t see them get complacent as this club goes for the Scudetto and Champions’ League.

“The compliments have actually done us good,” assured the Coach, “as we haven’t lost our heads and are more convinced than ever of our capabilities. We know this is a great time for the club and intend to keep going.”

The Rossoneri have lost only once in Serie A this season and have scored in 24 of their 25 games, but now face the only side that has so far held them to a goalless draw – Parma.

“This will be a very difficult encounter against a particularly tough team. Parma are a young side that is always dangerous upfront and I expect them to come here looking to play their own game.”

There are suggestions that the Champions’ League quarter-final with Deportivo La Coruna will push him into resting several stars for tonight’s match.

“There will be no squad rotation,” assured the former Parma boss. “We have all had time to recover during the week and train well, so I shall pick the best line-up.”

Manuel Rui Costa and Jon Dahl Tomasson will nonetheless be pushing for space as Andriy Shevchenko, Pippo Inzaghi and especially Kaka’ could spend some time on the bench.

The Ukrainian rediscovered his scoring boots in the last week, but is dealing with a slight bruise to his thigh.

Milan’s crushing 3-1 win at Juventus last week opened up a seven-point lead at the top of the table, but Ancelotti shoots down talk of Scudetto parties.

“We have not won the Championship and I see no reason to split our concentration between Serie A and Europe. All our attention is aimed at Parma and from Sunday onwards we will think about Deportivo.”

However, the tactician did break away for a moment and admit his dream Champions’ League Final would be against Real Madrid.

Gk: Abbiati, Dida
D: Cafu, Costacurta, Laursen, Maldini, Pancaro, Simic
M: Ambrosini, Gattuso, Kaka’, Pirlo, Rui Costa, Seedorf, Serginho
F: Inzaghi, Shevchenko, Tomasson

Passport problems for Kaka
19.3 || Seamus

Milan's Brazilian forward Kaka has encountered problems trying to obtain a European passport.

The South American playmaker had hoped to gain EU status thus enhancing his value to the club as well as reducing the club's quota foreign players.

However, fellow Brazilian and former MIlan player Leonardo, who now works for the club, says that Kaka has run into trouble obtaining the passport.

"I think that there is a serious problem, the lawyers of Kaka are handling this and they are trying to get together all the documents that are needed for giving him the EU passport," said Leonardo.

Gattuso: We must be very careful of Parma
19.3 || Seamus

Gennaro Gattuso of Milan believes that his team's match against Parma will not be an easy one and his team must watch out not to lose important points.

The midfield gladiator declared: "We must be very careful of Parma, it will not be an easy game, like the first round match showed where we ended in a goalless draw, the only time we have not scored this season."

Milan want Davids back
19.3 || scharatz

Edgar Davids could be on the verge of a shock move to former club Milan, according to reports.

The Gazzetta dello Sport is today suggesting that the Rossoneri are keen on the midfielder who will be available on a free transfer in the summer.

The Dutchman is currently on loan at Barcelona from Juventus, but his Bianconeri deal expires in a matter of months.

The 31-year-old started his Italian career with Milan in 1996 after he joined from Ajax. But he had an unhappy two-year stint at the San Siro before a move to Turin.

Davids does have a number of admirers across Europe. Barca would like to keep him even if Chelsea, Roma and Inter are all known to be keen.

But Milan have suddenly joined the chase as they look to add another ‘free’ player to their squad after similar moves in the past.

After all, the Rossoneri have brought in Marcos Cafu, Giuseppe Pancaro and Jon Dahl Tomasson in recent times without paying a transfer fee.

Davids himself has admitted that he has numerous offers on the table which have left the door open for a summer switch.

"The first thing I will do is consider Barca’s offer," the midfielder has stated recently. "But there are other sides interested in my signature too."

The international was also asked to comment on rumours that his present club are set to sign David Trezeguet from Juventus.

"Some people believe that it is a certainty," he explained. "Yet I know nothing about it at all."

Diego looks Milan-bound after gaining Italian passport
18.3 || Seamus

Brazilian sensation Diego looks set to join AC Milan after obtaining an Italian passport.

The teenager had been expected to join Tottenham after paperwork problems halted a proposed move to White Hart Lane last year.

However, now that he is free to join the Londoners he is tipped to join Milan after his father and agent, Djair da Cunha, revealed he'd rented a flat near to the Italian city.

American tour for Italian two
18.3 || Seamus

Milan and Roma will fly out to America in the summer to take on a host of British sides.

The Rossoneri will face Manchester United on July 31 at New York’s Giants Stadium. They will then play Chelsea on August 2 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

The capital outfit will play a trio of games in the North America. They will start against Chelsea in Pittsburgh on July 29.

Celtic will be next two days later in a match scheduled for Toronto. They will conclude the tour on August 3 against Liverpool at East Rutherford.

Ancelotti cools title talk
18.3 || scharatz

Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti insists that the Scudetto race is still open despite their lead at the top of the table.

The Rossoneri are seven points clear of Roma and nine ahead of Juventus, with just nine games of the season left.

"Nothing has been decided yet," stated the tactician. "The Scudetto race could change quickly. We must stay alert and just keep battling."

Although Ancelotti has yet to win Serie A as a Coach, he insists he is more interested in retaining Milan’s Champions’ League crown.

"If I was forced to choose then I would always go for the European Cup," he surprisingly revealed. "You get used to playing in Italy but the Champions’ League is different.

"But that doesn’t mean that we will just focus on one objective now. That is because I have a squad that allows us to go for both trophies."

The former Juventus tactician was also asked to respond to President Silvio Berlusconi’s claim that he is the real reason behind the club’s success this term.

"For the last 18 years I have picked the team, laid down ground rules and bought the players," said the patron.

"But nobody ever talks about Berlusconi’s Milan. It is always Sacchi’s Milan or Ancelotti’s Milan."

Ancelotti replied: "The team belongs to everyone. Especially the fans and our biggest fan is, as everyone knows, the President."

Laursen set for Milan exit
18.3 || scharatz

Milan have told Martin Laursen that they will sell him in the summer if he wants out of the San Siro.

The Dane is nothing more than a squad player with the European Champions and he could be set for a transfer.

"I’ve spoken to Vice-president Adriano Galliani about the situation," the player told BT. "He understands me and I can leave if I want to."

The 26-year-old was linked with a move away last summer but was convinced to stay by the Italian giants.

However, Laursen is so far down the pecking order at the club that the 38-year-old Billy Costacurta is currently stepping in for the injured Alessandro Nesta.

The central defender has been in Italy since his 1998 switch to then Serie B club Verona. A move to Parma and then Milan followed.

It is unclear at this stage whether Laursen will stay in Italy or move abroad. Clubs in England, such as Fulham, have shown an interest in the past.

Kaka has double vision
18.3 || scharatz

Kaka admits that he is on the verge of realising a dream by winning the Scudetto and Champions’ League with Milan.

"It will be a great feeling when we win something important this season," he told the club’s official website.

"When I signed for Milan I did hope that we could end the campaign by winning the League and European Cup."

The Rossoneri have had a magnificent season so far. They are seven points clear in Italy and look good to retain their Champions’ League crown.

"It was always my desire to come and play for a massive European club, Milan in particular," he added.

"Fortunately that happened when on the 16 August I touched down at Malpensa airport. That was a great day.

"It was the first time that I had ever been to Italy and I came here to put pen to paper on a contract with the strongest side in the world."

Kaka hasn’t let anyone down and is proving to be the capture of the summer. So much so that he has relegated the great Manuel Rui Costa to the bench.

"When I arrived I didn’t think that I would be playing so regularly," added the 21-year-old. "But I have and that is very satisfying."

Three week stop for Nesta
17.3 || scharatz

Milan ace Alessandro Nesta is set to spend the next 20 days on the treatment table because of injury.

The stopper limped out of the 3-1 win over Juventus on Sunday and tests have confirmed a muscle strain in his right leg.

There were fears that he could be out of action for up to a month but boss Carlo Ancelotti has received some reassuring news today.

Medics believe that he will be sidelined for a maximum of 20 days even if he may be ready in just two weeks.

The former Lazio star will still miss some crucial games though, including the Champions’ League quarter final against Deportivo La Coruna.

He is now also a major doubt for Italy’s international friendly against Portugal at the end of this month.

Veteran stopper Billy Costacurta is set to replace Nesta in the Milan side until he returns to full fitness.

Juventus hand scudetto to Milan
17.3 || Seamus

Sunday's match most probably sealed the fate of this season's Serie A title race, with Milan imposing themselves over eternal rivals Juventus thanks to an important 3-1 away win. Everything went in favour of the rossoneri with Roma drawing in the afternoon away to Reggina and Ancelotti's squad winning a well-played match against Lippi's team.

The match itself was a good advertisement for Serie A and those who think that Italian football is boring are probably those who do not watch it at all. Both teams played offensive and entertaining football with a high number of goal scoring opportunities for each side. One can see that this is Milan's year as even in the moment of difficulty they are able to get the most with the least work.

Sunday was an example of this as during Juventus' best moment when they were pressing hard and creating good chances, Milan hit back and scored to take the lead. The bianconeri had many players missing, especially in the forward line, and in fact their high number of chances seemed toothless whereas Milan always looked dangerous when going forward. Overall a draw would have been fairer but Milan proved they are one of the best teams in the world by being able to win games that other teams would have not been able to win.

This match leaves both teams in a different situation and looking at different objectives now. Milan can relax a bit more now in Serie A as they hold a 7 point advantage over closest challengers Roma and 9 points over the same Juventus. This will probably mean that Ancelotti will use the turnover extensively before any Champions League match, starting from next Saturday against Parma to rest his key players for the Deportivo clash.

This might in a way give a glimmer of hope to the challengers who still hope Milan might slip up in the next rounds when the Champions League is at its hottest and the player's focus would be mostly on the European Cup rather than the Italian league. Ancelotti in the past had already squandered a 9-point lead when in the 1999/2000 season his Juve had lost the Scudetto on the last day to Lazio, so the rossoneri coach will not be counting his chickens yet.

However this Milan side not only wins matches, but they win them in a very convincing and spectacular way, with Kaka, Shevcenko and Seedorf proving deadly upfront and the duo Nesta and Maldini being unbeatable in defence. Theoretically the rossoneri can achieve 91 points if they keep on winning and that would be an incredible achievement for any team. In previous years, it was said that a team needed to reach the 70 points mark to be guaranteed the Scudetto, but with the three teams on top marching on better than in pervious years, the 70 point mark has been raised to 80 poins this season. Milan already have 64 points, thus winning 5 of the last 9 matches will guarantee them the Scudetto which has been missing since the 1998/99 season.

The diavoli can now concentrate mostly on claiming a second consecutive Champions League, and with a favourable draw, the final does not seem far away. Probably Milan are currently Europe's best and most entertaining team to watch but a sudden dip in form might ruin their objectives, as during the span of a whole season, no team is actually able to hold on to their good form and sooner or later all teams pass through a bad patch. Whether this will happen or not to Milan remains to be seen, but if they keep playing this way, their fans should have nothing to worry about.

In Italy there is a very thin line between failure and success and as long as you keep winning then you are hailed as the best. However, one bad season makes the critics forget all the good that was made and you are degraded to being called a bad team and coach. This is the case of Juventus, who during the Lippi era, in 8 years full of successes both domestically and internationally, the bianconeri failed to win anything only in one season while in all other seasons they ended up taking home at least one important trophy.

This season might be another case of a winless one, though there still is the Coppa Italia which if they win, would mean that they reach the 10th win in this competition. They also have the 2nd place in the league to look forward to and therefore their season is far from over. Lippi's main worry is the number of injured players which might dent the team's objectives, but as proved yesterday, Juve's strength relies in the personality and strong character of a team that never gives up no matter the situation.

Whatever the final outcome of the season, Juventus will need to have a well thought self-analysis and see where it all went wrong. Objectively, Juventus in Serie A are moving at the same pace of last season, so it just proves that the bianconeri have not underperformed overall in the Italian league. Their main faults were not winning any direct clash and not having a solid defence as in previous years.

And that's where Moggi comes into play. Juve's General Manager knows his team and football in general and will have already targetted what to do to get the team back on top as during the Moggi-Lippi era, there have never been two consecutive unsuccesful years which proves that the club knows how to remedy to mistakes made in the previous season.

New names that could be joining the Juve side next season are many, most of which are defenders. But many players might be leaving too, including Nedved or Trezeguet as for the first time in 10 years, the club is in debt and will need a major sale to boost their income. However Juve fans should not worry as in one way or another they will get back to the top of Italian football and this season will be just a flash in the pan for the bianconeri troops. In the mean time they can admire Milan and admit that this season is painted in rossoneri colours, hoping that next year will be different.

Editorial by:
Glenn Debattista

Berlusconi: I made Milan great
16.3 || scharatz

Milan President Silvio Berlusconi claims he deserves the credit for this record-breaking side after belittling Coach Carlo Ancelotti.

“For the last 18 years I have picked the team, laid down ground rules and bought the players,” said the patron, “but nobody ever talks about ‘Berlusconi’s Milan’. It is always ‘Sacchi’s Milan’ or ‘Ancelotti’s Milan’.”

Berlusconi is not new to these surprise public statements and last month ordered Ancelotti to play with two strikers upfront.

He is accustomed to attention from the newspapers as he owns several television stations and is the Prime Minister of Italy.

“I looked at the sports newspapers this morning and found plenty of praise for everyone attached to this club except for me,” continued Berlusconi. “It’s as if I don’t even exist.”

These latest statements – in particular his claims that he has “picked the team” for the last eighteen years – will bring back the controversy that surrounded his pressure on Ancelotti.

After the 3-2 derby win over Inter in Week 22 Berlusconi announced, “From now on all Coaches at Milan must play with two strikers upfront, or they will not stay at this club.”

Costacurta to marry long-term celebrity girlfriend
16.3 || Seamus

Alessandro Costacurta has finally decided to marry his long-term girlfriend, Martina Colombari.

The Milan defender and the 28-year old ex-Miss Italy, and now showgirl, will say yes to each other on the 16th of June, even though the news has not been confirmed by the two lovers yet.

Milan sweat on Nesta
16.3 || Seamus

Milan are hoping that defender Alessandro Nesta is not too badly injured after he limped out of Sunday's win over Juventus.
The Italy international lasted just 12 minutes of the 3-1 victory over Juve and he will now have tests to see how severe the problem is.

Early indications have suggested that he has sprained an adductor muscle in his leg and could be out for a fortnight.

Should that be the case he will not only miss the Serie A clash with Parma but also the crucial UEFA Champions League tie with Deportivo La Coruna.

Nesta was replaced by veteran Alessandro Costacurta during the Juve match - as the experienced stopper made his 600th appearance.

However, Rossoneri boss Carlo Ancelotti would much prefer Nesta in his back line and will be hoping he recovers in time for their big European clash.

- by Nadia Carminati

Rui Costa considers options
16.3 || Seamus

Milan star Manuel Rui Costa says he won’t make a decision on his future until after the 2004 European Championships.

The Portuguese ace has been linked with a return to former club Benfica but he insists nothing has been decided for the time being.

"I’ve never hidden the fact that it would be a dream for me to end my career where it all started," said the midfielder.

"At this moment in time there has been no official contact but it won’t be just down to me anyway.

"There are other factors to consider too. But Euro 2004 is on the horizon and only after that competition will I decide what to do."

The playmaker has been linked with a move away from the San Siro after being eclipsed by Kaka this term.

Rui Costa caught the eye of many of Europe’s top clubs after spending three years with Benfica in the early 90s.

A move to Fiorentina followed before he was sold for financial reasons to Milan in the summer of 2001.

Master Sheva targets double
16.3 || scharatz

Andriy Shevchenko is convinced that Milan have what it takes to win Lo Scudetto and the Champions’ League this term.

"Seeing how we have done this season I think the double is a possibility," he told the Gazzetta dello Sport.

"We are playing some great football and the squad is in good shape physically. We are approaching every game with the right mentality so there is no reason why we can’t win both."

Milan are currently seven points clear at the top of the table and will face Deportivo La Coruna in the last eight of the Champions’ League.

"All of the games left now will virtually be finals," he added. "We have nine in Serie A and five in Europe.

"We are a very strong force. We play simple football at a fast pace. The defence is organised, the midfield binds the team together, while the forwards score."

Shevchenko has been irresistible this term and is Serie A’s leading scorer with 18 goals so far. The rumours of his proposed departure seem to have been archived for good.

"I’ve never really thought about leaving here because this is my home," he continued. "My decision to remain has been rewarded.

"That is because we won the Champions’ League and the Coppa Italia. My name is part of Milan’s history now."

Juve duo give up the chase
15.3 || scharatz

Gigi Buffon and Pavel Nedved have admitted that Juventus are now out of the Scudetto race.

The Bianconeri lost 3-1 to Milan last night which leaves them a massive nine points behind the Rossoneri.

"Everything has been ruined in a matter of months," said the goalkeeper. "It hasn’t been a bad season for us but we are behind in the League and out of Europe."

Juventus did put up a brave fight against Milan but the away side comfortably deserved the victory.

"We did well in the first half but we were unable to take advantage of our chances," added Buffon.

"We tried our best and thought we could get a good result. That didn’t happen though. We now have the Coppa Italia Final to concentrate on."

Even Pavel Nedved, admired for his fighting spirit, seems to have waved the white flag after the defeat.

"We did what we could but it wasn’t enough," said the European Footballer of the Year. "Our morale is not the best.

"It has become tremendously difficult for us now, perhaps impossible. Now we just need to think about the Coppa."

The Old Lady travel to Lazio on Wednesday in the first leg of the Italian Cup Final.

Improved Pancaro thanks Milan
15.3 || scharatz

Milan defender Giuseppe Pancaro says his summer move to the San Siro has revitalised his career.

The left-back has been in sensational form of late, silencing those who questioned whether his arrival was really needed.

"It gives you a great stimulus to play alongside such wonderful players," said the 32-year-old.

"I’m delighted to be wearing this shirt and to be a part of this squad. The new players have fitted in well and it shows."

Pancaro put in another good display against Juventus last night as the 3-1 victory has put his club in pole position to win the title.

"Things are going better for us in the League this year than last," he admitted. "We worked hard at the start of the season and this is our reward."

Pancaro has been so good that there are rumours today which suggest that Milan could sell Kakha Kaladze.

The Georgian is allegedly a target for Juve as they look to strengthen their leaky defence over the summer.

One element of that rearguard has hit back at his critics though. Nicola Legrottaglie has struggled this term but he now claims he’s getting back to his best.

"I hear what is being said but I’m just focused on carrying on down my own path," said the central defender.

"I have had my injury problems this term but I’m now fine. I still rate myself as a great player."

Lippi raises the white flag
15.3 || scharatz

Marcello Lippi admits the Scudetto has sailed away, while Carlo Ancelotti explains what has changed at Milan from last season.

“This team certainly didn’t do anything wrong and created plenty of chances tonight,” said Lippi after their 3-1 home defeat, “but we were a little unlucky both with our efforts and Clarence Seedorf’s deflected goal.”

The Bianconeri have been lacking confidence of late, but poured forward in the final minutes in search of another strike.

“There was a definite desire to get back into the game and they fought until the final whistle with a great deal of belief.”

“Clearly we are suffering the effects of losing so many strikers to injury and a packed fixture list is making things even more difficult.”

“All we can do is accept the defeat and move on now, but credit also goes to Milan for a great performance.”

The Rossoneri are now seven points clear at the top of the table – nine points ahead of reigning Champions Juventus – and are moving towards the title.

“Our objective now is to end the season in second place,” confessed Lippi, “but admittedly a nine-point gap is too much to make up now.”

“We also have the Coppa Italia Final against Lazio and that is an important trophy we can aim for.”

The Bianconeri were without a host of injured players including Alessandro Del Piero, David Trezeguet, Enzo Maresca and Gianluca Zambrotta.

“It was a great shame to be eliminated from the Champions’ League, but I have been here for eight years and we won a major trophy in six of them. One season without that kind of triumph is only to be expected.”

“Our only regret is to go into this crucial stage of the campaign without so many star players.”

Carlo Ancelotti has taken an important step towards the Scudetto by beating Juve – the club that fired him because he didn’t win the title.

“Juventus did very well, especially in the first half, and from this performance I’d say they are far from dead and buried,” assured the Coach.

Clarence Seedorf has improved in leaps and bounds, but the tactician refused to pinpoint single players for praise.

“When the team gets so many points then we can’t just look at a few individuals. The whole squad works hard together and I love training them.”

Milan seem nigh on irresistible at the moment, beating Inter, Lazio and Juventus over the last few weeks.

“This was a very important result, especially as we managed to beat most of the big teams in a short space of time.”

“Our secret right now is that we can defend when needed and hold on to leads, but the main difference from last season is that we can turn up the tempo.”

Milan fell apart at this stage of the Serie A campaign last season, but are far more athletically fit than their colleagues right now.

“We were a bit more careful to spread out our energies during the first six months,” revealed Ancelotti, “and that allowed us to remain fresh even now.”

Juventus 1:3 AC Milan - report
14.3 || scharatz

Shevchenko 25 (M), Seedorf 63, 75 (M), Ferrara 80 (J)
Stadio Delle Alpi

Milan have one hand on the Scudetto after hammering sorry Juventus on their own turf with a Clarence Seedorf brace.

The Rossoneri break away at the top of the table following Roma's surprise stalemate at Reggina this afternoon, but their record at the Delle Alpi was poor having lost their last four trips to Turin. This is their first victory away to Juve since 1999.

It has been a harrowing week for Juventus, as they were eliminated from the Champions' League and lost Alex Del Piero, David Trezeguet, Enzo Maresca, Mark Iuliano, Gianluca Zambrotta and Alessandro Birindelli to injury.

Marco Di Vaio therefore started upfront with support from Pavel Nedved - the only two 100 per cent fit forwards.

Juventus had the first scoring opportunity after three minutes when Stephan Appiah's cross found the head of Pavel Nedved, but his effort whistled wide of the near post.

The Bianconeri were more confident in the opening stages and Alessio Tacchinardi's fierce drive stung Dida's palms, then Nedved nodded off target and the goalkeeper was secure on Mauro Camoranesi's follow-up.

There was bad news for Milan as after just 12 minutes Alessandro Nesta pulled up with a muscular problem and was replaced by Alessandro Costacurta. The defender has only just returned from a thigh strain and was not taking any risks.

The visitors hit back and an intelligent Clarence Seedorf cutback found Kaka' completely unmarked just inside the box, but Gianluigi Buffon palmed his effort over the bar.

Carlo Ancelotti's men gradually increased the pressure and Andriy Shevchenko's deflected free kick went wide of the near post.

But it was a more open game during this first half and Nedved blasted one of his trademark piledrivers just past the upright.

Soon after Seedorf's weak attempt was off target after some great approach play from Shevchenko.

It was Milan who eventually broke the deadlock after 25 minutes and Shevchenko finally ended his Serie A goal drought. Seedorf was the provider this time, a curling cross finding the head of Shevchenko from eight yards.

Juventus had the chance to get right back in it moments later, but Tacchinardi ballooned his shot horribly wide from a great position.

But Shevchenko also went close when he chested down a Marcos Cafu cross and fired over the bar, then soon after wasted another good scoring opportunity on the counter-attack.

Juve had a solid start to the second half, but should have been 2-0 down on 53 minutes. Pippo Inzaghi sprung the offside trap and went round Buffon, but the former Bianconeri hero incredibly fired wide of a completely open goal.

Marcello Lippi needed to take risks and threw on pacey forward Fabrizio Miccoli, who was suffering from a slight muscular problem this week.

But it was Milan who doubled their lead with a large slice of good fortune to help them out. Seedorf's hopeful effort from 25 metres took a decisive deflection off Ciro Ferrara to leave Buffon stranded.

Di Vaio nearly got Juve back into it immediately as the defence desperately scrambled clear.

Massimo Ambrosini replaced Inzaghi, but Shevchenko could have made it three when his free header was off target from Cafu's cross.

The belief visibly drained away from Juventus and Milan plunged another knife into the wound with a third goal on the counter-attack. Cafu cut back for the unmarked Seedorf and his low drive beat Buffon - this time without the need for a deflection.

Juve did grab a consolation goal ten minutes from time when Ciro Ferrara volleyed in a corner kick, extending their record of scoring in their last 42 consecutive home games.

That strike gave his teammates the confidence to push forward in the final minutes and Camoranesi's dipping volley gave Dida a scare, while Miccoli's effort took a cruel deflection wide.

Juventus: Buffon; Thuram, Ferrara, Legrottaglie, Pessotto (Miccoli 56); Camoranesi, Tacchinardi, Conte, Appiah; Nedved; Di Vaio

Milan: Dida; Cafu, Nesta (Costacurta 12), Maldini, Pancaro; Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf (Rui Costa 79); Kakà; Inzaghi (Ambrosini 67), Shevchenko

Ref: Collina

Ancelotti accelerates towards title
14.3 || scharatz

Carlo Ancelotti claims tonight's trip to Turin won't be decisive for the Scudetto race, but confirms a win would put one hand on the trophy.

“It isn’t decisive, but very important as both teams have a lot to play for. Juventus know they can get back into the chase, while our objective is to open up a nine-point gap.”

Milan have lost this fixture for the last four years running, but are unbeaten on their travels this season and hope to take full advantage of Juve’s injury crisis.

“The team is still Juventus,” warned their former Coach, “and even without some stars they have top quality players and an aggressive spirit.”

The Bianconeri could field Pavel Nedved and Marco Di Vaio upfront – their only fully fit forwards.

“These are two players that can cause us a lot of problems with their depth. The Champions’ League exit also gives Juve a greater desire to prove a point.”

Ancelotti believes this will be a very open game with both sides going for glory at the Stadio Delle Alpi.

“I think that they will be very aggressive in midfield and try to cut our creative centres out of the game, but Juventus certainly won’t play defensively.”

Milan lost this tie 2-1 last season and twice allowed the Bianconeri to hit them on the counter-attack.

“We must be wary not to repeat last year’s mistakes. We realise that our record here isn’t good, but we have broken a lot of taboos already this season and will certainly try to pick up all three points.”

Clarence Seedorf missed the midweek 4-1 win over Sparta Prague, but is back in the squad for the Juve game.

Gk: Dida, Abbiati, Fiori
D: Cafu, Costacurta, Kaladze, Laursen, Maldini, Nesta, Pancaro, Simic
M: Ambrosini, Gattuso, Kakà, Pirlo, Rui Costa, Seedorf, Serginho
F: Shevchenko, Borriello, Inzaghi, Tomasson

Juventus vc. AC Milan - preview
13.3 || scharatz

LIVE on British Eurosport (KO 7.30pm UK time)
Stadio Delle Alpi

Juventus are the only big club Milan have failed to beat this season, but the Bianconeri could blow the Scudetto race wide open.

The Rossoneri’s record in Turin is very poor, as they have lost their last four trips to the Delle Alpi, scoring just twice. The last Milan victory here was a 2-0 drubbing in 1999, when George Weah completed the scoring. There has not been a draw in this fixture since 1996 with a total of 18 goals netted between them in those six encounters. The most humiliating setback here was a 4-1 defeat for the San Siro giants in 1998, while there was a spectacular 5-4 victory for the visitors in 1958 and another 4-3 win two years later. But the record for the most impressive result goes to Milan with a 7-1 drubbing of their rivals on home turf in February 1950.

Six points separate the top three teams going into this game and whatever the result it is bound to be a turning point in the campaign. Carlo Ancelotti and Pippo Inzaghi come face to face with their former club after their 1-1 draw at the San Siro. The last year has seen several high-profile clashes between these sides, including the Champions’ League Final for Milan and an Italian Supercup going to Juventus.

The Rossoneri show no signs of slowing down their record-breaking pace and it is the away record that most impresses with nine wins and three draws. To this date in all competitions, only Lazio have got the better of them on their travels in the Coppa Italia semi-final. Inzaghi marked his comeback from injury with a goal and should partner Andriy Shevchenko from the start, with able support from fellow scorer Kaka’.

Marcello Lippi has some serious injury worries ahead of this clash. Enzo Maresca, David Trezeguet, Alex Del Piero and Igor Tudor are definitely ruled out, while doubts continue to hang over Mark Iuliano, Gianluca Zambrotta and Alessandro Birindelli. It looks as if Nicola Legrottaglie will again be given the nod in central defence – surely the weakest area of the squad. They may have shown character to fight back from 2-0 down to beat Brescia 3-2 last week, but it took their defensive tally to 27 goals in 24 matches. This same side only conceded 27 goals throughout all of the 2000-01 season.

Having lost in the Champions’ League on Tuesday to Deportivo, another defeat against Milan would surely leave them with just the Coppa Italia to play for this season.

Juventus (probable): Buffon; Thuram, Legrottaglie, Iuliano, Pessotto; Camoranesi, Conte, Appiah; Nedved; Miccoli, Di Vaio

Milan (probable): Dida; Cafu, Nesta, Maldini, Pancaro; Ambrosini, Pirlo, Seedorf, Kaka; Inzaghi, Shevchenko

Sheva shines scoring boots
13.3 || scharatz

Andriy Shevchenko has not scored in Serie A for several weeks and hopes to end that drought at the Stadio Delle Alpi.

“This match with Juventus has come at just the right time for me,” insists the Ukrainian. “I’ve been feeling a little drained recently, but the rest ahead of the Champions’ League game really sparked me back to life.”

The Milan hitman bagged a brace in the midweek 4-1 mauling of Sparta Prague and claims he can further extend his lead at the top of the Serie A scorers’ charts.

But the most important thing for the Rossoneri is getting the points against a Juventus side smarting from its Euro exit.

“Juve are playing well at the moment,” assures Sheva, “but Milan are going a mile a minute and are surely favourites.”

“Nonetheless, underestimating them would be a costly error as the Turin giants have proved before that they always get back on their feet quickly even in the most difficult of situations.”

Carlo Ancelotti faces a tough tactical decision with Manuel Rui Costa, Jon Dahl Tomasson, Kaka’ and Pippo Inzaghi all jostling for two places.

“The system doesn’t particularly bother me,” noted the former Dynamo Kiev star. “The important thing is to win and Milan have done that with both tactical formations.”

Kaka’ and rejuvenated ex-Juve man Inzaghi seem to have the upper hand after their performance against Prague midweek.

“What does bother me,” concluded Shevchenko, “is that some people still claim Pippo and I are incompatible. We have scored 15 goals when starting together and I’d say that is proof enough.”

Euro draw delights Milan
12.3 || Seamus

Milan say they are happy to have been drawn against Deportivo La Coruna in the Champions’ League quarter final.

"It was a positive draw for us," said Vice-president Adriano Galliani. "Obviously all the sides left are tough but we are pleased to have avoided Real, Arsenal and Chelsea."

The Rossoneri can’t actually meet any of those teams until the final as they are on opposite sides of the draw.

But boss Carlo Ancelotti isn’t thinking that far ahead as Deportivo showed their worth by beating Juventus this week.

"There was the risk of getting Arsenal or Real, so we are satisfied to have been paired with Deportivo," he stated.

"But we shouldn’t underestimate them because they did knock out Juve. Yet they’ve hardly changed over the years and therefore we know them well."

Although Milan will be favourites to qualify, the Spanish outfit are confident they can defeat the reigning champions.

"At this level you have to accept any opponent," stated Deportivo director Luis Sanchez. "They are the champions but we’ll see what happens.

"We’ve already eliminated Juventus so I believe that we can do just as well against Milan. It should be a good tie."

CL Draw: Deportivo next for Milan
12.3 || scharatz

Holders Milan will face Deportivo La Coruna in the quarter finals of the Champions’ League, after today’s draw.

The Rossoneri, the only remaining Italian outfit left in the competition, will take on the Spanish side after beating Sparta Prague 4-1 in the last round.

Deportivo will prove to be a real test after they knocked out Juventus with a 2-0 aggregate victory earlier this week.

Should Milan progress to the semi finals then they will play either Porto, conquerors of Man Utd, or Lyon.

One of the most intriguing quarter final ties is the London derby between Chelsea and Arsenal. The Gunners have already ended Chelsea’s FA Cup and Premiership bid this term.

The winner of that game will then play either Real Madrid or Monaco, Coached by former Juve great Didier Deschamps, in the last four.

Quarter Final line up (March 23/24 & April 6/7)

Porto (Por) v Lyon (Fra)
Real Madrid (Spa) v Monaco (Fra)
Chelsea (Eng) v Arsenal (Eng)
Milan (Ita) v Deportivo La Coruna (Spa)

Semi Final line up (April 20/21 & May 4/5)

Real Madrid/Monaco v Chelsea/Arsenal
Porto/Lyon v Milan/Deportivo La Coruna

Century celebrations for Pippo
11.3 || scharatz

Filippo Inzaghi is happy to have celebrated his 100th game for Milan by scoring in the 4-1 win over Sparta Prague.

The Italian netted at the San Siro last night as the Rossoneri secured themselves a place in the quarter finals of the Champions’ League.

"I was really hoping to celebrate in style," said the striker. "This side has given me an infinite amount of joy.

"Obviously it is pleasing to get my name on the scoresheet but the most important thing is that Milan keep moving forward."

There were suggestions that Inzaghi was unhappy to have been replaced by Jon Dahl Tomasson in the 76th minute.

"That’s not true," he replied. "I was tired. It was just vital that we won and it was nice to score four goals as we have struggled to find the target in Europe this term."

A host of Milan players caught the eye last night, but Vice-president Adriano Galliani was keen to praise some of the side’s unsung heroes.

"I must mention Marcos Cafu and Giuseppe Pancaro," he noted. "They are doing some wonderful things and we’re delighted to have signed them at the start of this season."

Ancelotti: Confidence is key
11.3 || scharatz

Carlo Ancelotti and his men believe Milan’s cool head will continue their bid to retain the Champions’ League trophy.

“We were a little worried,” he confessed after the Czechs’ temporary equaliser, “as for four or five minutes we lost our unity, but we got it together and comfortably won in the end. We go forth with confidence in this tournament.”

The Rossoneri have struggled to score goals in Europe this season, but seem to have broken through that taboo by bagging four in one night.

“There were a few problems at the start with Sparta playing so many defenders,” explained the Coach, “but once we find space then it all becomes much easier.”

The Czechs came to the San Siro with a counter-attacking 4-5-1 formation and almost seemed set on going to extra time.

“I did rather expect Sparta to be so defensive, as they were already sitting back on their own turf. It did work for a while as they closed down all the spaces, but once we broke the deadlock it forced them to come out.”

Milan are now the only Italian team left in Friday’s quarter-final draw and Ancelotti has clear views on the teams to avoid.

“The most dangerous potential opponents are Real Madrid and Arsenal, so I’d prefer not to play them. I’d say that Lyon are a dangerous loose cannon and one to watch in the draw.”

Andriy Shevchenko was the star of the show with two goals – and third disallowed for a tight offside decision.

“I am incredibly happy. The first half and start of the second reminded me of our match with Ajax last year,” he noted of that heart-stopping 3-2 victory, “but we did well to keep our cool even when Prague equalised.”

“This was a bitterly cold night and the pitch wasn’t in the best condition,” said the Ukrainian, “but at the end of the day we triumphed because this squad is very united and capable of anything. We always find the strength to carry on.”

Marcos Cafu provided the cross for Pippo Inzaghi’s goal and has been a valuable addition to the European Champions.

“Prague were very closed up throughout the first half, but thankfully we managed to get a goal before half-time,” commented the Brazilian.

“We proved once again that this team always keeps its head and is able to play its way out of trouble without panicking.”

“This was a dangerous game and we knew that a draw would be enough to knock us out, so concentration was crucial.”

AC Milan 4:1 Sparta Praha - report
10.3 || webmaster

Scorers: Inzaghi 45 (M), Jun 59 (S), Shevchenko 67, 80 (M), Gattuso 86 (M)

Andriy Shevchenko bagged a brace as Milan beat Sparta Prague 4-1 to reach the final eight.

Milan need a victory in order to continue the defence of their European title after the 0-0 draw in Prague.

Massimo Ambrosini stepped in for the injured Clarence Seedorf, while Alessandro Nesta returned to defence after missing the first leg with a thigh problem. Pippo Inzaghi marked his 100th official match with a Milan jersey.

Former Lazio star Karel Poborsky was the one to watch for Sparta, who aimed to strike on the counter-attack with Stajner the lone striker upfront.

The Rossoneri thought they had taken the lead after eight minutes when Andrea Pirlo's long ball forward reached Andriy Shevchenko and he fired in, but the Ukrainian was considered to be offside. Replays leave an element of doubt as to whether there was daylight between the players.

Carlo Ancelotti's men poured forward from the start and dominated possession, but Poborsky ballooned wide from a good position at the other end of the field.

The first half-hour was one-way traffic and Kaka's deflected shot did not take goalkeeper Blazek by surprise, then Johana performed a desperate clearance as Shevchenko prepared to pounce.

Prague tried to aim from distance and Dida did well to get a fierce Kovac effort under control, but Milan continued to have the better of the play with Blazek bravely charged out to parry Inzaghi's header after a great nod down from Shevchenko.

Ambrosini had one of the best chances of the first half in stoppage time, but his diving header on Giuseppe Pancaro's cross was incredibly wide of the near post from only a couple of yards.

But the timing of Super Pippo Inzaghi is legendary and he grabbed the opener in the final second of the first half. His sensational looping header on Cafu's cross dipped into the top corner past the outstretched hand of Blazek.

The scoreline meant that Prague had to push forward in the second half, as a 1-1 draw would qualify the Czechs, but it also left more space for Milan to move in.

Pergl skipped past two challenges and fired straight at Dida, while striker Thomas Jun was introduced to bolster their front line.

It proved an inspired substitution, as within two minutes Jun gave Sparta a potentially decisive equaliser. A fortunate ricochet fell to Michalik and his low cross allowed Jun to slide in from six yards. Milan needed another goal or they would crash out of the competition.

Milan fought back and Kaka' tried to toe-poke a deflected free kick past Blazek, but the goalkeeper was ready.

However, just seven minutes after Sparta's goal, the home side restored its lead through Andriy Shevchenko. Inzaghi defended the ball at the corner flag, then touched back for Pancaro and the ex-Dynamo Kiev star nodded in his cross at the back post.

Kaka' was furious soon after when he was charging towards goal and wanted a free kick - or a card - for obstruction, but the referee waved play on.

Prague went for broke with a third striker for the last 20 minutes and Pergl drilled a loose ball wide of the target from just inside the box.

Milan also made a change, as Jon Dahl Tomasson replaced the still not 100 per cent fit Inzaghi.

On 77 minutes there was a great scoring opportunity for the home side, as Cafu's low cross reached Kaka' from close range, but the goalkeeper managed to get a fingertip to it.

The spaces opened up and with 11 minutes left on the clock Shevchenko created that crucial two-goal cushion. He sprung the offside trap on a brilliant Kaka' through ball and placed an angled finish past the helpless Blazek.

The confidence sapped out of Prague and the San Siro erupted soon after when fans' favourite Gennaro Gattuso scored his first ever Champions' League goal. Luck was on his side, as a hopeful drive from 25 metres took a massive deflection off Johana's heel. The midfielder was even booked for his excessive celebrations, putting his shirt on the corner flag and waving it to the supporters.

Milan: Dida; Cafu (Costacurta 88), Nesta, Maldini, Pancaro; Ambrosini, Pirlo, Gattuso; Kaka; Shevchenko (Rui Costa 86), Inzaghi (Tomasson 76)

Sparta Prague: Blazek; Pergl, Hubschman, Johana, Labant; Poborsky, Kovac; Sivok, Zelenka (Jun 57), Michalik (V Gluscevic 70); Stajner (Volesak 88)

Ref: Merk (Ger)

AC Milan vs. Sparta Praha - preview
9.3 || scharatz

Favourites Milan will be hosting Sparta Prague at 'San Siro' on Wednesday night for the second leg of the Champions League knockout stage which will give qualification to the quarter finals of Europe's most important competition.

Milan are on a roll, having won 10 of their last 11 league games and marching on towards the Scudetto which has been missing since the 1998/99 season. Their Champions League campaign has been nearly equally impressive and if they can mantain their current form, they can do very well in this competition.

The rossoneri coach, Carlo Ancelotti, has described the game as being a delicate one, yet he is confident his team will go through. "Milan is the favourite for what it showed in the first leg," said Ancelotti, "However it will be a very delicate match: we must interpret the match in the best possible way, because the result of the first leg does not reassure us."

Sparta Prague have already done more than most people expected after qualifying from the group stage at the expense of Lazio. Jiri Kotrba's team has lost 7 players in the January transfer window and this might prove costly for a team playing in the Champions League. Qualification looks like a mirage but with the 0-0 of the first leg anything can happen if the Czech champions succeed in scoring a goal.

Milan has to win at all cost this game as a 0-0 result would send both teams to extra-time and penalties if needed. A 1-1 or higher drawing result would send Sparta Prague to the next round and eliminate Milan out of this season's Champions League. This therefore means that the rossoneri must make the game and pushing forward from the start while the Czech Republic champions will be defending and counter attacking without over exposing themselves too much.


Shevcenko (Milan): The Serie A top-scorer was rested for most of the match against Sampdoria last Sunday so therefore he will have his batteries charged enough for this encounter and lead the rossoneri to the next round.

Poborsky (Sparta Prague): The Czech player has lost his start of the season form, but a return to Italy might be what needs to regain his momentum and even create an upset to the Milanisti after upsetting Inter 2 years ago in the famous '5th of May'.


AC Milan (4-3-1-2): Dida; Cafú, Costacurta, Maldini, Kaladze; Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf; Kaka; Inzaghi F., Shevchenko.

Sparta Praha (4-4-2): Blazek; Pergl, Homola, Hubschman, Labant; Pobosky, Zelenka, Kovac, Michalik; Stajner, Rezek.

Ancelotti fears Sparta test
9.3 || scharatz

Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti insists that Champions’ League opponents Sparta Prague are a better side away from home.

The Rossoneri take on the Czech outfit at the San Siro on Wednesday after the first leg ended in a 0-0 draw.

"Sparta are a side to be feared and one that often does well in away games," said the tactician.

"That is because they are extremely dangerous on the counter attack as they have great pace and various midfielders who can get forward."

Milan are favourites to reach the quarter finals but Ancelotti has warned his squad to remain focused.

"We are fancied to win but this is a very delicate game for us in which we must stay concentrated," added the former Juventus boss.

"It is vital that we interpret the game in the right manner because the first leg result is a dangerous one for us."

Milan have been sensational domestically but their critics claim that they are finding European competition rather more difficult.

"I think that is down to the fact that we complicated our group by losing to Bruges," he explained.

"That negative result saw the pressure increase on us for the rest of the group games. That affected us."

Ancelotti has few selection problems and is hopeful that Clarence Seedorf will be fit after suffering a slight muscle strain in the 3-1 win over Sampdoria.

Pirlo respects Sparta threat
9.3 || scharatz

Andrea Pirlo fears that Milan’s Champions’ League game against Sparta Prague won’t be as easy as it looks.

The European champions face the Czech side at the San Siro on Wednesday following the 0-0 first leg draw.

And although the Rossoneri will be firm favourites to go through, Pirlo is not underestimating the capital side.

"We need to win at all costs but it won’t be easy," he said. "It’s not great for a home side to start a second leg at 0-0.

"They are a good team, especially if you give them the chance to play on the counter attack."

Milan dominated the first leg but failed to pierce a defensive looking Sparta. Pirlo expects the same sort of tactics tomorrow night.

"They’ll sit deep and try to hit us on the break," he added. "Fortunately we are quite used to playing sides like that these days."

Milan are in hot form right now and the Italian international hopes that will continue against Sparta and then Juventus on Sunday.

"We are playing well and we will need to again because this is a very important game," he continued. "That’s why we will only start thinking about Juventus on Thursday."

Pirlo: What a goal!
8.3 || scharatz

Milan’s Andrea Pirlo insists that his goal against Sampdoria was perhaps the best of his career.

The Italian international opened the scoring at the San Siro with a 25-yard beauty that left goalkeeper Francesco Antonioli rooted to the ground.

"It was a great goal," he said after the important 3-1 victory. "One of the most beautiful that I have ever netted."

Pirlo again impressed on Sunday but so too did his teammates as they maintained their lead at the top of the table.

"We played really well today," said the former Inter midfielder. "We were in control of the game for the entire 90 minutes.

"We started well even if they did equalise with Doni. Yet we played with grit, conviction and determination to get this result."

The European champions are five points clear of Roma and six ahead of Juventus after all three sides won in Week 24.

AC Milan 3:1 Sampdoria - report
7.3 || scharatz

Pirlo 17 (M), Doni 27 (S), Inzaghi 35 (M), Kaka' 49 (M)

A spectacular performance from the League leaders further confirmed their Scudetto credentials as SuperPippo Inzaghi made a fine comeback.

Inzaghi returned to the starting line-up alongside Jon Dahl Tomasson, leaving Andriy Shevchenko on the bench to better prepare for the Champions' League clash with Sparta Prague. Alessandro Nesta also returned after several weeks out with a thigh problem, while Kaka had sat out his one-match ban.

Sampdoria were able to field Fabio Bazzani despite a bout of tonsillitis this week, but Francesco Flachi is still looking for full fitness. It was a special occasion for Francesco Antonioli, who once stood between the posts for Milan.

The Rossoneri have struggled to make an impact in their first half performances so far this season, so they tried to put Samp under pressure from the start with a powerful Andrea Pirlo effort.

There was controversy when Inzaghi requested a penalty, but referee Trefoloni waved play on.

That was a warning sign, but the midfielder got his name on the scoresheet after 17 minutes. Pirlo curled in a magnificent effort from over 25 metres that slammed in off the near post to leave Antonioli utterly stranded.

The Rossoneri could have doubled their lead moments later when Antonioli comically fumbled the ball and allowed Inzaghi to shoot, but Mirko Conte was ready to clean up with a goalline clearance.

Inzaghi again demanded a spot-kick when he fell under pressure from Conte, but the referee waved play on. This incident seemed to be more serious than the earlier contact.

Sampdoria's first real chance arrived on 23 minutes when Aimo Diana took advantage of Clarence Seedorf's error, but Dida bravely rushed off his line to clear.

Milan poured forward and left themselves open to the counter-attack, allowing Sampdoria to equalise on 27 minutes. Diana sprung the offside trap and his effort was cleared into the path of Cristiano Doni.

It was an extremely open game and Antonioli punched away a fierce Kaka' drive from distance.

But it was Inzaghi who restored their lead and broke his goal drought. The hitman has barely played this season due to a series of fitness worries, but he rose to nod in Giuseppe Pancaro's cross from six yards.

Soon after Inzaghi nodded another good opportunity wide at the back post, then his solo effort whistled past the upright from a tight angle.

Sampdoria introduced Francesco Flachi for the second half, as the striker is still trying to find match fitness after two months out with a badly sprained ankle.

But the Rossoneri created a two-goal cushion when Kaka' drilled a strong goal into the far corner of the net after just four minutes. Once again Pirlo was involved with one of his classic searching passes.

Carlo Ancelotti's men were dominating at the San Siro with more scoring opportunities for Pancaro and Gennaro Gattuso.

But Dida was called into a brilliant reaction save on Cristiano Doni's close-range header. The ex-Atalanta man then combined well with Massimo Donati, but Dida was able to anticipate his toe-poke towards goal.

Milan almost hit on the counter-attack with Kaka', but Antonioli bravely charged off his line to clear off substitute Andriy Shevchenko's feet.

The Ukrainian nearly got his name on the scoresheet with a glancing header on Pancaro's centre, but it was inches off target.

Milan: Dida; Cafu, Nesta, Maldini, Pancaro; Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf (Ambrosini 58); Kakà; Inzaghi (Shevchenko 67), Tomasson (Rui Costa 77)

Sampdoria: Antonioli; Zenoni (Yanagisawa 65), Falcone, Conte, Bettarini; Diana, Volpi (Carrozzieri 58), Donati, Doni; Bazzani, Cipriani (Flachi 46)

Ref: Trefoloni

Ancelotti ready for crunch week
7.3 || scharatz

The next eight days will decide Milan’s season as they face Sampdoria, Sparta Prague and Juventus.

“This is a crucial stage of the campaign,” admits Carlo Ancelotti, “but we cannot afford to be distracted by what is to come. The best approach is to play each game as if it were a Cup Final.”

The opener is a home tie with high-flying Sampdoria – a side that has scored in its last 13 Serie A games.

“If Fabio Bazzani does drop out with tonsillitis then it would be a big bonus for us,” he added, “but I hear he has now recovered. A good start to this week is imperative and it will take all our concentration to beat Sampdoria.”

The Rossoneri have so far struggled to make an impact in the first half of their matches, scoring 31 of their total 44 goals in the second period.

“To begin with our opponents tend to close up all available spaces,” explained the ex-Juventus boss. “As time goes on their energy levels dip and my players can find room to manoeuvre.”

Alessandro Nesta is expected to make his comeback after a thigh strain, but question marks hang over Pippo Inzaghi.

“He is different from Jon Dahl Tomasson, as the Dane performs well with movements off the ball. But when it comes to playing in the penalty area, there really is nobody better than Inzaghi,” assured Ancelotti.

AC Milan vs. Sampdoria - preview
6.3 || scharatz

Can anyone stop this Milan side? The Rossoneri went to Lazio last week to collect a precious 1-0 victory and they will be hopeful that they can overpower Sampdoria at the San Siro in Week 24.

The Rossoneri already collected an impressive victory at the Marassi Stadium earlier this term and another win will be crucial to their Scudetto hopes as they look to defend their five-point lead over second place Roma.

Milan’s chances of success will be greatly improved as Brazilian star Kaka returns from suspension. Even if there is a possibility that he may be rested ahead of the Champions’ League tie against Sparta Prague. That important game may see Ancelotti rest a number of first team regulars against Samp. Even if Nesta is available again after injury.

The Genoa outfit themselves are in decent form despite only just beating Chievo by a single goal last week. The impressive Aimo Diana netted but Cristiano Doni missed his second penalty of the season. He’ll be keen to make up for that error against Milan.

The return of Giulio Falcone after his injury problems has strengthened the centre of the Samp defence. Cipriani should keep his place up front even if Francesco Flachi is now back in training after a spell on the treatment table. Goalkeeper Francesco Antonioli was in sparkling form against Chievo and will look to deny his former club.

Milan (probable): Dida; Cafu, Nesta, Maldini, Kaladze; Ambrosini, Pirlo, Seedorf; Kaka; Tomasson, Shevchenko

Sampdoria (probable): Antonioli; Zenoni, Falcone, Conte, Bettarini; Diana, Palombo, Pedone, Doni; Cipriani, Bazzani

Ze Maria eyes dream Milan move
6.3 || webmaster

Perugia star Ze Maria has confessed a dream move to Milan is on the cards for next season.

“I would love to put myself up to the challenge of one of Milan’s two big clubs,” revealed the Brazilian winger.

He has been courted by a series of sides including Juventus, Inter, Lazio and Tottenham, but makes it clear his future colours are red and black.

“I have an excellent rapport with Carlo Ancelotti, going back to our days together at Parma. With him in charge, we all banded together and performed a stunning comeback to go from the relegation zone to a second-place finish.”

Ze Maria would bring some much-needed width to the Rossoneri side and act as understudy to 33-year-old Marcos Cafu.

“My contract with Perugia expires in 2006,” he pointed out after five years with the club, “and President Luciano Gaucci has every right to earn money from my sale.”

The Grifoni are unlikely to hold him back and right now the price tag on the Brazilian is £3m.

Milan for life says Nesta
5.3 || scharatz

Alessandro Nesta has voiced his intention to end his playing days with Italian giants Milan.

"I signed a five-year contract and if the club want to extend that when it expires then I see no reason why I shouldn’t hang up my boots here," he told ‘Milan Channel’.

Nesta joined the Rossoneri in 2002 after Lazio were forced to sell their 'symbol' because of their financial difficulties.

"I must thank the Milan fans because even if they wanted to liken me to Franco Baresi they’ve just allowed me to be myself," he added.

"Baresi himself has also been very important. He took me to one side last year when things weren’t going so well for me. That helped."

Nesta has now settled in at the San Siro and he’s been a major factor in the club’s recent success.

"I still have objectives that I want to achieve though," added the stopper. "I want to win something in Japan.

"That country has brought me misfortune in the past. First of all there was the World Cup and then we lost the Intercontinental Cup there. I want to make up for those losses."

Nesta set to return
3.3 || scharatz

Alessandro Nesta could return to the Milan starting line-up against Sampdoria on Sunday after recovering from injury.

The Italian international picked up a muscle strain in the 3-2 win against Inter which ruled him out of the Sparta Prague and Lazio ties.

The Milan squad were given a day off on Tuesday but Nesta trained alone at Milanello without any problems.

The central defender completed a light running session, worked in the gym before also having a physiotherapy session.

He may resume full training with the rest of the squad today which suggests he will be available for the weekend.

If he doesn’t return at the San Siro against Doria, then he should definitely appear in the Champions’ League against Sparta.

The European Cup holders will need to beat their Czech opponents after the 0-0 first leg away draw last week.

Inzaghi: Milan for life
3.3 || scharatz

Pippo Inzaghi is slowly regaining his form and hopes to end his career with the Rossoneri.

“The last year has been fantastic,” said the Champions’ League and Coppa Italia winner, “and it was certainly the best of my career. I want to win more prestigious trophies with this club and fully intend to hang up my boots with Milan.”

The former Juventus striker was speaking as he received an award as best Emilia-based sportsman of the year.

But the Piacenza-born hitman has barely made a mark on the soccer map this season due to a series of muscular injuries.

“I thank the voters of Piacenza as I have not forgotten the city that made me a football player and a man.”

SuperPippo left Juve following a well-publicised row with Alessandro Del Piero, but insists he has matured over the last few years.

“It is true that scoring goals is always a moment of great joy,” he noted, “but growing older I discovered that the victory of an entire team working together in harmony is even better.”

He has already shown this new attitude at international level and hopes to play a major part in Italy’s European Championship campaign.

“I have had some wonderful times with the Azzurri jersey on my back, especially with that hat-trick against Wales. Now I hope to celebrate a great Euro 2004.”

Milan close in on Cheva
1.3 || scharatz

Milan are set to raid Lecce over the summer in a bid to sign Ernesto Javier Chevanton and Cristian Daniel Ledesma.

The Uruguayan striker has been linked with the Rossoneri for some months but reports suggest that Argentine youngster Ledesma is also wanted.

Chevanton is likely to join the San Siro outfit at the end of the campaign after his performances at the Via De Mare this term.

Although Roma are also interested, Cheva has admitted on more than one occasion that he would welcome a Milan move.

The 23-year-old is likely to be handed a five-year deal by the Champions’ League winners according to rumours.

Ledesma, a 21-year-old midfielder, is also on Milan’s wish list. Even if the idea is to sign him but then allow him to remain with Lecce for one more season.

Lecce want a combined £14m for the two gems even if Milan are already working on getting that fee reduced.

The Rossoneri are hoping to offer around £8m plus the loan services of Sam Dalla Bona and Marco Borriello.

Goal delight for Ambrosini
1.3 || scharatz

Massimo Ambrosini is smiling again after he marked his return to the Milan starting line-up with a goal against Lazio.

The former Vicenza player started at the Stadio Olimpico last night and he scored the only goal to maintain his side’s five-point lead at the top of the table.

"I’ve had some difficult times of late and I’m thankful for this wonderful evening," he said after the game.

"I’ve been a bit unlucky so far this season with a number of injury problems and it is therefore difficult to find your best form. This goal has made up for that."

The Italian international has struggled to get a regular game this term because of the stiff competition for places.

Boss Carlo Ancelotti likes to play with a midfield that consists of Andrea Pirlo, Clarence Seedorf and Gennaro Gattuso.

Yet the midfielder is confident that he can be of real use to the side in the closing stages of this campaign.

"The next three months are going to be fundamental for us and I have time to make a contribution," he added. "Euro 2004? I am thinking about it."

Ambrosini is only considered as an outsider to make the Italian squad this summer given his season to date.

Ancelotti reveals tactical key
1.3 || scharatz

Carlo Ancelotti explains what tactical changes allowed Milan to get the better of Lazio, but Roberto Mancini insists he deserved a point.

“It was a very tough game and both sides were very well organised,” assured the Rossoneri boss. “We had problems in the Coppa Italia against these opponents and therefore tried to run less risks by closing down their midfielders.”

“The real difference between those games and this one was in the midfield, as we prevented them crowding us on the flanks.”

Milan were less free-flowing than their traditional style of play, but took one of their only chances to win the game.

“We attacked a little less than usual and didn’t dominate possession,” added Ancelotti, “but you have to change your tactics every now and then.”

Match-winner Massimo Ambrosini was not expected to start, but he made an impressive comeback after a series of fitness worries.

“Ambrosini has been injured for a long time and Gattuso had an ankle problem, so we opted to give him a run out,” explained Ancelotti. “It all came together beautifully and it’s an important goal for the title race.”

Mancini was heartbroken at the final whistle, as he maintains Lazio deserved at least a point from this game.

“I don’t think the result was the correct one. It was a hard-fought and tactical game, but I don’t believe that Milan deserved all three points.”

“There are times you play well and get the win,” added the Biancocelesti boss, “but others when it doesn’t go your way and we just have to accept that.”

Mancini’s men already beat Milan twice in the Coppa Italia this season, but despite often taking the initiative they emerge empty handed.

“We pushed more than the Rossoneri and notched up 15 corner kicks, but Milan is a great team and their defence is second to none.”

Massimo Ambrosini scored the winning goal on Marcos Cafu’s sweeping cross from the right.

“We should have realised earlier that this was going to happen as Cafu was allowed to cross without pressure,” noted the tactician.

When asked what he could have done to turn the game around, Mancini insists he would not have dropped the trident attack.

“Bernardo Corradi is a crucial player for us and up until now this system has worked very well, but it certainly isn’t easy to score against a side like Milan.”

Mancio also explained why Fabio Liverani was so furious with the fourth official when he was substituted.

“That was my fault,” he smiled. “I changed my mind on who was going to be replaced and it caused a bit of confusion.”

SS Lazio 0:1 AC Milan - report
1.3 || scharatz

Ambrosini 74 (M)

Milan earn their first win over Lazio in the Capital for eight years thanks to Massimo Ambrosini's diving header.

These two teams clashed earlier this month in the Coppa Italia and that semi-final went to Lazio with a 6-1 scoreline, including a 4-0 drubbing at the Stadio Olimpico. Curiously, the last five editions of this Serie A fixture have been draws.

Kaka' was suspended for this tie and former Lazio captain Alessandro Nesta is injured, so Billy Costacurta and Jon Dahl Tomasson were given the nod. Massimo Ambrosini also stepped in for the not 100 per cent fit Gennaro Gattuso. Pippo Inzaghi has now recovered from injury, but has been left on the bench in favour of support man Tomasson.

The Biancocelesti completely outplayed Milan in the Coppa and once again fielded their trident attack with Claudio Lopez, Bernardo Corradi and the pacey Cesar.

There was a bizarre atmosphere at the start of the game, as Lazio fans left the Curva empty for the first five minutes in protest at refereeing errors against their side.

Both teams had early chances with crucial tackles keeping out Tomasson's header and a Corradi effort.

Former Roma winger Marcos Cafu went closest on 16 minutes when his angled drive skimmed the far post. Had Tomasson been able to get a touch from close range it would have been a goal for Milan.

Stefano Fiore has been on fine form and swept in a brilliant cross for Lopez, but Costacurta did well to clear before the Argentine could pounce.

On a resulting corner Fernando Couto nodded just wide of the far post as his header bounced off the ground.

Lazio stepped up the pressure and Corradi's effort ricocheted off Paolo Maldini's chest from close range, while there were protests when a Sinisa Mihajlovic free kick struck Andrea Pirlo's arm in the defensive wall.

This trend continued in the second half as Claudio Lopez failed to make the most of a free header at the back post on another of those Mihajlovic corner kicks.

Roberto Mancini made the first tactical change by replacing a tired Cesar with attacking winger Luciano Zauri, soon followed by Pippo Inzaghi taking over from Tomasson and Gennaro Gattuso on for the uninspired Rui Costa.

The game was slowing down as time wore on, but burst into life on 74 minutes when Milan took the lead. A long Pirlo pass found Cafu, but it was Clarence Seedorf's chipped cross that allowed Massimo Ambrosini to turn in a diving header at the back post.

Massimo Oddo was thrown on for greater width, pushing Jaap Stam in to the centre, while ex-Lazio player Giuseppe Pancaro faced his former club.

Both Inzaghi's were on the field for the final minutes as Simone also stepped on to the field in a last gasp attempt at earning an equaliser, but Milan earn their first win here since 1995.

Lazio: Peruzzi; Stam, Couto (Oddo 80), Mihajlovic, Favalli; Fiore, Giannichedda, Liverani (S Inzaghi 84); Lopez, Corradi, Cesar (Zauri 65)

Milan: Dida; Cafu, Costacurta, Maldini, Kaladze; Ambrosini, Pirlo, Seedorf; Rui Costa (Gattuso 66); Shevchenko (Pancaro 80), Tomasson (P Inzaghi 66)

Ref: Paparesta

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