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The Archive

April 2006

AC Milan 2:0 Livorno - match report
30.4 || scharatz

Source: Football Italia

Inzaghi 28, 66 (M)
Stadio San Siro

Milan's title hopes are hanging by a thread, as the gap remains three points with two games to go after Pippo Inzaghi's brace saw off Livorno.

The title was thrown back into the ring last week when Juve's lead was sliced down to just three points, but the Rossoneri were still smarting from their midweek Champions League exit to Barcelona. Alessandro Nesta, Massimo Ambrosini, Kaka and the suspended Clarence Seedorf were out, while Livorno got back on track last week after seven defeats on the trot.

Pippo Inzaghi had the first chance with a diving header, then there were penalty appeals for a handling offence inside the area as a free kick struck the defensive wall.

Inzaghi really should've put Milan ahead after 15 minutes, as he somehow failed to redirect a Serginho low cross from five yards with the goalkeeper well beaten, but he only got a glancing touch to the inviting ball.

It was all the Rossoneri and Shevchenko nodded Manuel Rui Costa's cross past the post.

Marco Amelia performed a great save to deny Shevchenko soon after, but it was Inzaghi who finally made all this pressure count on 28 minutes.

He was at full stretch to side-foot in a Marek Jankulovski cross from the left on the volley.

Amelia stuck up a strong hand to turn Shevchenko's chest and volley over the bar from point-blank range.

Livorno's first shot on goal came after 35 minutes, as a cross was not dealt with effectively and Diego De Ascentis drilled his angled drive just wide of the far post.

Amelia again got a fingertip to Inzaghi's close-range effort, then Jaap Stam went off with a shoulder problem after he accidentally clattered into teammate Dida in a bid to close down Lucarelli.

After the restart, Inzaghi sprung the offside trap to chest down Rui Costa's long pass, but Amelia rushed out and turned it on to the side-netting.

Milan were wasting literally dozens of chances at San Siro and Shevchenko slammed the crossbar with Amelia beaten from another inspired Rui Costa assist.

Inzaghi headed an Andrea Pirlo free kick over the bar, while Dida parried a Raffaele Palladino counter-attack, but SuperPippo completed his brace on 66 minutes.

Shevchenko's cross came in from the right and Inzaghi volleyed in from six yards with the inside of his right foot.

Milan kept on pushing with Amelia flying around his net to keep out Marek Jankulovski's rocket and an Alberto Gilardino attempt.

Lucarelli almost got Livorno back into it eight minutes from time with a low drive that was fingertipped round the near post by Dida.

Milan: Dida; Cafu, Stam (Costacurta 41), Kaladze, Serginho; Gattuso, Pirlo, Jankulovski; Rui Costa; Shevchenko (Gilardino 66), Inzaghi (Amoroso 79)

Livorno: Amelia; Fanucci, Grandoni (Cesar Prates 68), Galante; Balleri, Morrone, Passoni, De Ascentis (Ruotolo 79), Pfertzel; Palladino (Paulinho 69), C Lucarelli

Ref: Racalbuto

Ancelotti: Now for the Scudetto
29.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Carlo Ancelotti admits he is still smarting from the Champions League, but that Milan will use that to fire them on in a remarkable Scudetto race.

“Of course we miss Europe, because we were a whisker away from the Final. We deserved to play in Paris every bit as much as Barcelona, but only one could go through. With Arsenal and Barca, the two Finalists will be teams who relied on a defensive approach to qualify,” he said after the 1-0 aggregate semi-final defeat.

“We have to get over it and concentrate on Serie A, where our objective is to get nine points from the last three games to keep our Scudetto hopes alive until the very end. The pressure is on Juventus now, as their lead has been reduced to the bare minimum.”

Ancelotti believes that the Rossoneri’s European exit, complete with controversially disallowed goal at the Nou Camp, could spur them on to greater things this season.

“The fans appreciated our performance regardless of the disappointment of the result. The fact this team gave its all means we can build on that and make important strides over the next few games.”

If they are to avoid ending a second consecutive season empty-handed, then Milan must complete an extraordinary comeback to take the title off a Juventus side that had seemed to be in the clear only a few weeks ago.

“Naturally, it would’ve been better if there were still 10 or 11 rounds left rather than three, but there is time to eat up these three points and all we can do is keep winning and hope for the best. Anything can happen in football and the only verdicts from this season already decided are the relegations for Treviso and Lecce. All the rest is up for grabs.”

Milan welcome a revitalised Livorno on Sunday afternoon, while leaders Juventus visit relegation strugglers Siena.

The Coach ended his Press conference by denying a revolution was needed to bring flesh blood into this ageing squad.

“I don’t understand why there is always talk of the veterans and not about the basic spine of the side, such as Alessandro Nesta, Kakha Kaladze, Kaka, Andriy Shevchenko and Alberto Gilardino, who can go on playing for many years. A few players like Jaap Stam will leave and be replaced, but that’s the only reason to make changes.”

Merk bites back at Milan
29.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Referee Markus Merk has broken his silence on the contentious Barcelona tie and insisted he was right to disallow Andriy Shevchenko’s goal.

“When the ball was in the air, Shevchenko’s foul was very clear,” he told German newspaper ‘Die Welt.’

“In fact, the Ukrainian apologised to Carles Puyol immediately afterwards. Nobody complained on the pitch at the time.”

The Rossoneri were furious after the Champions League semi-final when Shevchenko’s goal, which would’ve taken the tie to extra time, was disallowed for an alleged push that is not clear on any of the available footage.

“It was a goal, I didn’t push Puyol,” insisted Sheva, who looked anything but apologetic after the header was chalked off at the Nou Camp.

Vice-President Adriano Galliani was particularly angry and noted: “Many things about Merk’s performance annoyed me: the rather limited three minutes of stoppages, which he blew the final whistle on 20 seconds early, and the disallowed goal. With this we could’ve gone to extra time and it’s a shame the tie was decided by a refereeing error.”

There are even reports that UEFA came out in favour of Milan in this situation, effectively banning Merk from officiating a game with Italy or Shevchenko’s Ukraine in the 2006 World Cup.

Cafu sees scared Juve
29.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan are just three points adrift of Serie A leaders Juventus and Marcos Cafu believes the Scudetto is there for the taking.

“We have three games left to play and so do Juve, so in that time anything can happen,” said the Brazilian.

The gap had been as high as 10 points just a few weeks ago, but the Bianconeri’s run of five games without a win – seven in all competitions – has seen that lead crumble away.

“The alleged tension within the Juventus squad can influence the way they play the remaining ties, especially as the fact Milan are so close only increases that anxiety. We must try to win all of our matches and see what happens elsewhere.”

The Rossoneri also risk a psychological setback after their controversial Champions League exit to Barcelona, in which Andriy Shevchenko had a perfectly good goal disallowed.

“The atmosphere within the club is positive. It’s all we can do, as on Sunday we already have another tough test to think about. We played well at the Nou Camp and tried to win until the final whistle, so it’s a real shame we didn’t manage it, but now we must focus on the Scudetto.”

Milan’s title run-in sees two home games against Livorno and Roma, with a trip to Parma sandwiched in-between.

Juventus travel to Siena and Reggina, welcoming Palermo to the Stadio Delle Alpi next weekend.

Maldini undergoes knee surgery
29.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Paolo Maldini’s season is probably over after the Milan captain underwent knee surgery in Antwerp today.

The defender went under the knife for keyhole surgery on his right knee, an operation performed by specialist Professor Marc Maertens.

The club released a statement with minimal details, stating only that the time it would take for a full recovery would be evaluated over the next few days.

It has been a tough season for Maldini, who has managed just 14 Serie A appearances and nine Champions League games.

His last match was on April 18, when he came on as a substitute during the first leg of the Euro semi-final with Barcelona.

Maldini was out for almost four months with a knee problem and only made his comeback during the 3-1 win over Fiorentina on March 25.

Despite this series of setbacks, the player who turns 38 in June insisted last week that he would not retire early, as his contract does not expire until 2007.

Galliani denies Buffon link
28.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan chief Adriano Galliani has spoken out in favour of under-fire goalkeeper Nelson Dida and denied that he is planning a summer move for Gigi Buffon.

Dida’s reputation has taken a battering this season after a number of uncharacteristic errors, prompting rumours that the Brazilian international may be on his way out at the San Siro.

However, Galliani remains adamant that he will be sticking with his current custodian. “Buffon? We’ll carry on with Dida,” he stated,

“He put in a superb performance against Barcelona on Wednesday. I wish the newspapers were as keen to talk about his brilliance as they were about his less good moments.”

Speculation had been rife after French newspaper L’Equipe claimed that Buffon was to arrive from Juventus in exchange for Christian Abbiati and a cash sum.

The flames were fanned by reports that Buffon’s girlfriend Alena Seredova was keen to live in Milan. However, the Azzurri ‘keeper has remained tight-lipped thus far.

Amelia refutes Milan talk
28.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Livorno goalkeeper Marco Amelia has played down talk of a move to Milan, but admits that there is pressure on him to impress when his side face the Rossoneri this weekend.

With intense speculation that Dida may be leaving the San Siro in the summer, many have touted the highly-rated 24-year-old as a possible replacement.

However, Amelia is under contract at the Stadio Armando Picchi until 2009 and appears happy to stay there for now.

“I’d be delighted if one of the big three made an approach for me,” admitted the custodian. “But I’d always rather play for a team where I can show my ability rather than be second choice.”

It seems that Amelia is most concerned with impressing Marcelo Lippi and furthering his bid to travel to Germany as the Azzurri’s third goalkeeper.

“I think I’ve had an excellent season so far but it’s up to Lippi,” he told Radio Radio, “I know that Buffon and Peruzzi are ahead of me as they are two of the best in the world, but I’m playing for third.”

Livorno’s chances of securing a UEFA Cup place seem to be fading after a disastrous run of seven consecutive defeats. Whether Amelia is willing to miss out on European football remains to be seen.

Earlier in the season he called for Roma to make an offer for him and a move to the Stadio Olimpico – where Amelia started his career – remains a distinct possibility.

Sheva: There was no push
28.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Andriy Shevchenko has expressed his disappointment at referee Markus Merk’s decision to disallow his goal against Barcelona last night.

Milan bowed out of the Champions League after a 1-0 aggregate defeat, but felt aggrieved that Shevchenko’s would-be equaliser was ruled out for a push on Carles Puyol.

“It was a goal, I didn’t push Puyol,” declared the 29-year-old Ukrainian. “It was an inexplicable decision but we’re leaving the competition with our heads held high. That’s football and you have to get on with it.”

Shevchenko’s strike partner Pippo Inzaghi couldn’t mask his bitterness at his team’s elimination.

“What went wrong yesterday? The referee did,” he exclaimed to gathered journalists as he arrived for training this afternoon.

However, Puyol remains convinced that Shevchenko knocked him off his feet before running on to score.

“Shevchenko pushed me when he first started his run, and that put me off balance,” he maintained. “It’s not even a disallowed goal because the referee had already blown.”

Milan’s thoughts now turn to the Scudetto. They have closed to within three points of Juventus, but cannot afford any slip-ups.

“Now we can concentrate on catching Juventus,” admitted Shevchenko. “We must make sure we get nine points from these three games.”

Eto'o admires Rossoneri
28.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Samuel Eto’o, Ludovic Giuly and Giovanni Van Bronckhorst were all impressed with the way Milan put Barcelona under pressure.

“I think we played quite well in the first half and created a few chances, but we knew Milan were a great side and when they attacked we were under pressure,” said the Cameroon hitman.

The Spaniards held out for a 0-0 draw that qualified them 1-0 on aggregate for the Champions League Final, although Andriy Shevchenko had a goal controversially disallowed.

“We had to make sacrifices to get this result and in a band not everyone can play the guitar, someone needs to keep the beat with the drum.”

Eto’o had Barca’s best chance of the second leg, bringing a great save out of Dida from point-blank range.

“Dida did very well to rush out and cover the ball. I was trying to lob him, but he saw that coming and corrected his position to block the shot.”

Giuly scored the decisive goal in the first leg at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza and also stood by their more defensive approach to defend that slender lead.

“Milan are a great team, so it was always going to be difficult and we made the most of that precious result in the first leg,” said the former Monaco star.

Van Bronckhorst was one of the tactical keys to this success, changing position to help limit the Rossoneri’s creative centres.

“I think I had to go towards Gennaro Gattuso early on, which allowed Kaka and Shevchenko to get round me. In the second half I focused on Clarence Seedorf and it went much better, so we needed to make adjustments during the game.”

The Final in Paris will be a special game for Van Bronckhorst, who will face his former Arsenal teammates.

“Both teams reached the Final and therefore deserve to be there. I think it’ll be an attractive Final to watch, as we play in fairly similar styles,” said the Dutchman.

Milan try to lure Buffon
27.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Juventus may be ready to let Gigi Buffon join Milan in a part exchange deal involving Christian Abbiati, according to reports in France.

Speculation was fuelled by unexpected comments from Arsenal assistant Coach Pat Rice following his side’s triumph over Villarreal on Tuesday evening.

“Surely you all know that Buffon’s going to Milan in exchange for Abbiati and money?” Rice is quoted as saying in L’Equipe.

While Milan are keen to find a replacement for Dida, who has struggled to find consistency this term, persuading the Old Lady to part with the Azzurri ‘keeper may prove a harder task.

The Bianconeri have valued Buffon at £35m and would demand a significant cash figure in addition to the signature of Abbiati.

Abbiati has spent the season on loan at Juventus but has been relegated to the bench since Buffon returned from injury.

The 28-year-old has made 110 appearances for the Rossoneri since arriving from Monza in 1998, but had only started eight times in three seasons prior to this campaign.

It is thought that the Bianconeri will sign Sampdoria’s 36-year-old Francesco Antonioli to cover the position until 2008 when Marco Amelia’s contract with Livorno expires.

Meanwhile, the Old Lady are also rumoured to be plotting a £30m summer spending frenzy, with targets including Palermo’s Andrea Barzagli, William Gallas of Chelsea, Real Betis winger Joaquin and Cagliari’s 20-goal Honduran David Suazo.

Rui Costa hints at retirement
27.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Manuel Rui Costa has been linked with Fiorentina and Benfica, but the Milan man has hinted he could hang up his boots instead.

“I have been considering my future for some time. I have another three Serie A games to play with Milan and will concentrate on them before making a decision,” said the 34-year-old.

“Zinedine Zidane quitting does make you think, as I agree that a player who can no longer live up to his standards should bow out gracefully. It’s a time that arrives for everyone.”

The Portuguese international was part of the Golden Generation along with Luis Figo, but has been pushed out of the Rossoneri squad by Kaka, making just 22 Serie A appearances this season.

“Zidane is one of the greatest talents football has seen over the last 10 years, but he has decided to go at the right time, as if he doesn’t enjoy himself anymore and isn’t able to maintain those standards people have come to expect, it’s the best course of action.”

Rui Costa was a second half substitute at the Nou Camp last night, but the 0-0 draw wasn’t enough to knock Barcelona out of the Champions League semi-finals.

“The goal in the first leg weighed on us and so did the disallowed goal here. I think Milan proved over the 180 minutes that they were a great side.”

Like his teammates and Coach Carlo Ancelotti, Rui Costa thinks the game might’ve gone differently if Andriy Shevchenko’s goal hadn’t been controversially disallowed.

“If the goal had stood, I’m sure the very least we would’ve done was reach extra time. Although it shouldn’t have been ruled out, I prefer not to think about these things, as they only make you bitter.”

Seedorf: Milan remain the best
27.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Clarence Seedorf believes Milan leave the Champions League with their heads held high and that this was the ‘real’ Final.

“We lost this game in the first leg, unfortunately. It was a very balanced tie overall and, I believe, if you look at the 180 minutes then Milan deserved to go through,” said the Dutchman after going out 1-0 on aggregate to Barcelona.

“It was always going to be difficult, as these are the two best sides in Europe right now and the ones who play the best football. I’d prefer not to talk about the disallowed goal, as there’s no point to it now.”

The Final in Paris will be between Barcelona and Arsenal, but Seedorf thinks the best side has already gone out.

“We certainly showed Barcelona that Milan were the better team in the first leg up until the goal and again here at the Nou Camp. The Rossoneri have consistently been among the best in Europe for four years. I think everyone knows this should’ve been the Final, although Arsenal have never played at this stage, so it’s a special event for them.”

Despite the 0-0 draw at the Nou Camp, the Rossoneri bow out thanks to Ludovic Giuly’s strike in the first leg.

“It’s a shame, as we gave our all and really couldn’t have done any more than this. It was a very sporting game where everyone was focused only on the football and Barcelona understood they were facing a great team.”

All their attention now turns to Serie A, as Milan are within three points of leaders Juventus and there are just three games left to go.

“At least we have second place to consolidate and can hope that Juventus continue to make mistakes to let us back into the title race.”

Galliani defends Italian honour
27.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan Vice-President Adriano Galliani was furious with referee Markus Merk, but insists this season has not been a defeat for Italian football.

“Three minutes of stoppages was fairly short to begin with, let alone blowing the final whistle 20 seconds early, while the goal should not have been disallowed,” he said after the 0-0 draw at the Nou Camp saw Barcelona qualify 1-0 on aggregate.

“The two legs were very balanced and it’s a great shame to go out because of a refereeing error, as with that goal the game would’ve changed and I think we could’ve progressed.”

Galliani was crestfallen after this Champions League semi-final exit, although the Rossoneri have been easily the most successful side in recent years with the 2003 victory and incredible loss on penalties two campaigns later.

“Last season we again had a perfectly good goal disallowed against Liverpool in the Final, which would’ve made it 4-0. We’ll be back next year and keep trying to win the trophy again, as we were by no means inferior to Barcelona.”

The Rossoneri transfer guru was at least happy with the style of play seen over the two legs where, despite there only being one goal, there were several scoring opportunities.

“Barca and Milan play the best football in Europe and I don’t think anyone can doubt that now. Unfortunately, that single incident at San Siro cost us dearly.”

Galliani is also the head of the Lega Calcio, which represents Italian football, but insists the lack of peninsula representatives in the Champions League Final is not a death knell.

“I believe that Inter and Juventus had the opportunities to progress. Italian football got three of the final eight teams in the Champions League, so this is hardly the death of our clubs.”

Rijkaard afraid of Milan
27.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Former Rossoneri man Frank Rijkaard admits Barcelona had to sit back and defend in order to get past a ‘fantastic’ Milan side.

“I honestly believe this approach was necessary, as we were facing a fantastic team like Milan. It is a great result for us to go through,” said the Coach.

Ludovic Giuly’s strike in the first leg proved the only goal in the 1-0 aggregate victory, sending Barca through to the Final against Arsenal in Paris, but the Spaniards surprised with their almost negative approach.

“We are used to playing Edmilson as a defensive midfielder. It seemed logical that he often had to fold back even more on Kaka, but he also pushed forward when needed, so it wasn’t a pure man-marking job. The important thing was to defend well, as with these strikers you don’t need to work too hard on the attacking aspect.”

Rijkaard was Carlo Ancelotti’s teammate at Milan in the late 1980s and admits he has picked up some elements from Arrigo Sacchi’s teachings.

“Clearly I always prefer to play attacking football, but we mustn’t forget that there are moments against a great side when you have to slow the tempo and try to take back control.”

Ancelotti: We deserved the Final
27.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Carlo Ancelotti has slammed referee Markus Merk for disallowing a good goal and claims Milan deserved to qualify ahead of Barcelona.

“That was a perfectly good goal and nobody can understand how such an experienced referee could whistle for a foul there,” said the Coach after Andriy Shevchenko’s header was ruled out.

“Carles Puyol lost his balance when running backwards and that’s all there was to it. In such an important game, errors like this weigh heavily on our shoulders and we certainly feel penalised.”

Both meetings in the semi-final were evenly balanced and the Ludovic Giuly strike in the first leg proved the only difference between them.

“We were on a par with Barca in both legs and, just as at San Siro, tried in every possible way to get a goal. We’re disappointed and especially after seeing that goal disallowed, ruling us out of a Final I think we would’ve deserved,” added Ancelotti.

“We leave this competition with our heads held high. Although we struggled a little at the start of the tournament, the squad stepped up a gear and was unlucky to go out in the semi-finals. The team did everything it possibly could today and created chances, but our regrets are only wrapped up in failing to score at the end of it.”

Ancelotti had to make a few changes for the second leg, as Kaka and Shevchenko seemed to go deeper, often leaving Pippo Inzaghi isolated upfront, while Barcelona were surprisingly negative considering their reputation for champagne football.

“I didn’t give the strikers any particular orders. The difference was that Kaka had to move around to avoid getting stuck in Edmilson’s man-marking. Barcelona focused only on the counter-attack in the second half and didn’t really try to push forward at all. The fact that Frank Rijkaard was forced to sit back is a compliment to our performance, as we came to the Nou Camp and put Barcelona under pressure.”

Milan are still in the running for the Scudetto after cutting the gap from Juventus to just three points, but Ancelotti insists there will be no revolution in the summer.

“This is a competitive side and it will be the same next term. A few players will leave and a few adjustments have already been organised, but nothing more is needed. Although we have some 40-year-old players, the nucleus of the team is still young.”

Barcelona 0:0 AC Milan - match report
26.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Despite a creditable draw at the Nou Camp and a controversially disallowed goal, Milan bow out of the Champions League 1-0 on aggregate to Barcelona.

The Rossoneri knew they had a mammoth task ahead of them if they were to join Arsenal in the Final, as they had lost the first leg 1-0 at home. Filippo Inzaghi missed that tie due to tonsillitis, but was back upfront at the Nou Camp.

Kaka and Andriy Shevchenko played despite minor injury worries, but Alessandro Nesta wasn't even fit enough for the bench after a thigh strain, so 40-year-old Alessandro Costacurta started in central defence. Barca welcomed Deco back from suspension.

Milan had the first shot after 40 seconds with Kaka's effort whistling just wide of the far post. Barcelona also threatened soon after with Dida rushing out to close down Samuel Eto'o's powerful strike from point-blank range.

Inzaghi was halted for an extremely tight offside decision, but there was panic in the Milan area on 16 minutes. Kakha Kaladze foolishly lost the ball and Dida managed to get a touch on to Eto'o's finish, allowing Costacurta to clear off the line.

Rafael Marquez's intervention stopped a promising Clarence Seedorf pass reaching Inzaghi clear on goal. Soon after, Inzaghi sprung the offside trap on Gennaro Gattuso's through ball, only for his first touch to let him down.

Ronaldinho's ambitious effort from 20 metres was over the bar, then Andriy Shevchenko struck the side-netting from a tight angle when he might've done better to pass it into the centre.

Another Eto'o attempt from close range was charged down by a sea of defensive bodies, while Juliano Belletti drilled well wide with his right foot.

Inzaghi just failed to get his head on the end of a Jaap Stam cross and nodded another wide when he was off balance, while a weak Giuly shot was comfortably held by Dida.

Seedorf was off target from 35 metres with a very hopeful attempt, but there was worry when Stam tripped on the ball and set off a Barca attack which Deco fired over the bar.

A fine Kaka move was closed down by an acrobatic Carles Puyol intervention with Shevchenko and Inzaghi ready in the centre.

The Milan defence lost the ball again and Costacurta earned a booking for his desperate tackle on Eto'o.

The second half started well for the Italians, though Shevchenko's diving header on a Seedorf cross was into the grateful arms of Victor Valdes.

Ronaldinho's free kick was comfortably smothered by Dida, then Milan were very lucky that Belletti just failed to get on the end of Giuly's low pass in the six-yard box, as the slightest contact probably would've resulted in a goal.

A prolonged period of Rossoneri pressure ended with a wayward Inzaghi header and another Ronaldinho free kick from distance failed to trouble Dida.

Giuly went close for the Blaugrana with a volley from Ronaldinho's delightful chipped pass that was wide of the near post.

Inzaghi's shot was off target under pressure from Marquez and Marcos Cafu replaced Costacurta, moving Stam to central defence for the final half-hour push. In response, Frank Rijkaard switched Ronaldinho to the centre and Eto'o out wide on the left.

Serginho needed a perfectly timed tackle to stop Giuly running clear on goal from Ronaldinho's pass.

On 66 minutes Valdes only flapped a Serginho cross into the path of Cafu, who couldn't keep his header down in front of an open goal.

Henrik Larsson replaced Giuly and Milan threw on Manuel Rui Costa for Gattuso in an all-attack formation.

Milan hit the back of the net after 68 minutes with Shevchenko's header, but it was controversially disallowed for an alleged push on Puyol. Replays do not show particularly clear contact and the defender appeared to slip.

Seedorf was caught napping, but made up for it by winning the ball back off Ronaldinho on the edge of the box. Ancelotti's men were dominating possession in the second half, with Barca focusing on the counter-attack.

Barcelona could've put the tie beyond doubt on 74 minutes with Eto'o's cross reaching a Larsson diving header, but Dida performed a stunning instinct save from point-blank range to keep the Rossoneri in it.

Deco fired straight at Dida after Ronaldinho broke forward, then Inzaghi again was a couple of inches off a promising cross into the centre. SuperPippo seemed tired and still not 100 per cent fit after his debilitating bout of tonsillitis, so Alberto Gilardino came on for the final 10 minutes.

The ex-Parma man couldn't make the most of a Rui Costa cross and in the final minute Serginho lashed wide of the near post with a half-volley.

Barcelona: Valdes; Belletti, Marquez, Puyol, Van Bronckhorst; Iniesta, Edmilson, Deco; Giuly (Larsson 68), Eto'o (Van Bommel 88), Ronaldinho

Milan: Dida; Stam, Costacurta (Cafu 64), Kaladze, Serginho; Gattuso (Rui Costa 68), Pirlo, Seedorf; Kakà; Shevchenko, Inzaghi (Gilardino 79)

Ref: Merk (Ger)

We can qualify, says Ancelotti
26.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti is going into tonight’s Barcelona Champions League tie with no fear. “We have nothing to lose,” he stated.

The Rossoneri will kick off tonight’s semi-final after losing the first leg 1-0 at the San Siro, but the tactician is remaining optimistic.

“It’s true that we are a goal down, yet that may in fact be a positive for my side,” the tactician stated.

“We no longer have anything to lose and we have the quality to play for a place in the Paris Final next month.”

Milan did create numerous chances in the opening 90 minutes, but were punished for some erratic finishing.

“We must not waste any opportunities that we create,” added the Coach. “We need to play for the whole game like we played for an hour in the opening encounter.

“Milan have come to the Nou Camp, not to limit Barca's play, but to impose our own style of football and we mustn’t be afraid to do that.

“I want my team to play with personality out there. Then, if we are eliminated, it will be no disaster to have lost out to a great team like Barcelona.

“They’ll play pretty much as they did last week. They’ll be very balanced and aim to keep possession, something they are very good at.”

The game is likely to see Pippo Inzaghi return to first team action after he missed the 1-0 reverse with illness.

“He’s coming from a period of inactivity, but he’s up for this game,” noted Ancelotti. “He’ll certainly give his best like the rest of the team.

“Our first thought after the defeat in Istanbul last season was to reach Paris. We are so close to that objective, so why should we stop now?”

Costacurta: We can beat Barca
26.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

A crowd of fans saluted Milan as they flew out to Barcelona today and veteran Alessandro Costacurta insists they can conquer the Nou Camp.

“It will undoubtedly be a difficult task, but in the first leg we realised that Barca have some weak spots and, if they play the same way, then I am convinced we won’t get it wrong,” said the 40-year-old defender.

The Rossoneri lost the first leg 1-0 to a Ludovic Giuly goal and must therefore win in Spain to reach their third Champions League Final in four years.

“This team has strength and my positive outlook today is based on the character that this group has shown over the years. Anything can happen once you’re on the field of play, but I am confident.”

Costacurta has respect for Barcelona, but also remembers the crushing 4-0 victory in Athens for the 1994 Champions League Final.

“Just as in 1994, the Spaniards are the favourites going in. Their biggest mistake that year was Johann Cruyff’s comments which assumed they had already won the trophy, as not only did they charge us up, they made Barcelona’s players think themselves unbeatable. We gave them a rude awakening.”

Over 200 fans turned up to Malpensa airport to cheer the players on and this further boosted the atmosphere around Carlo Ancelotti’s side.

“One thing is for sure: we’re going to give this match everything we’ve got,” said Pippo Inzaghi, who missed the first leg due to a bout of tonsillitis.

“We can do this, we just have to be convinced of our abilities,” added Coach Ancelotti. “The team is in good shape and we must play at the level we did in the first match with a little more concentration. Qualification is still within our grasp, so strength, experience and tradition can tell in the long run.”

Vice-President Adriano Galliani was also swept up in the enthusiasm of the supporters, who chanted ‘We believe because we know what you can do.’

“We’ll do everything possible to win the game and I sense the air of a great victory. It’ll certainly be difficult, but Milan will not give up until the final whistle. It’d be wonderful to celebrate the ninth Final in 18 years.”

Rijkaard respects Rossoneri
26.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Frank Rijkaard and Ronaldinho claim they know how to neutralise Milan and get Barcelona to the Champions League Final.

“I fear and respect the Rossoneri, but we are ready,” the Coach told the ‘Gazzetta dello Sport.’ “I have many ideas that I will put into practice, even if we’ll only know at the final whistle if they were the right ones.”

The former Milan hero has already beaten his old teammate Carlo Ancelotti 1-0 in the first leg of this semi-final, but warns the qualification is not yet secure.

“The 1-0 lead is an advantage, but we must always play to win. The goal we scored at San Siro cannot become an obsession for us. Tomorrow will be another game and another story. I don’t want to think about what the worst mistake could be, as all we need to do is win.”

Ronaldinho has been struggling with a slight injury, but was rested at the weekend – as was the entire team, considering their Liga game with Sevilla was rained off – and has fully recovered.

“I am fine and ready for this tie, which will be one of the most important matches I have played in a Barca jersey. We want to make history,” said the Brazilian.

“It’s a difficult test and we must play with intelligence. Milan will put in the performance of their lives and try to score, so we must be ready to stop them.”

Ancelotti is keeping cagey about which tactical moves he will make to limit the Ballon d’Or winner, but Ronaldinho isn’t worried.

“I don’t know who will mark me, whether Alessandro Nesta, Jaap Stam, Marcos Cafu or Gennaro Gattuso. I only know that they are all excellent players. Obviously, I know Marcos a little better, but being Brazilian doesn’t change matters, as it’d be tough to get past him too.”

The statistics do not back Milan’s hopes of reaching the Final in Paris, as they also lost the 1959-60 European Cup tie at home against Barcelona, with a 2-0 scoreline, and ended up losing 5-1 in Spain.

There is a different figure that is more hopeful, as the Rossoneri have qualified in nine of their 10 semi-finals in this competition, missing out only to Real Madrid in 1955-56. It would be Milan’s 11th Champions League Final or Barcelona’s fifth, but the Spaniards have only ever won this trophy once, beating Sampdoria in extra time in 1992.

Cafu extends Milan deal
24.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan have this evening made the surprising announcement that Marcos Cafu has signed a new contract.

The 36-year-old was believed to be on the verge of leaving the San Siro after admitting that he wanted to end his career at Sao Paulo.

However, Cafu will now remain for the 2006-07 after signing an extension until the end of June next year.

The Brazilian national captain joined the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza outfit in 2003, on a free transfer, after spending six years at Roma.

Season over for Ambrosini
24.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Massimo Ambrosini’s season is over after the Milan midfielder suffered a hairline leg fracture at Messina on Saturday.

The midfielder came on as a substitute at the Stadio San Filippo, but limped off just minutes later following a Sicilian challenge.

It’s the second fracture suffered by Ambrosini this term after he picked up a similar injury last September.

The Italian international is expected to be sidelined for the next 40 days even if he should be ready for pre-season training.

Ambrosini has subsequently not been included in Milan’s squad for Wednesday’s Champions League tie at Barcelona.

However, key players Kaka, Andriy Shevchenko and Alessandro Nesta are included despite fitness concerns.

Squad – Goalkeepers: Dida, Kalac, Fiori.

Defenders: Cafu, Costacurta, Kaladze, Marzoratti, Nesta, Maldini, Jankulovski, Simic, Stam.

Midfielders: Gattuso, Kaka, Pirlo, Rui Costa, Seedorf, Serginho, Vogel;

Attackers: Amoroso, Gilardino, Inzaghi, Shevchenko.

Billy wins Baresi comparison
24.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan chief Adriano Galliani has hailed the career of Alessandro Costacurta after he turned 40 today.

“I always thought that Costacurta was at the level of Franco Baresi, Mauro Tassotti and Paolo Maldini,” the Vice-President told the club’s website.

“Not everyone agreed with me at the time, but they all agree with me today.

“I want to wish him all the best, a champion who starts his second 40 years on the eve of the game against Barcelona.

“That tie is one worthy of Billy’s celebration.”

The Varese-born stopper, who is married to a former Miss Italy, was first included in the Milan squad back in 1985-86.

He’s spent his entire career with the Rossoneri apart from a one season loan spell with Monza in the 1986-87 Serie C1 campaign.

The former Italian international, capped 59 times by the Azzurri, recently signed a new one-year contract with the club which will expire in June 2007.

Ancelotti opts for Europe
24.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti insists that his side have a better chance of winning the Champions League than Lo Scudetto.

Although the Rossoneri have closed to within three points of Juventus with just three games of the campaign left, he believes overturning Barcelona’s 1-0 semi-final first leg advantage is an easier task.

“The Champions League is more accessible to us,” he surprisingly told Radio Anch’Io Sport on Monday morning.

“We are convinced that we can win at the Nou Camp, especially because of the way we played for an hour in the first leg.

“Playing in Spain makes no difference. We have the same possibility of playing the way we can even away from the San Siro.

“The Serie A title? Juventus have three difficult games to play, but I think they have what is needed to defend their three point advantage.”

The Turin giants were well clear of Milan earlier this term, yet five successive draws has seen them come dangerously close to throwing their season away.

Most have blamed tiredness for the Old Lady’s stumbling form, but Ancelotti believes they are struggling mentally.

“It’s not just a physical problem but a psychological one,” stated the former Juve boss who himself lost a championship to Lazio after being nine points clear at the top.

“Their Champions League loss to Arsenal has affected them. That defeat led to criticism and subsequently worries within the camp.”

Returning to Wednesday’s European Cup clash, Milan are concerned about the fitness of Andriy Shevchenko, Kaka and Alessandro Nesta.

Although the Italian media seem optimistic that Sheva and Kaka will feature, Ancelotti is not making any promises.

“Nesta is still to have tests,” he explained. “We can only decide on Kaka after training on Tuesday in Spain.

“Everyone is at risk of not playing and they won’t be training today either. We need players who are at 100 per cent to qualify.”

Milan stars on tenterhooks
23.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan admit they’ll only know on Tuesday whether Kaka, Andriy Shevchenko, Marcos Cafu, Massimo Ambrosini and Alessandro Nesta can face Barcelona.

“The situation on the players injured at Messina will be evaluated on a daily basis and a final decision on their availability for the Barcelona game will be taken after Tuesday evening’s training session,” read an official statement on the club website.

Kaka is the biggest doubt after he was stretchered off with a bruised knee after a crunching tackle from Alessandro Nocerino, while Ambrosini spent just 14 minutes on the field before limping off with a knock to the left leg.

Nesta is also at risk for the Champions League semi-final at the Nou Camp with an upper thigh strain and Cafu was hacked down in stoppages by Salvatore Aronica.

Shevchenko was spotted limping out of the locker room after the 3-1 win at Messina’s Stadio San Filippo, but is expected to make a full recovery for the Wednesday night game, which the Rossoneri must win to progress.

“This was an uphill struggle, as we immediately went a goal down and lost three players to injury in the first half-hour, something that has never happened to me,” said Carlo Ancelotti.

“There was a tense atmosphere in this match and a lot of it was down to some irresponsible statements made in the run-up. Messina President Pietro Franza promised ‘an entire city ready to do battle’ and our players bore the brunt of that attitude.”

The good news from the Milanello training ground this morning is that Paolo Maldini and Pippo Inzaghi, who missed Saturday’s match through a muscular problem and tonsillitis respectively, are back in training.

Kaka doubt for Barca clash
23.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Kaka, Massimo Ambrosini, Alessandro Nesta, Andriy Shevchenko and Marcos Cafu are dealing with injuries ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final with Barcelona.

Milan were forced to make three substitutions in the opening 28 minutes of today’s 3-1 win at Messina’s Stadio San Filippo.

Kaka bruised his knee after a tough tackle from Alessandro Nocerino and was stretchered off, while his replacement Ambrosini suffered a muscular problem soon after.

Nesta also limped away with a groin injury, while Cafu was hacked down in stoppages by Salvatore Aronica, a tackle which sparked the brawl that saw Aronica and Clarence Seedorf sent off.

There are reports that Shevchenko was seen limping away from the locker room after the match, so there are also doubts over his full fitness levels.

Johann Vogel, Filippo Inzaghi and Paolo Maldini were absent for this trip to Sicily due to minor injuries, plus Andrea Pirlo was suspended.

“We’ll see what condition I’m in after consulting with the team doctor on Sunday,” explained Nesta on the official Milan website. “Now we must focus on Barcelona and the Scudetto race will come later.”

The Rossoneri face an uphill struggle to reach the Champions League Final, having lost 1-0 on home turf in the first leg.

Inzaghi is on the road to recovery after a bout of tonsillitis, but the biggest doubts for Wednesday’s Nou Camp encounter would appear to be Kaka and Ambrosini.

Messina 1:3 AC Milan - post-match comments
23.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Giampiero Ventura: “We were taking on a world class side and it’s understandable to lose against Milan. We played well in the first half-hour and the start of the second half, then allowed them too much room. If we hadn’t conceded that third goal, there might’ve been the chance for a late equaliser.”

Carlo Ancelotti: “This was a strange game with a controversial lead-up caused by some irresponsible comments. We paid the price for those statements promising a battle royal. Kaka has a nasty bruise on his knee and we’ll have to see his condition tomorrow before deciding if he can play against Barcelona. As for the Scudetto, all we can do is try to win the last three ties and see what happens.”

Favalli to cross San Siro?
22.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

There are reports that Milan will poach out of contract defender Giuseppe Favalli from their rivals Inter in the summer.

The Rossoneri have been delighted with Kakha Kaladze’s transformation into a classy central defender, but this has left them short of a left-back.

Former Lazio man Favalli will be a free agent at the end of the season, as the Nerazzurri do not seem intent on offering a new one-year contract, and it’s claimed Milan are ready to give him a new home on the other side of the San Siro.

The 34-year-old could therefore follow in the footsteps of several other Inter players who have crossed straight over the city, such as Andrea Pirlo, Clarence Seedorf, Dario Simic and Christian Vieri.

The Nerazzurri are happy enough with the break, as they have already secured the services of Ajax left-back Maxwell.

Meanwhile, Roberto Mancini has to make changes for today’s encounter with Reggina, as Esteban Cambiasso has flown to Argentina for a family emergency.

Messina 1:3 AC Milan - match report
22.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Scorers: Sculli 6 (Me), Jankulovski 33 (Mi), Gattuso 43 (Mi), Gilardino 89 (Mi)

Milan lost three players to injury in the first half-hour, but still fought back to earn a potentially crucial win in Sicily in a game that saw four red cards.

The Rossoneri were torn between two competitions, as they wanted to rest players for Wednesday's Champions League semi-final decider with Barcelona, but Juve's dismal run had re-opened the Scudetto race.

Paolo Maldini and Pippo Inzaghi were left behind due to minor injuries, but both the suspended Andrea Pirlo and his natural replacement Johann Vogel were sidelined. Messina were also desperate for points, as they were still in the relegation zone going into this game. Defender Rahman Rezaei sat out a ban.

Messina took a shock lead within the opening six minutes due to a chaotic move. A touched-on free kick took a deflection and Dida only touched it into the path of Giuseppe Sculli to tap in from six yards.

There was bad news for the Rossoneri, as Kaka was stretchered off with an ice-pack on his knee after a foul from Nocerino. Massimo Ambrosini replaced him, but there are doubts over his presence against Barcelona.

Dida pushed an Antonelli volley out at the near post with another less-than-secure intervention, but there was even worse news, as Alessandro Nesta limped off with a muscular problem.

Marco Storari required an instinctive save to keep out Andriy Shevchenko's diving header on 26 minutes.

Carlo Ancelotti's squad appeared to be cursed, as Ambrosini - who had replaced Kaka only 15 minutes earlier - also limped off with an injury to make way for Marek Jankulovski. Within the opening half-hour, Milan had been forced to use up all of their substitutions.

There was at least one bonus, as it was subsitute Jankulovski who scored the equaliser four minutes after coming on. The ex-Udinese man volleyed in with his left foot at the near post from a Serginho cross.

Alberto Gilardino's twisting header on a Jankulovski centre was wide of the target, but the Rossoneri turned the game around completely on the stroke of half-time.

Gennaro Gattuso unleashed a fierce strike from 30 metres to beat Storari and give Milan the lead for the first time in this game.

The drama still wasn't over, as in first half stoppages Nocerino received a second yellow card for hauling back Shevchenko by his jersey.

Clarence Seedorf's glancng header from a free kick was wide of the far post, but 10-man Messina also threatened with a Sergio Floccari header.

The Sicilians again went close, but Jaap Stam was able to clear the danger from Massimo Donati.

Arturo Di Napoli wasted a golden opportunity to equalise from Sculli's free kick, ballooning over the bar from a great position.

At the other end, Shevchenko's strike on the bounce only shook the side-netting.

Sculli was also sent off for a second bookable offence in the final minutes and Milan put the result beyond doubt when Seedorf intercepted a Storari pass towards Aronica, passing across for Gilardino's tap-in.

The tension exploded and ended in a brawl with Aronica and Seedorf red-carded for slapping each other.

Messina: Storari; Zoro, Zanchi, Aronica, Parisi; Antonelli (Sullo 46), Nocerino, Donati, Sculli; Floccari, Muslimovic (Rafael 73)

Milan: Dida; Cafu, Nesta (Stam 17), Kaladze, Serginho; Gattuso, Rui Costa, Seedorf; Kakà (Ambrosini 13) (Jankulovski 28); Shevchenko, Gilardino

Ref: Pieri

Sent off: Nocerino 45 (Me), Sculli 87 (Me), Aronica 91 (Me), Seedorf 91 (Mi)

Ancelotti focused on Messina
22.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan may have closed in on Juventus and prepare for a key clash with Barcelona, but Carlo Ancelotti insists they are focusing on Messina.

“Our minds are very much on the task at hand,” he said as they visit the Sicilian club this afternoon. “It will be a different Milan from the one that lost at Lecce a few weeks ago. We won’t take on Barca until Wednesday, so we have an extra day to recover.”

Paolo Maldini, Pippo Inzaghi and Johann Vogel have not made the trip, along with the suspended Andrea Pirlo, so Ancelotti is forced to make major midfield changes and Manuel Rui Costa could step in. It’s fortuitous timing for the Portuguese veteran, who yesterday aimed a public broadside at the Coach.

“I have a good rapport with Rui Costa and if there were problems I think he would’ve told me,” insisted Ancelotti. “As far as I’m concerned, nothing happened.”

It could be another turning point in the Scudetto race, as Juventus welcome on-form Lazio to the Delle Alpi and that five-point lead could be whittled down even more.

“A victory in Messina would secure second place and that is all we are focusing on right now. What happens in Turin doesn’t interest us, as we are concentrated on our own game and the three points we need to earn.”

It won’t be easy, as the Sicilians are desperate for a result to escape the relegation zone and have only lost four times at the Stadio San Filippo this season.

“Messina are in dire need of points and we know their fans will be out in force to create a passionate atmosphere. However, we have the opportunity to win and have proved this season that we are effective away from home.”

The Rossoneri will be hoping to maintain that trend when they visit the Nou Camp for the Champions League semi-final on Wednesday, needing a win to overturn their 1-0 first leg home defeat.

Milan squad: Dida, Kalac, Fiori; Cafu, Kaladze, Marzoratti, Nesta, Jankulovski, Simic, Stam; Ambrosini, Aubameyang, Gattuso, Kakà, Rui Costa, Seedorf, Serginho; Amoroso, Gilardino, Shevchenko

Rui Costa wants Milan answers
21.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Manuel Rui Costa has told Milan to underline their faith in his abilities or allow him to join another club.

The Portuguese ace is growing frustrated with his bench role at the San Siro as Brazilian ace Kaka continues to be handed the fantasista shirt.

Now he’s urged the outfit to make their intentions clear regarding his status at the club after another campaign in the shadows at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza.

“I have great faith in myself and I’m convinced that I can help Milan,” he said. “However, [boss Carlo] Ancelotti and [chief Adriano] Galliani need to be sure too.

“I still have one year left on my contract and I want to know whether they still believe in me at this club.

“I don’t like the sensation of being a burden or a player who people don’t rate. That’s why I left the national side.

“If the team don’t have faith in me then I think it is only right that I consider another solution for myself.

“There are two roads to go down. If I no longer think I’m up to it then I’ll quit. Otherwise I would like to return to either Benfica or Fiorentina.”

The classy playmaker hit the headlines in his home country while at Benfica where he caught the eye of the Viola.

He joined Milan in 2001 after the Tuscan club tried to clear rising debts.

We can stun Barca, says Inzaghi
21.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan can go to the Nou Camp and shatter Barcelona’s Champions League dream, insists Rossoneri ace Pippo Inzaghi.

The Italian giants lost the first leg of their semi-final 1-0 on Tuesday, but the former Juventus player maintains the tie is not over.

“We deserved to win at the San Siro and instead we find ourselves 1-0 down,” he told Milan Channel.

“But that fact gives us the conviction that we can overturn the result even if we know that it will be extremely tough.

“Yet I believe that Milan can get a good result at the Nou Camp. This squad of players has what is needed to complete a miracle.”

Inzaghi missed the game with a virus, but he is looking to be back in contention for Saturday’s trip to Messina.

“I’m just thinking about making a full recovery now, then I hope to be able to appear against both Messina and then Barcelona,” he added.

“I was disappointed to not have been part of Tuesday’s game in what was a magical atmosphere, something that was tough to watch at home.

“Milan played reasonably well though and we were just unfortunate. But the tie is not over by any means.”

Kaka backs Pippo for WC place
21.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Brazilian ace Kaka has told Italy boss Marcello Lippi to select teammate Pippo Inzaghi for the World Cup Finals.

The striker hasn’t appeared for the Azzurri in over two years and never during the reign of his former Juventus mentor Lippi.

But Inzaghi has made a late push for a place on the German bound plane with a scintillating 2006 so far.

“I believe that Inzaghi deserves the attention of Lippi because he is a player who never stops believing on the field of play,” said the midfielder.

“He chases every ball until the very last kick of the game. He is a very important player for every team in which he plays.”

The pressure is certainly on Lippi to select Inzaghi given the problems affecting the national strikers at the minute.

Although Luca Toni continues to ripple nets, Alessandro Del Piero and Alberto Gilardino haven’t been at their best lately.

Udinese striker Vincenzo Iaquinta is also struggling for form, while Christian Vieri and Francesco Totti are injury doubts.

However, Lippi did meet with the Roma star on Thursday to check on his recovery from an ankle fracture and was happy with what he saw.

“He was in good shape,” stated Lippi. “His recovery is going well. I had positive vibes from seeing him on television and I had some important confirmation today.”

Totti is hoping to be back in action for the Coppa Italia Final first leg against Inter at the Olimpico on May 3.

Milan prepare Gallas swoop
20.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan have moved a step closer to making a bid for Chelsea defender William Gallas, according to reports in Italy.

Stories on Thursday suggest that the Frenchman will be targeted by the Rossoneri, especially given the fresh injection of cash received from their shirt sponsorship deal with gaming firm Bet and Win.

Gallas, whose Stamford Bridge future is in doubt, has been linked with the Italian giants for some given his contractual situation in London.

He’s tied to the Premiership champions until June 2007, but he’s been heavily associated with a summer exit.

Milan are in need of a new stopper with Jaap Stam and possibly Marcos Cafu coming to the end of their stints, and Gallas’ versatility has caught their eye.

The Italian giants have today also hinted that Gallas could be targeted as a result of his nationality.

“Gallas? He has one year left with Chelsea,” Vice-President Adriano Galliani told the Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper.

“All I can say is that we like French players because they are able to adapt quickly to our game, better than other Europeans.

“But I have no intention of commenting on Gallas, [Schalke’s 04 Christian] Poulsen or any other player until May 18.”

Ancelotti staying, BetAndWin confirmed
19.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan have today confirmed that boss Carlo Ancelotti will still be sitting on their bench next season despite the speculation in Spain.

Although the tactician committed his future to the Rossoneri last month when he inked until June 2008, Spanish reports insist that he will still be heading to Real Madrid in the summer.

Milan have again dismissed that suggestion on Wednesday, though, by categorically stating that no split is on the cards.

“Ancelotti is and will continue to be our Coach,” stated Vice-President Adriano Galliani on Wednesday.

“He has two years to run on his contract. I can say with certainty that, despite what some are saying, he’ll remain as Milan boss.”

Galliani also took steps to dismiss speculation linking them with a move for Real Madrid striker Ronaldo.

“I don’t want to take part in useless conversations, we already have the attackers we need,” added the official.

“Our strikers next season will be, in alphabetical order, Amoroso, Gilardino, Inzaghi and Shevchenko.

“Ronaldinho? He’s not a transfer market player and never will be. That’s the same situation for Kaka.”

Galliani also revealed today that former goalkeeper Sebastiano Rossi will become the club’s new ‘keeper Coach from next season.

Meanwhile, the club have confirmed that they have agreed a new shirt sponsorship deal with online betting company Bet and Win.

The Austrian firm will replace Opel on the Rossoneri shirts as their 12-year agreement will end on July 1, 2006.

Ronaldinho respects Rossoneri
19.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Ronaldinho and Carles Puyol admit Milan caused Barcelona problems and they're not celebrating a Champions League Final spot just yet.

"This is a very important result, but we know it's not over yet and there are 90 minutes to go, as we hold great respect for Milan," said the reigning European Player of the Year after the 1-0 victory at the San Siro.

"I swapped shirts with Kaka, but there was no duel between us and if there was I doubt either of us won it. We just wanted to help our teams do the best they could."

Defender Puyol was kept busy by Andriy Shevchenko, Kaka and Alberto Gilardino in the semi-final first leg encounter.

"Milan played very well in the first half and we had problems dealing with their aggressive midfield and high tempo," he said.

"Kaka is a very dangerous element and we knew we had to keep a close eye on him and Andrea Pirlo."

Puyol has repeatedly been linked with a move to the Rossoneri, but was happy to meet captain Paolo Maldini.

"Maldini is one of my sporting heroes and it's great to see him still going at the highest level after all these years," he added.

"I only hope I can follow in his footsteps to a degree, but in my view he's the best defender of all time," concluded the Spaniard.

Seedorf confident of Final chances
19.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Clarence Seedorf takes heart from the opportunities Milan created against Barcelona and remains optimistic for their trip to the Nou Camp.

"We didn't have any problems until the goal," he said after their 1-0 home defeat. "We knew Barcelona would focus on keeping possession, but up until that moment they hadn't created a single gilt-edged scoring opportunity, whereas we had several.

"It reminded me of the away match against Lyon, to be honest. Unfortunately, when you make mistakes at this level, you get punished for them."

The Rossoneri will need a victory in Spain to overturn the result and reach the Champions League Final.

"Every time we got the ball back off them, we managed to create difficulties, even if we could've done better on the finishing.

"That gives us hope for the second leg, as we can still turn this around if we play like we did in the first hour.

"Barca didn't know how to break us down. They have great players who can pull something out of the hat, but so do we, so it's all up in the air."

Seedorf also points out that they could've had even more opportunities had it not been for some attentive Barcelona defending.

"They leave a lot of space at the back when they push forward and two or three times I couldn't quite get the pass through to Serginho that would've opened up a motorway to the goal. We have to make more of this weakness in the second leg."

All eyes were on Ronaldinho and he provided the assist for Ludovic Giuly's winner, but Seedorf insists the Ballon d'Or winner didn't shine at the San Siro.

"I am a fan of talented players, but Milan have to be complimented, as Ronaldinho barely made a mark in this game.

"It was a great goal from Giuly, as that wasn't an easy finish, but the chances we created give us hope for the decider."

Gila unflustered by Euro drought
19.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Alberto Gilardino is confident he can break his continental goal drought in Spain, as Milan try to overturn their first leg semi-final defeat to Barcelona.

"We have everything we need to turn this result around. Unfortunately, tonight we weren't sharp enough in front of goal and couldn't make the most of our chances," said the hitman after their 1-0 loss was decided by a Ludovic Giuly strike.

"We all believe in the Final and were saying as much in the locker room just now, so we're certainly not giving up."

Gilardino is yet to score a single Champions League goal since his £17m summer move from Parma and had Milan's best chances on the night, hitting the upright and firing wide from Kaka's pass.

"I am relaxed and try to work hard, but above all I need patience, as sooner or later this European goal will arrive.

"As for that opportunity, I was running and was nudged from behind by the defender, so I lost my balance and pushed Ricky's pass over the bar."

If Pippo Inzaghi recovers from his bout of tonsillitis in time, it's expected that he will partner Andriy Shevchenko at the Nou Camp in the second leg.

"I spoke to him before the game and he wished me good luck. He's recovering already and will be back at work soon."

Kaka: We can take Barca
19.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Kaka insists Barcelona did not impress despite their victory and believes playing at the Nou Camp will suit Milan more.

“At the end of the day, it was just details that decided the match,” he said after the 1-0 home defeat in the Champions League semi-final.

“We created good chances, but you can’t expect to put a great side like Barcelona under constant pressure. They had nothing in the first half and only really created opportunities thanks to our mistakes.”

Kaka created perhaps their best opportunity of the second half, as he rushed into the area on Andriy Shevchenko’s pass and opted to roll across for Alberto Gilardino, who ballooned off target.

“These things happen, as I had my back to the goal and when I turned saw the goalkeeper right in front of me, so I chose to hand it over to Gilardino. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I had difficulty under that man-marking from Edmilson, but managed to find a bit more space in the second half.”

If the Rossoneri are to reach their second consecutive Champions League Final – their third in four seasons – then they must win at the Nou Camp.

“Of course it’ll be more difficult, but we have to believe in our chances at all times and we can do it,” concluded Kaka.

“Perhaps we’ll even be more suited to playing in Spain, where Barcelona will leave us more space. What’s for sure is that if we go there thinking it’s all over, then we’re dead.”

Rijkaard 'closed down' Milan
19.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Former Milan legend Frank Rijkaard admits he changed his system to close down the Rossoneri and praised Barcelona’s defence.

“The pressure we put on them in midfield was very important, especially against a side like Milan, and our players did a great job. When you reach this level, it’s only normal to adapt your system to the opponents, as we cannot just leave all their world class players alone to do their stuff,” said the Blaugrana boss after the 1-0 victory at San Siro.

Pippo Inzaghi was out of action due to a virus and his finishing was sorely missed, but Rijkaard warns that his team also felt the absence of Deco, Henrik Larsson and Lionel Messi.

“In all honesty, I think that Alberto Gilardino played very well and the whole team created good chances, but this is football and when the ball doesn’t go in, it doesn’t count. If we have to talk about players who were out tonight, then we were also missing members of great quality.”

Barcelona have the upper hand for the second leg at the Nou Camp, though Rijkaard is again ready to focus on defence rather than the all-attack football that made them famous.

“I hope it will be similar to the performance we put in today, with a strong defence and well-prepared for a Milan side that will come and attack us the way they always do. Before the game I just wanted to win and considered that a crucial building block so we could come back in front of our fans and make the job a little easier.”

The San Siro had an incredible atmosphere, but Rijkaard insists he was not hit by the emotion of the occasion after his many years at the club.

“With everything that is happening around you, all you’re thinking about is taking on a great team like Milan that doesn’t often lose at home. That is an important objective and work is all that’s on your mind.”

Ancelotti: It's not over yet
19.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Carlo Ancelotti is ruing mistakes in front of goal, but insists Milan can still reach the Final with a victory away to Barcelona.

“I think that it was a balanced game in which Milan tried to take the game to Barca, who tried to slow down the tempo,” said the Coach after the 1-0 home defeat in the Champions League semi-final first leg.

“We had some good chances and couldn’t quite finalise them. It’s a bad result, but it doesn’t kill our hopes of reaching the Final, as anything could happen in the second leg.”

Alberto Gilardino hit the woodwork and there were two fine saves on Andriy Shevchenko and Paolo Maldini headers, but the finishing prowess of Pippo Inzaghi – out with tonsillitis – was sorely missed. It's particularly worrying that Gilardino is yet to score in the Champions League.

“Barcelona created almost all their opportunities on the counter-attack, especially after the goal, as we had to leave a bit more space open at the back,” added Ancelotti.

“We have to be convinced we can do it and play like we did tonight, as we did well and just didn’t take our chances. That was the only problem we had, really.”

The tactician does not think the Rossoneri are done for, as it is still a slender result and Inzaghi should be back for the second leg.

“Paradoxically, this result allows us to be free and attack at all costs, whereas I think Barca will hold back a bit more at the Nou Camp. The Spaniards didn’t particularly impress me tonight, as they tried to slow the tempo and control the pace.”

Former Milan star and current Barcelona Coach Frank Rijkaard put Edmilson in a man-marking job on Kaka.

“I tried to change a few things as we had trouble winning back the ball, so I changed our midfield and they adjusted to mutate with us,” explained Ancelotti.

“Barcelona are very good at keeping possession, so it was tough to break through that, but the number of good scoring opportunities we created proves that we managed it several times and can do so again at the Nou Camp.”

Samuel Eto’o was unable to score at San Siro, but pointed out that was never going to be simple against Milan.

“I don’t know whether we deserved it or not, but the important thing was to get the result and now we need to make sure we stay ahead in the second leg,” said the Cameroon international.

“It was always going to be difficult here and we knew there weren’t going to be many chances. A 1-0 result isn’t an easy one to hang on to, but it is an advantage and we hope it will help us reach the Final.”

Mark Van Bommel also added that the Spaniards would repeat this less gung-ho approach in the second leg.

“We cannot play defensively, as we always want to attack. Having said that, we have the advantage, so we can sit back a little more and invite Milan forward.”

AC Milan 0:1 FC Barcelona - match report
18.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Scorer: Giuly 57 (B)

Milan hit the woodwork with Alberto Gilardino, but Ludovic Giuly gave Barcelona a potentially decisive victory at the San Siro.

It'll take something very special indeed for the Rossoneri to reach their second consecutive Champions League Final, as they must win at the Nou Camp on April 26.

This was essentially an early Final between the two favourites for the trophy, but also saw the current top scorers in the competition and the most recent winners of the Ballon d'Or - Andriy Shevchenko and Ronaldinho - face off. They had already met in the Group phase last season with a 1-0 win at the San Siro and a last-gasp 2-1 defeat in the Nou Camp. The Coaches were also familiar, as Frank Rijkaard and Carlo Ancelotti were teammates in Arrigo Sacchi's Grande Milan.

Milan had a heavy blow with the absence of form striker Pippo Inzaghi due to tonsillitis, with Billy Costacurta also ruled out, but Jaap Stam returned to the fold after injury. Barca also had problems with Henrik Larsson, Lionel Messi and the suspended Deco left in Spain. Edmilson and Rafael Marquez returned from fitness problems.

In a new move, the Rossoneri put the travelling fans in the third tier, effectively surrounding the field and both goals with home supporters that lit up the stadium with an organised choreography before kick-off.

Milan had a very aggressive start with both Kaka's cross and Jaap Stam's header charged down from an Andrea Pirlo free kick, but Barca got into a slow passing rhythm in a bid to take control of the game.

Carles Puyol required a fine tackle inside the area to stop Kaka's run, but on the resulting throw-in Alberto Gilardino smartly chested down the ball to turn between two defenders and slammed his shot into the upright from the tightest of angles.

Moments later, a sweeping Clarence Seedorf cross from the left found Shevchenko's downward header and brought a great save out of Valdes at the back post.

Barcelona's first shot on goal came on 22 minutes with Samuel Eto'o's strike from the edge of the box well held by Dida. Ronaldinho's free kick from a very dangerous position was charged down by the wall.

Dida rushed off his line to pluck the ball off Ludovic Giuly's foot as he sprung the offside trap and had a clear run on goal.

A Pirlo free kick went out after skimming the head of Shevchenko from seven yards, then Kaka was hacked down on the counter-attack, earning Puyol a yellow card.

Pirlo's free kick skimmed the near post, but Valdes had that corner covered.

Pirlo gave away the ball on the edge of the area, but the Milan defence managed to close down Barca's trident and Dida held Giuly's finish.

A splendid Pirlo long ball found Gilardino, but the Parma man was flagged for an extremely tight offside position. A good opportunity went begging when Kaka and Seedorf bumped into each other on the edge of the area, neither able to decide who was going to put the cross in.

In first half stoppages, Eto'o ballooned over the bar from the D after Milan had foolishly lost the ball in midfield.

There were no substitutions at the half-time break, but the tempo of the game lifted considerably and there was a curious battle of the back-heel flicks between Ronaldinho and Alessandro Nesta.

Milan had another fantastic scoring opportunity on 50 minutes when Kaka sprung the offside trap and rolled across for Gilardino, who was off balance and pushed it wide from six yards. The Brazilian should perhaps have gone for goal himself.

Stam had a shot charged down on the edge of the area, then the Dutchman's looping cross-shot landed on the roof of the net.

However, it was Barcelona who took the lead soon after. Ronaldinho managed to shrug off Gennaro Gattuso's challenge and pass through to Giuly, who fired his finish into the top corner at the near post from six yards.

Barca almost snatched a second on the counter-attack after Seedorf was dispossessed by Giuly, but Ronaldinho's angled drive clipped the upright with Dida beaten.

Dida was at full stretch to capture a fine Iniesta drive from distance after a solid team move.

Ancelotti made a change on 66 minutes, with Paolo Maldini replacing a disappointing Pirlo, moving Seedorf to central midfield and Serginho to a more advanced left flank role. Massimo Ambrosini took over from a furious Gattuso.

Barca also replaced goal-scorer Giuly with Brazilian Juliano Belletti, but Oleguer was booked for time-wasting and will miss the second leg just before making way for Thiago Motta.

Kaka went on one of his surging runs only to fire wide from 20 metres, then Serginho failed to make the most of a sweeping Stam cross that missed Gilardino.

Eto'o skipped round Stam, but fired well wide of the far post, the ex-Manchester United defender replaced by Marcos Cafu immediately afterwards in a bid to bring more pace to the side.

There was a glorious opportunity to score an equaliser 10 minutes from time when Kaka threaded through for Ambrosini, but he horribly scuffed his shot to fire wide with only the goalkeeper to beat.

Nesta was booked for stopping a Ronaldinho run and the Brazilian curled the resulting free kick over the bar.

Valdes flew to pluck a precise Maldini header out of the air from a corner kick, then Kaka also threatened with a low drive that skimmed the upright.

Milan: Dida; Stam (Cafu 76), Nesta, Kaladze, Serginho; Gattuso (Ambrosini 73), Pirlo (Maldini 67), Seedorf; Kakà; Gilardino, Shevchenko

Barcelona: Valdes; Oleguer (Motta 75), Puyol, Marquez, Van Bronckhorst; Van Bommel, Edmilson, Iniesta; Giuly (Belletti 70), Eto'o, Ronaldinho (Lopez 89)

Ref: Sars (Fra)

Puyol fears Milan defence
18.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Barcelona captain Carles Puyol has warned his attacking teammates to be at their very best against Milan this evening.

Although the Spaniards have some of Europe’s top offensive players in the form of Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto’o, the stopper insists they’ll have to deliver something special against the Rossoneri rearguard.

“Milan have the best defence in the world,” the international stated on the eve of the Champions League semi-final first leg.

“They have players at the back who have great experience and who are also physically in good shape.”

Puyol, rumoured to have been a transfer target for Italy’s top clubs in the past, added: “All of their side is experienced and that may be of some significance.

“We need to turn into a great side against Milan at the San Siro. It’s important that we come away from Italy having scored and not lost the game.

“Our chances of reaching the Final? I would say that both sides have a 50-50 chance,” he diplomatically added.

While Puyol didn’t hide his admiration for Milan’s defence, he also had words of praise for Andriy Shevchenko.

The Ukrainian international is likely to keep the stopper busy this evening and Puyol is well aware of that fact.

“It’s always extremely difficult to mark him,” he added. “We must all remain concentrated because Milan are a side who punish mistakes.”

Bring on Barca, says Seedorf
18.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan midfielder Clarence Seedorf insists that his side will go into tonight’s Champions League game against Barcelona with no fear.

The two teams meet at the San Siro in the first leg of their eagerly anticipated semi-final and the Dutchman insists his teammates are in the right frame of mind to collect a result they need.

“We don’t fear any team in the world,” Seedorf told Datasport on Tuesday. “Of course they have a number of champions in their squad which makes them a very strong side.

“But a team wins with the help of everyone and not just with one or two players during a game of this importance.

“They obviously have some exceptional elements, but we must stay alert against all of the Barcelona players and not just one in particular.

“Our experience will be key to the game though in a match which will be entertaining between two very fine sides.”

The Rossoneri go into the tie fresh from a 1-0 win in the derby, a victory which saw Kakha Kaladze make himself a goalscoring hero.

“All of the team is doing well at this moment in time,” added the former Ajax ace.

“Kaladze is in great form right now and he played brilliantly against Inter, as well as getting the goal.”

Milan to 'ignore' Ronaldinho
18.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan will not use a man-marker on Barcelona star Ronaldinho in Tuesday’s Champions League showdown, insists boss Carlo Ancelotti.

The Brazilian is undoubtedly the Spanish outfit’s biggest threat, but the Italian maintains that he won’t ask one player to shadow the South American in the semi-final first leg clash.

“I won’t put a man on him,” said Ancelotti in Monday’s media conference. “We’ve never used that tactic in a game.

“We’ll look to control his presence as best we can in the zones of the pitch which he will try to play in.”

Barca arrive at the San Siro with numerous injury problems, including the loss of their Brazilian-born Portuguese international Deco and Argentine Lionel Messi.

“I don’t think that Frank Rijkaard will change the entire shape of his side just because Deco is missing,” noted Ancelotti when asked what he expected from the Spaniards.

Milan go into the game fresh from a 1-0 win over city rivals Inter and Ancelotti is demanding another victory tomorrow night.

“It will be doubly important for us to win the game by not conceding a goal, but the most important thing is to win,” added the Coach.

“Milan and Barcelona are two great sides and perhaps are the best expression of football in Europe at this present time.

“I think our two games will be entertaining and quality affairs. However, I also have to say that Arsenal and Villarreal deserve their place in the last four.”

Ancelotti went on to publicly back under-fire goalkeeper Nelson Dida and goal shy striker Alberto Gilardino who will both start against the Nou Camp outfit.

“I hope that Dida isn’t called to make any saves at all, but if he does then we all have faith in his ability,” he added.

“Gilardino didn’t score in the derby but gave an important contribution. I ask the same from him on Tuesday.

“This is our third semi-final in four years and we go into the game able to play our best football, unlike in previous years before Inter and PSV Eindhoven.”

Rijkaard: Let’s make history
17.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Barcelona boss Frank Rijkaard insists his side could write themselves a chapter in history by beating Milan in the Champions League semi-final.

The two teams meet at the San Siro on Tuesday night and the former Rossoneri midfielder has underlined just how important the game will be.

“This tie is our chance to consecrate us as a great side,” said the Dutchman. “We are hungry for success, but now we must demonstrate that in Europe.”

Rijkaard’s Barcelona are undoubtedly one of the continent’s top sides and had to beat Premiership giants Chelsea to progress in the competition.

Although they won the Liga last season and are on the verge of doing the same this term, he’s desperate to lift the European Cup.

“We are a squad of young players who want to keep winning, but the time has come for us to leave our mark on the international stage,” added the former Holland boss.

“If we want to get through this semi-final then we are going to have to do something that people will be talking about for years to come.”

Rijkaard knows what awaits his side tomorrow night though after he himself won two European Cups with the Milan giants during his midfield career.

“They are a side with great experience,” added Rijkaard, a man who played alongside Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti.

“They have an excellent system of play and a very strong defence. It will be interesting to see how we cope against such opponents.”

Rijkaard concluded by commenting on reports that Milan boss Ancelotti is motivating his troops for the game by showing his men a picture of Ronaldinho.

“I prefer to pin up a picture of my team in the changing rooms because we have great faith in ourselves,” he noted. “We shouldn’t think about our opponents.”

Gilardino set for Pippo role
17.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Alberto Gilardino will start in attack for Milan against Barcelona after Pippo Inzaghi was ruled out of the Champions League semi-final.

Inzaghi has been crucial to the Rossoneri’s European Cup campaign by netting braces in the San Siro legs against both Bayern Munich and Lyon.

But he’s failed to recover from the illness which saw him miss the derby on Friday night and will subsequently sit out the Barca clash too.

Boss Carlo Ancelotti will subsequently field Alberto Gilardino in attack alongside Andriy Shevchenko on Tuesday.

The tie will be a big test of Gilardino’s ability given the recent goal drought which the £18m summer signing is suffering from.

The ex-Parma sensation hasn’t netted in one of his eight Champions League games so far, where he has amassed 406 minutes.

Although he has grabbed 16 goals in Serie A, the Italian international hasn’t bagged since the 4-0 win at Udinese on March 19.

Milan do have Shevchenko to rely on though as he’s collected nine in the European Cup this term, while Kaka will orchestrate play behind the attacking duo.

There is good news for boss Ancelotti, though, with the likely return from injury of Dutch master Jaap Stam.

He’s being tipped to start on the right side of defence, with Brazilian flying wing-back Serginho set to begin on the left.

Alessandro Nesta and Kakha Kaladze, fresh from his derby goal, should start in the centre, with Paolo Maldini taking his spot on the bench.

Milan probable: Dida; Stam, Nesta, Kaladze, Serginho; Pirlo, Gattuso, Seedorf; Kaka; Gilardino, Shevchenko.

Inzaghi to miss Barca clash?
16.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Pippo Inzaghi is suffering from a bout of tonsillitis and is a major doubt for Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final with Barcelona.

The Milan striker already had to skip the 1-0 derby victory over Inter due to a high temperature and over the weekend it developed into full-blown tonsillitis.

He is undergoing treatment and taking large doses of antibiotics in a bid to have him in good shape for the first leg encounter at San Siro on Tuesday evening, but it’s becoming increasingly unlikely this will happen in time.

It would be an extremely heavy blow to Carlo Ancelotti’s side, who pushed past Olympique Lyonnais in the quarter-final thanks to an Inzaghi brace.

The former Juventus hitman is perhaps the Rossoneri’s form player in Europe at the moment, scoring four goals in the last three games.

His replacement, Alberto Gilardino, is still looking for his first Champions League goal following a £17m move from Parma in the summer and has netted just twice in the last two months.

With this in mind and Barcelona’s all-attack football, Ancelotti could be tempted to fall back on the Christmas Tree formation that helped him to win this tournament in 2003.

Manuel Rui Costa could come in to help Kaka support lone striker Andriy Shevchenko, who is now the most prolific ever marksman in the Champions League with 52 goals.

Barcelona also have problems coming into Tuesday’s game, as they will be without the injured Lionel Messi and Henrik Larsson.

Ronaldinho was rested for Friday’s 1-0 Liga win over Villarreal as he tries to recover from a pulled right thigh muscle, while Deco is suspended for the first leg.

The two teams met in last season’s Group stage, Milan winning 1-0 at San Siro and losing 2-1 to a last-gasp Ronaldinho strike at the Nou Camp.

Milan still believe in Scudetto
15.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

After Juventus’ lead was sliced to five points with four games to go, Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti and his players admit they still believe in the Scudetto.

“We’re not going to give in on the Serie A title race,” said Ancelotti following last night’s 1-0 victory over rivals Inter. “There’s still everything to play for.”

The gap would’ve been four points, but Fabio Cannavaro’s controversial equaliser at Cagliari with the last kick of the game hasn’t disguised the crisis that the leaders are going through.

At the end of Week 32, the Turin giants were nine points out in front, but a series of six official games without a win has seen them crash out of the Champions League and that Serie A lead cut to just five points.

“Now we can really dream of taking the Scudetto out of Juve’s hands,” smiled Clarence Seedorf.

Marcos Cafu agreed with his teammate that this is no longer an unlikely scenario with four rounds left to play. “After this victory over Inter, we have to focus on chasing down Juventus, who aren’t all that far away.”

Although the Rossoneri are expected to aim most of their attentions on to the Champions League, where they’ll face Barcelona in the semi-finals on Tuesday, the Scudetto is still up for grabs.

“Before people start assigning the title to Juventus, they should wait and see what happens. Until it is mathematically certain, we are keeping this as one of our objectives,” added Kakha Kaladze.

“It doesn’t cost us anything to try, as if Juve keep slipping up like this, then the final weeks of the season are going to get very hot indeed,” continued Alessandro Nesta.

It would not be the first time Milan have fought back against the odds, as in 1998-99, Alberto Zaccheroni’s Rossoneri were nine points adrift of Lazio before winning the title on the final day.

Kaladze celebrates key strike
15.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Kakhaber Kaladze knows his winning goal in the Milan derby could well prove to be a turning point in this season for the Rossoneri.

“I am very happy, as this was a crucial match and now we are five points clear of Inter. That’s not to be sniffed at,” said the defender who sealed the 1-0 result.

“I saw my goal again on television and must thank Clarence Seedorf for that pass, then I hit the ball as hard as I could. It was important to win here so we could concentrate only on Barcelona.”

The Champions League semi-final is foremost in their minds now, but with Juventus stuttering badly and the gap narrowing to four points ahead of the leaders’ encounter with Cagliari, are there regrets over a Scudetto challenge that ended too early?

“Of course looking at the table now there are a few regrets, but I think that the line-up we fielding in the 1-0 defeat at Lecce was the right one,” continued the Georgian defender.

“Just think if we had won at the Stadio Via del Mare with a full-strength squad and then lost against Lyon. We had to take the risk and rotate the side.”

Carlo Ancelotti’s men seem to be hitting form at the right time, although there were a few hairy moments in the closing stages of the derby.

“We are improving with each game and have created a real sense of consistency in defence. We must carry on along this path, as this is the stage of the season where every game becomes decisive.”

Teammate Alessandro Nesta was also quick to praise Kaladze, who had played primarily as a left-back for the Rossoneri, on his newfound confidence.

“Kaladze started out as a central defender, but for various reasons ended up moving to the flank. Thankfully, he didn’t forget all he’d learned in those years,” smiled the ex-Lazio captain.

“We didn’t have a good start to the game, but it was an important result and we are gambling with our whole season against Barcelona. We can’t try to defend against them, as sooner or later they will score, so we have to attack and put them under pressure. As for the Scudetto race, we’ll try to win all the remaining games and see what happens.”

Ancelotti admires Juve-style win
15.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti said this derby win was a hard-fought and physical performance in the Juventus style.

“We had the brakes on a little bit in this match and were too slow in the first half, especially on the left flank. It was a victory born more out of strength than quality, which is rare for us.”

Kakhaber Kaladze’s lone strike decided the 1-0 result against local rivals Inter, which put the Rossoneri five points clear in the race for second place.

“It was a difficult game, as Inter closed down all the spaces and hardly allowed us to play the ball to feet. That is our main strength and we should generally avoid long balls forward.”

Yet there was tension in the closing stages, as some Dida howlers threatened to throw points away the same way they did earlier this season in the Derby della Madonnina.

“We made a few mistakes, but this can happen against a talented side like Inter. It went well despite our errors. Dida’s situation and so-called distractions are becoming a bit of a cliché. He’s not perfect, but he at least tries to command the area and come out for the ball. In the past he was criticised for sitting back.”

Paolo Maldini and Marcos Cafu were chosen for the full-back roles despite coming back from months out with injury.

“After such a long time out, they aren’t 100 per cent match fit yet, but their desire and motivation give them an edge. This was a tense encounter, but we have time to recover our energy for Tuesday’s semi-final,” continued Ancelotti.

“We can now focus on the Champions League, but we’re not giving up in Serie A, as this was a crucial result in our bid for second place.”

The Rossoneri’s attention can now turn to Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final first leg at San Siro with Spanish giants Barcelona.

“I think everyone knows Barca, so talking about their qualities and defects is redundant. They are used to attacking, so we need the strength, courage and conviction to take the game to them and command the play. Milan also focus on entertaining football, so it should be a great match for the neutral.”

AC Milan 1:0 Internazionale - match report
14.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Scorer: Kaladze 69 (M)

Despite a series of Dida howlers, Milan have compounded Inter's crisis as a Kakha Kaladze goal decided the Derby della Madonnina.

There was a palpable tension around the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza ahead of this showdown, as not only was it a battle between city rivals and a head to head for second place, it was also Inter's first home game since the shock Champions League exit to Villarreal. The fans took that loss very badly and a group even ambushed players in Malpensa Airport car park, hitting Cristiano Zanetti on the back of the head. Despite that injury, the midfielder started this match with a man-marking job on Kaka.

Among security fears and so Milan could better prepare for next week's semi-final against Barcelona, the match was brought forward to 6pm local time on Good Friday. Curiously, the last time the derby was played on a Friday, it ended 6-0 for the Rossoneri. The Nerazzurri supporters also staged a protest, leaving the Curva Nord empty for this match. The Rossoneri responded with a huge banner covering the entire Sud end of the stadium likening Inter's endless lack of success to 'A Divine Comedy.'

Julio Ricardo Cruz was suspended and Juan Sebastian Veron injured, while Milan were without Jaap Stam and the feverish Pippo Inzaghi, but welcomed back Andriy Shevchenko after he rested in the 4-1 win over Chievo. Inter had won their clash with a heart-stopping 3-2 finale in December, but they hadn't won the 'home' derby since 2002 and the pressure was back on their shoulders again.

Inter had an aggressive start with Luis Figo running at the still not 100 per cent fit Paolo Maldini and putting in dangerous crosses for Adriano. However, there was bad news when Sinisa Mihajlovic picked up a muscular injury within the opening nine minutes and made way for Marco Materazzi.

Soon after, Adriano's shot was charged down and the long-range Dejan Stankovic follow-up swung over the bar.

Milan also had a good chance when Marcos Cafu got past Nicolas Andre Burdisso at the byline, but Alberto Gilardino's header was off target and he was penalised for a push.

Adriano looked more sprightly than recent outings and dribbled past three players inside the area before a sliding tackle cut him off with only Dida to beat.

Moments later, Dida only parried a Stankovic strike and the defence was able to scramble clear for a corner before Esteban Cambiasso could pounce on the loose ball.

Cafu was booked for clattering into Burdisso, then the tension rose with a row between former Lazio teammates Stankovic and Alessandro Nesta. There was controversy on the half-hour mark, as Adriano's move was interrupted when the referee and the linesman got into a muddle over an offside call, then Gilardino's penalty appeals were waved away as his handling offence had started the move.

Shevchenko failed to get on the end of an Andrea Pirlo free kick at the far post, while Burdisso got in front of Shevchenko for a crucial intervention inside the area.

Gilardino's chest and volley from just inside the area was charged down by defensive bodies in the centre. The former Parma player turned his marker and then fell on the very edge of the box, but his appeals were rejected.

On the counter-attack, Javier Zanetti's powerful but central strike was plucked out of the air by Dida.

In first half stoppages there was panic inside the Inter area. Gilardino fell again after a tussle with Materazzi and, as the move continued, Clarence Seedorf drilled over from close range.

After the break, Gilardino sprung the offside trap on Seedorf's pass, but Julio Cesar rushed off his line to close him down.

Moments later, Seedorf was left totally unmarked to get on the end of Kaka's deflected cross, but the Dutchman slipped and his scuffed shot was only kept out by Julio Cesar's foot at full stretch.

Inter's best chance of the game so far came on the hour mark, as Stankovic's cross found Luis Figo from seven yards, but his free header was well wide of the far post.

Pirlo was booked and will miss next week's trip to Messina, but Milan had an incredible double chance soon after.

Shevchenko's looping header beat Julio Cesar, stuck in no man's land, and Ivan Cordoba's goalline clearance went towards Kaka, only for the goalkeeper to recover his position and fingertip it round the near post.

The deadlock was eventually broken after 69 minutes of play. Materazzi kept everyone onside as Seedorf floated the ball back into the centre after a set-piece and an unmarked Kakha Kaladze had all the time he needed to control and thump under the crossbar with his left foot at the back post.

Inter fought back and a Stankovic effort was smothered by Dida, then veteran Alessandro Costacurta replaced Cafu, who is coming back off a long-term injury.

Stankovic drilled well wide from a promising position, but the Nerazzurri were lacking firepower and threw on Oba Martins for Cristiano Zanetti, returning to a 4-4-2 system. Pirlo was disappointing on the day and made way for Johann Vogel, while Manuel Rui Costa took over from Shevchenko to move Kaka further up the field. Santiago Solari hoped to replicate his good Coppa Italia form when he replaced Pizarro.

Cambiasso's powerful volley was over the bar, but there was another blow when Stankovic picked up a knee injury six minutes from time. As all the substitutions had been completed, he had to struggle on.

Dida's errors proved decisive in Inter's 3-2 win earlier this season and he nearly gave away another late goal. The 'keeper completely mistimed his exit on Adriano and Cambiasso's header almost nestled into an empty net.

Nesta needed a difficult intervention to prevent Adriano chesting down a long ball forward. From the resulting corner kick, Dida again was appalling by fumbling the ball and he was fortunate the Inter players were unable to take advantage.

Moments later, Dida did rather better to smother a deflected Stankovic piledriver at the second attempt.

Milan: Dida; Cafu (Costacurta 73), Nesta, Kaladze, Maldini; Gattuso, Pirlo (Vogel 78), Seedorf; Kaka; Shevchenko (Rui Costa 80), Gilardino

Inter: Julio Cesar; J Zanetti, Cordoba, Mihajlovic (Materazzi 10), Burdisso; Figo, Pizarro (Solari 84), Cambiasso, C Zanetti (Martins 76), Stankovic; Adriano

Ref: De Santis

Fresh Milan derby for Crespo
14.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

On the day that Milan and Inter play each other in Serie A, both clubs are set to also battle it out on the transfer market for Hernan Crespo.

Reports in Italy on Friday insist that the Chelsea striker is wanted by the two sides which he has oddly enough already played for in his career.

Milan are interested in recalling the Argentine after his excellent loan campaign at the San Siro in the 2004-05 season.

Although he did initially struggle, boss Carlo Ancelotti – who also worked with him at Parma – kept the faith and Crespo went on to net some crucial goals in the process.

The Rossoneri did attempt to extend his loan stint for an extra season, but when no terms could be agreed with Chelsea, the forward was recalled to Stamford Bridge.

Milan want him back to add to their trio of superstar attackers in the shape of Andriy Shevchenko, Pippo Inzaghi and Alberto Gilardino.

Crespo’s proposed arrival would see Marcio Amoroso sold after his failure to make an impact since his arrival in January as cover for Monaco bound Christian Vieri.

But Inter are desperate for Crespo too after their struggles in front of goal this term, largely down to the dip in form of Adriano.

The Brazilian hasn’t lived up to his billing, Alvaro Recoba and Obafemi Martins are considered as too inconsistent, while Julio Cruz is regarded as nothing more than a substitute.

Crespo, who netted seven League goals in 18 games during the 2002-03 season for Inter before his London move, is highly valued by President Giacinto Facchetti and boss Roberto Mancini.

Chelsea may be willing to sell Crespo, especially with Adriano, Fernando Torres of Atletico Madrid and Barca’s Samuel Eto’o all linked with the Premiership club.

Forget Barca, demands Ancelotti
13.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti insists his side will go into the derby against Inter without thinking about Barcelona.

The Rossoneri face the Spanish giants in the Champions League semi-final on Tuesday, but the tactician is primarily concerned with netting the three points against the Nerazzurri.

“I’m not thinking about Barcelona,” the former midfielder said ahead of tomorrow evening’s Derby della Madonnina.

“I’m focused just on the Inter match because it is a vitally important one to win for a wide variety of reasons.

“A victory would take us five points clear of them in the table and although we wouldn’t be certain of a second place finish, we would have taken a massive forward step.

“We could also increase the pressure on Juventus and fire ourselves up for the European Cup match next week.”

Milan are currently second in the table, seven points behind leaders Juventus, and Ancelotti has underlined the importance of not being leapfrogged by their city cousins in the standings.

“To come second is key,” he explained. “That’s because having to play a preliminary game in the Champions League after a World Cup is very dangerous.

“That’s why Friday’s match is as fundamental as the Barcelona game. And then at the end of the day, if we are closer to Juventus than Inter, then who knows what could happen…”

The tactician, who recently extended his contract until 2008, is happy with his side’s form after they defeated Chievo 4-1 last week.

“We’re in good shape and we proved it on Sunday,” he noted. “But we are awaiting a strong Inter as they are playing for their season.”

Ancelotti does have some injury concerns though with Andriy Shevchenko, scorer of 14 goals in 18 games against Inter, not at his best.

“I could use just Alberto Gilardino as the lone striker as Shevchenko has a tendon problem, while Inzaghi has a fever,” he stated.

The Coach also has hinted that Marek Jankulovksi will start in a defence that is without Jaap Stam and probably Serginho too.

“Stam is out and Serginho has suffered a slight twist,” he added. “However, Paolo Maldini is back and is available to play.”

Ancelotti reacted with sadness to the news that a large section of the Inter support will be absent from the stadium as they contest the squad for their disappointing season.

“It’s a shame as it will affect the spectacle,” he stated. “Milan derbies are always known for their passion.”

Pizarro hopes to surprise Milan
12.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

David Pizarro is eager to get Inter back on track by beating Milan, but the fans have announced they’ll empty the Curva Nord in protest.

“It’s not yet possible for us to forget the terrible disappointment of the Champions League exit to Villarreal,” said the Chilean.

“With that game we ruined what had been a positive year. We had the opportunity to reach the final four and did not take it, but at least we reacted with a win at Ascoli and passage to the Coppa Italia Final. These are two positive results that restore some confidence ahead of the derby.”

The showdown with their Rossoneri rivals was brought forward to 6pm local time on Good Friday amid fears of crowd trouble after a group of players was attacked, Cristiano Zanetti suffering a minor head injury in the fracas.

The 27-year-old fan arrested for his part in the ambush in the Malpensa Airport car park has been released on bail and put under house arrest in his Bergamo home.

There will be an eerie atmosphere at the San Siro, as this evening Inter Ultras announced they would be leaving the Curva Nord empty in protest at the poor performance against Villarreal.

“The challenge for second place is very important, even if I realise that for a team like Inter there has to be more to a season than the derby,” continued Pizarro. “Milan are the favourites going into the game, but we definitely want to beat them.”

Maldini: It's not my last derby
12.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Paolo Maldini will turn 38 in June, but the Rossoneri legend insists this won’t be his final Milan derby, as he can play on for another year.

“I have no intention of hanging up my boots at the end of the season and I’m sure I can play next year as well,” said the defender ahead of Friday’s showdown.

There had been reports he would end his career earlier than expected due to a knee problem that kept him on the sidelines for four months, but his return for the remaining months of the campaign has been reassuring.

“My situation has improved a great deal compared to the start of 2006. The injury is still there, but it has been treated and is much better. I am not too worried by it and can live with the discomfort.”

Maldini was rested against Chievo so that he could be in perfect shape for the Derby della Madonnina against rivals Inter on Good Friday, but his position remains an issue.

Having spent the early years of his career as a left-back and recently transferred to central defence, he has been impressively replaced during his injury by Alessandro Nesta, Kakha Kaladze and Serginho.

“At the base of it all is the necessity to play. I have been out of action for almost four months, so it has not been a psychological problem for me coming back and playing in an unusual right-back role. The important thing is to rediscover my match fitness so I can give my contribution to the team.”

He used to be teammates with Carlo Ancelotti during their time together in Arrigo Sacchi’s ‘Grande Milan,’ but is now taking orders from the tactician.

“The way I see myself is an extra weapon for the Coach who can sit there without causing problems until he is needed.”

Although aiming for the Scudetto is probably out of the question with a seven-point gap opening up from leaders Juventus, but there is still plenty to play for on Friday.

“We know there is a big difference between finishing second and third, as it means huge changes to your pre-season preparation for the Champions League preliminary round, especially in a World Cup year. Inter are looking to prove a point, but our motivation is also strong and I see no better way to gear up to the semi-final with Barcelona than winning the derby.”

Maldini has been in Serie A for over 20 years and commented on the recent attack on Nerazzurri players, in which Cristiano Zanetti suffered a minor head injury.

“What has happened recently is a lack of sporting culture on behalf of everyone: players, media and the fans. If you don’t love this sport, then you don’t accept defeat. It’ll be difficult to improve the situation in those terms, but we have the duty to try.”

Kaka expects spectacular derby
11.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Kaka insists the Milan derby will be a highly entertaining encounter between the two rivals, but rushes to the defence of fellow Brazilian Adriano.

“This is going to be a spectacular game,” said the Rossoneri star. “Both teams have strong motivation to win, so if we go out there with the right aggression and score early, we can put Inter under some serious pressure. They’re struggling at the moment and we could take advantage of that.”

The Nerazzurri are still smarting from their Champions League exit to Villarreal and there are security fears after Cristiano Zanetti was attacked in the Malpensa Airport car park on Saturday night. This in part contributed to the decision to move the game to a 6pm kick-off, 5pm in the UK, on Friday evening.

“The Inter players are going through a difficult time, but I don’t think they’ll take it out on us by turning nasty on the field,” insisted Kaka.

“I also doubt there will be any more violence in the stadium, because the last time there was trouble during the Champions League quarter-final, Inter paid a very heavy price with three games behind closed doors. It should also be noted that not all Nerazzurri fans are like the ones who attacked the players.”

There is growing pressure on Adriano, who has scored just three times in Serie A in 2006 and was reportedly in a brawl with teammate Juan Sebastian Veron after the Villarreal game.

“Dida spoke to him on the phone and, speaking as a friend, I say too much responsibility has been put on Adriano’s shoulders. He is capable of taking them on, but it’s excessive to blame him for their current situation.”

The Derby della Madonnina will be a head to head battle for second place, but Kaka knows Milan could’ve aspired to the Scudetto.

“There are some regrets, as we could have been much closer to Juventus. It’s the opening day draw with Ascoli and the defeat at Lecce that did the damage, as now we would’ve been only three or four points adrift of the leaders.”

Abbiati in Doni exchange?
11.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

There are reports that Milan are ready to hand Christian Abbiati over to Roma in exchange for Alexander Doni.

This would give the Rossoneri two Brazilian goalkeepers, as Doni would become the back-up for Nelson Dida at the San Siro.

Roma are eager to be rid of the shot-stopper, who was given his Serie A debut this season, but is refusing to extend his contract without a significant pay rise.

“Doni knows what we have given him here at Roma,” said Coach Luciano Spalletti last week. “It’s clear for all to see what a great opportunity this has been. I am surprised by the actions of his agent, as in my career it’s the first time I’ve seen a manager tell the club his intentions through radio stations and newspapers.”

In turn, Abbiati would not be content with another campaign on the bench and, although he will return to Milan at the end of his current loan spell at Juventus, he probably won’t stay there long.

Roma would be willing to give him a first team jersey and therefore a chance at getting into the Azzurri squad.

Abbiati has made 17 Serie A appearances for Juve this season in place of the injured Gianluigi Buffon and impressed, even saving a penalty in Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Fiorentina.

Early start for Milan derby
11.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Friday’s eagerly anticipated Milan derby will kick-off at 18.00 hours local time, it has been confirmed.

The game, which was originally brought forward by 24 hours to give the Rossoneri an extra day of preparation for the Barcelona tie, was set to start at 20.30.

However, the local authorities have decided to switch the clash to an early evening kick-off amidst security fears.

Law enforcement officers are concerned that some Inter supporters will use the tie to contest their side after a disappointing few weeks, thus they believe bringing the game forward by a few hours will make it easier to police.

Eto’o issues Milan warning
11.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Samuel Eto’o has warned Milan that his Barcelona side will come to the San Siro with the sole intention of attacking in the Champions League semi-final.

The two sides face each other in an eagerly anticipated tie at the Giuseppe Meazza next Tuesday and the forward has notified the Rossoneri defence to expect a busy night.

“We need to go to Milan with the intention of imposing ourselves on the game,” said the Cameroon ace.

“We should avoid going there with any thoughts of simply playing on the counter-attack. We should forget that there is a return tie and just play as if it is the last game of our lives.”

Eto’o and Ronaldinho, in particular, are expected to play vital roles for their club as they look for a place in the Final, but the African insists only a team effort will get them through.

“Our strength is that everyone is a leader in our side,” he continued. “The fans may have their idols, but even those who don’t play contribute to the success.

“We must just give our all against Milan and hopefully we will have a little luck on our side which will be of use.”

The former Mallorca ace will be desperate to show his worth in the games as speculation that the side will sign Thierry Henry continues.

Yet Eto’o insists that with or without the Frenchman, he will still be plying his trade at the Nou Camp next term.

“I’m not in charge of the transfer campaign,” he stated. “But I have a contract with Barca and I’m not leaving, no matter if Adriano, Henry or even Ronaldo arrive.

“If Henry does really sign for us then it won’t be a problem for me, it will be a problem for boss Frank Rijkaard.”

I’m staying at Milan, says Cafu
10.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan defender Marcos Cafu has today revealed that he may postpone his proposed switch to Sao Paulo.

The Brazilian was widely expected to return to his homeland in the summer after admitting that he wanted to end his career with the South American outfit.

Yet the 35-year-old has told the Gazzetta dello Sport that this may not necessarily be his last season at the San Siro.

“I’ve never stated that I was definitely leaving,” he told the pink paper. “I’m happy at this club and I want to stay. I think my wish will come true.”

Cafu, who will attempt to win his third World Cup this summer, has had an injury-plagued campaign with the Rossoneri this term.

A knee meniscus problem saw him require surgery and he’s only just returned to action with his club.

Nevertheless, the former Roma full-back is expected to be selected by Selecao boss Carlos Alberto Parriera for the German Finals.

Milan derby infuriates the Vatican
10.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

The decision to switch the Milan derby to Good Friday has been criticised by the Vatican.

“The insensibility of the football world is discouraging,” said 81-year-old Cardinal Ersilio Tonini. “There is no justification for this choice.”

The Italian Football League allowed the game to be played on the religious day to give Milan an extra 24 hours to get ready for the Champions League semi-final first leg game against Barcelona on the following Tuesday.

Originally scheduled for Saturday, League President Adriano Galliani – who is also Milan’s Vice-President – stated that the change was made after Barca switched their La Liga fixture to Friday.

“We could not give Barcelona a one day advantage,” he defended.

AC Milan 4:1 Chievo - post-match comments
9.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Carlo Ancelotti: “At the moment we are convinced of our abilities and very confident. We never fall to pieces, not even when we go behind, as we did against Fiorentina and now Chievo. This side plays very well and is in great condition. It was an entertaining encounter for the quality of football, the number of scoring opportunities and the variety of situations on show.”

Bepi Pillon: “We played an excellent first half, but our performance and the number of chances fell after the break and Milan punished us for that. I remain confident that if we play like we did in the first 45 minutes, then Chievo can trouble anyone, although we must be more focused in defence.”

AC Milan 4:1 Chievo - match report
9.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Scorers: Pellissier 13 (C), Nesta 28 (M), Kaka 62, pen 70, 90 (M)

Milan fought back from a goal down to beat Chievo with a Kaka hat-trick at San Siro.

The Rossoneri were still on a high from their last-gasp Champions League win over Lyon, but knew they had to beat Chievo if they were to hang on to second place ahead of Inter. Andriy Shevchenko was rested to prevent tendonitis flaring up again, while Paolo Maldini, Jaap Stam and Massimo Ambrosini were also left in the stands and Marcos Cafu had his first start since undergoing knee surgery. Chievo have been the revelation of this season and were eager to secure their UEFA Cup spot with their second victory over Milan, having won at the Bentegodi earlier this term.

Kick-off for this game was delayed by 10 minutes as a gesture of solidarity towards the Inter players. A group of Nerazzurri were attacked last night in the car park of Malpensa airport and Cristiano Zanetti was struck on the back of the head by one of the masked fans.

Cafu had a powerful strike charged down, then Alberto Gilardino had two great opportunities from successive corner kicks. His first was cleared off the line by Gemiti, then his looping header clipped the crossbar.

However, it was Chievo who took the lead with a well-worked move. Marco Malago's cross found Sergio Pellissier's impeccably timed volley from seven yards to take the defence by surprise.

The Rossoneri kept passing the ball around and Alberto 'Jimmy' Fontana performed a fine save on Clarence Seedorf's screamer and another Gilardino header.

Yet Chievo went close to a second with a Dida error spilling Semioli's shot from distance and Cafu was able to clear before Amauri could pounce.

Milan managed to draw level on the half-hour mark with a very unusual hitman: Alessandro Nesta. Kaka's corner kick was charged down, so he cut back for the totally unmarked Nesta and the defender put in a splendid finish with his right foot under the crossbar. It was only his third ever Serie A goal in almost 300 appearances.

Chievo again went close, though Pellissier tried to chest Salvatore Lanna's cross down instead of using his head and the chance went begging.

Nesta was also crucial at the other end with a well-timed tackle on Pellissier, while Seedorf drilled wide of the near post after combining with Kaka.

The Dutchman was also off target on the stroke of half-time from a corner kick, as he could only find the side-netting.

In stoppages, Andrea Pirlo and Cafu created a golden opportunity for Pippo Inzaghi, but the Chievo defence and Fontana were just about able to crowd him out.

Within seconds of the restart they had tested ex-Inter goalkeeper Fontana again with Gilardino, then Inzaghi just failed to get on the end of a Pirlo free kick.

Kaka had a good scoring opportunity charged down and, on the counter-attack, Kakha Kaladze came sliding in to stop Pellissier running clear on goal.

The Rossoneri were furious when Kaka was not awarded a penalty for a shove from Lanna, then Seedorf's piledrive from over 20 metres skimmed the crossbar.

Milan eventually took the lead just after the hour mark, as Inzaghi spun round his marker on Gilardino's pass and his shot was parried by Fontana, but the goalkeeper could do nothing on Kaka's follow-up.

Inzaghi prodded a Serginho cross over the bar from six yards, even though he had his back to the goal.

The referee pointed to the spot on 69 minutes, as Malago' blocked a cross with his arm as Inzaghi was lining up the volley. Kaka stepped up and coolly converted to give Milan a two-goal cushion.

Kaka was aiming for the hat-trick and his curling right-foot finish was just wide of the far post and another shot was parried by Fontana. Chievo also gave it a go with Simone Tiribocchi's strike smothered.

Kaka finally celebrated the first hat-trick of his Serie A career, although he took two attempts to get his efforts past Fontana.

Milan: Dida; Cafu (Simic 84), Nesta, Kaladze, Serginho; Gattuso, Pirlo (Vogel 79), Seedorf; Kakà; Gilardino, Inzaghi (Rui Costa 73)

Chievo: Fontana; Malagò, Moro, Mandelli, Lanna; Semioli, Brighi, Franceschini, Gemiti (Zanchetta 73); Amauri, Pellissier (Tiribocchi 67)

Ref: Bertini

Ancelotti focused on Chievo
9.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Carlo Ancelotti has urged Milan to put Barcelona out of their minds and focus on beating Chievo to keep hold of second place.

“We have to try and seal that second automatic qualifying spot for the Champions League, as with the World Cup our players will already be tired over the summer,” explained the tactician.

They are on Cloud Nine after the midweek victory over Olympique Lyonnais, but there is the risk the team could be distracted by the upcoming semi-final against old rivals Barcelona.

“We know Barca very well, so there isn’t a great deal to research and prepare for that match. For now, the less we think about the Champions League the better. There are games with Chievo and Inter before then and we need to ensure second place in Serie A.”

The race is between the Rossoneri and arch-enemies Inter, who crumbled against Villarreal to crash out of Europe.

Milan have also struggled to combine the two competitions and lost all hope of the Scudetto with a 1-0 defeat at Lecce last week.

“We lost, but certainly not due to a lack of professionalism or concentration,” assured Ancelotti. “We were coming off the Champions League draw in Lyon that day, but now we have been able to recover our energy a little more. I think we’ll see the usual Milan standards against Chievo.”

Nonetheless, Andriy Shevchenko is out of the side so that he can fully recover from his tendonitis, while Jaap Stam, Paolo Maldini and Massimo Ambrosini are also sidelined. Marcos Cafu is slowly returning to full fitness after a long-term injury.

“Chievo are a very organised and pacey side, while they are particularly focused in defence. In attack, they can count on the hard work of their wide midfielders to support the strikers.”

Ancelotti took this opportunity to clear up a rather public row with bench-warmer Dario Simic, who announced he’d leave at the end of the season after being ‘ignored’ by the Coach.

“Simic expressed his unhappiness with the fact he hasn’t played all that much this year. We discussed the matter and I assured there is no indifference towards him. When I make a choice, I do it while keeping an eye on all the players. I told Simic he is in my plans and I am not ignoring him.”

Milan squad: Dida, Kalac; Cafu, Costacurta, Kaladze, Nesta, Jankulovski, Simic; Gattuso, Kakà, Pirlo, Rui Costa, Seedorf, Serginho, Vogel; Amoroso, Gilardino, Inzaghi

Shevchenko skips Chievo test
8.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Andriy Shevchenko will not take part in Sunday’s encounter with Chievo, as the Milan medical staff advised a week of rest.

The Ukrainian hitman has been on blistering form this season and his goal against Lyon made him the most prolific Champions League scorer of all time, taking his tally to 52 goals including qualifiers.

“The medical staff advised Shevchenko to take a period of rest and an individual training schedule,” explained Coach Carlo Ancelotti in today’s Press conference.

Sheva has been struggling with a tendon problem throughout the campaign and it’s hoped this break will put him in top condition for the double whammy of the Milan derby on Good Friday and the Champions League semi-finals with Barcelona.

Curiously, the last time the Derby della Madonnina was played on a Friday was May 11, 2001 - when Milan ran out 6-0 winners.

“Pippo Inzaghi and Alberto Gilardino make a good pairing, as they cover the penalty area and are good in the air. Perhaps they lack the movement that Shevchenko provides, but they have always done well together.”

The injured Jaap Stam is also out of action, while Ancelotti has cast doubt on the full recovery of some of his other defenders.

“I don’t know if Paolo Maldini and Marcos Cafu will both be able to start against Chievo. Cafu isn’t 100 per cent fit yet.”

Milan scrap Poulsen move?
8.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

There are reports in the Italian Press this morning that Milan have abandoned their bid for Christian Poulsen after a medical.

Both the club and the Danish international had hinted that the deal was ready to be completed with a free transfer in the summer, even going so far as to tear up a pre-contract agreement with Villarreal.

Today there are suggestions that the move has collapsed because a preliminary medical found an ankle problem that the Rossoneri were not happy with.

However, there are also rumours that this is a smokescreen so that they can back out of their agreement to sign the Schalke 04 player.

Poulsen’s arrival caused controversy among the fans and squad, as he infuriated Milan with his rough marking of Kaka during their Champions League meetings earlier this season.

The players and Coach Carlo Ancelotti referred to his tactics as “anti-football” and “the actions of a coward,” while he had a particularly vicious set-to with Gennaro Gattuso.

Here is another reason for Poulsen to be persona non grata among the supporters – he would most likely push fan favourite Gattuso out of the squad.

The Danish international is no stranger to controversy in Italy, as he is the player who harangued Francesco Totti to such a degree that the Azzurri man spat at him in Euro 2004, earning a ban.

Sheva admires Milan grit
8.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan’s strikers came to the rescue against Lyon, but Andriy Shevchenko assures their success is down to a group effort and looks ahead to the Barcelona clash.

“I’ll always remember the game with Lyon, as that was an unforgettable moment for us and the fans,” said the Ukrainian after a heart-stopping 3-1 victory sent them through to the semi-finals.

“What I’ll hang on to the most is the image of my teammates’ eyes, as I saw determination, desire to win and the certainty that none of us were going to give up or stop believing in victory.”

They looked to be crashing out on the away goals rule before Pippo Inzaghi completed his brace and Shevchenko netted his ninth Champions League goal in 10 games.

“In the last four or five years, Milan have always been among the best in Europe and that is because this is a great team. I above all want to point out that we have a splendid collective and are all professionals. Only a truly solid outfit could emerge from such a difficult time.”

There were fears that the ageing Rossoneri side would struggle towards the end of the season, but they have progressed past an arguably tougher draw than either Juventus or Inter.

“I’d love to be a sprightly little old man like some of my teammates here,” joked Sheva. “In four years we have achieved great results, both in Serie A and the Champions League.”

The road to Paris goes through Barcelona and many claim this will be an early Final for Europe’s most prestigious trophy.

“These two sides have always been competitive and we’ll have to be nothing short of perfect to get past them. Barca and Milan are both very prolific in the current campaign, both domestically and internationally. They have a great forward line with Ronaldinho, Samuel Eto’o, Deco and can also count on their captain Carlos Puyol. It would’ve been even more exhilarating to meet them in the Final, though.”

The Italian Press has been mulling over the reasons behind the surprise eliminations of Juve and Inter.

“I think Juventus found a very tough opponent in Arsenal, while if Inter had played to their full potential then they would’ve pushed past Villarreal,” mused Shevchenko. “All I know is that I’m very proud to be part of this Milan squad.”

Milan Derby moved to Friday
8.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Due to Milan’s Champions League commitments, the Derby di Milano has been brought forward to Friday April 14 and Inter’s Coppa Italia tie switched.

The Week 34 match was originally set to take place on Saturday evening, with all the other games in that round played in the afternoon ahead of the Easter break.

However, to help the Rossoneri better prepare for the Champions League semi-final against Barcelona on Tuesday April 18, their tie has been anticipated.

Inter also change their schedule, as the Coppa Italia semi-final originally planned for a 9pm local time kick-off on Tuesday April 11 has now been brought forward to 5.30pm instead. The Nerazzurri won the first leg 1-0 with a goal from Santiago Solari.

Diarra too pricey for Milan
7.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan chief Adriano Galliani has distanced the club from reports linking them with Lyon midfielder Mahamadou Diarra.

The midfielder impressed during Tuesday’s Champions League match in which he scored and also kept Kaka, the Rossoneri’s star man, quiet.

Diarra, who is attracting the interest of numerous clubs around Europe, has been associated with the San Siro outfit even if Galliani has ruled out a bid.

“He is certainly a good player, but it is far too expensive to shop in Lyon,” he declared. “Who will we buy? Nobody as we will confirm everyone who is here right now.”

Galliani’s response regarding Diarra also seems to mirror the whispers regarding their attempted swoop for Lyon stopper Cris.

The tall and powerful Brazilian central defender is liked by the Rossoneri, but they are believed to be unwilling to meet the Ligue 1 club’s asking price of over £9m.

Milan will now play Barcelona in the semi-finals of the Champions League, a match which the Vice-President thinks is unjust.

Galliani has previously moaned that the draw procedure for the tournament was flawed when they were paired against Bayern Munich in the Second Round.

He now thinks the lack of balance in the two semi-finals is also a negative on this season’s competition.

“As you can all see, Milan who are first in the rankings take on fourth-placed Barcelona,” he noted on Friday.

“Meanwhile, in the other, the eighth placed side will be playing the 16th seeded outfit,” he added when referring to the Arsenal – Villarreal clash.

Ancelotti: We’ll keep winning
7.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Carlo Ancelotti claims he knew that Milan’s winning cycle hadn’t come to an end after their Istanbul nightmare last May.

The Rossoneri threw away the European Cup Final after letting a 3-0 half-time lead slip against Liverpool, who went on to win the trophy by defeating the Italian giants on penalties.

That loss, combined with the rising age of the squad, led to suggestions that the Italian giants had come to the end of an era.

Yet Milan are again on the verge of reaching the Champions League Final after they set up a semi-final against Barcelona following Tuesday’s win over Lyon.

“I’m satisfied,” Ancelotti told Sky Italia in an interview which will be broadcast this evening in the peninsula.

“A lot of people thought that we were finished after Istanbul, but it seems as if our cycle is continuing.

“This side can still do a lot more in the future. There is no Istanbul syndrome, we are ready to win the Cup again.”

Milan sneaked past the French champions in the week with the aid of Pippo Inzaghi, whose brace underlined that he’s put his injury nightmare well and truly behind him.

“Pippo is the No 1 in my list of attackers,” added Ancelotti. “He is the best penalty box striker there is.

“Who would I choose between Inzaghi and Christian Vieri? There is simply no competition at this moment in time.”

Ancelotti was then again asked about his future with reports from Spain still insisting, despite his recent contract extension, that he will be heading to Real Madrid in the summer.

“I have never been close to joining Real, I’ve not been tempted by them,” he stated. “I am too happy here with Milan. There is a great feeling between all the components at this club.”

Milan lose Stam to injury
6.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Jaap Stam is likely to miss the Champions League semi-final clashes with Barcelona because of injury.

The Dutchman limped out of the Lyon win on Tuesday with a calf problem and he’s set to be out for at least the next three weeks.

Stam has endured an injury plagued campaign at the San Siro this season which has caused boss Carlo Ancelotti some problems.

The former Manchester United and Lazio stopper will be keen to return as soon as possible given that he will leave the San Siro in the summer.

The ex-Holland international has already agreed a two-year contract with Dutch giants Ajax which will come into effect from June.

Chivu likely to stick with Roma, says agent
6.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Cristian Chivu’s agent is optimistic that his client will still be wearing the Giallorossi shirt next season.

The Romanian has been linked with a number of clubs, but Andrea Pretti expects the international to remain in Rome.

“I don’t think he will be leaving,” the representative told Radio Incontro on Thursday. “I’m 80 per cent sure of that.”

Pretti added that he couldn’t say with any certainty that a summer move would not take place given that a transfer would not solely be in his or his client’s hands.

“A sale will probably only take place if Roma decided to cash in on him, but my client would not just move for money,” he added.

The Stadio Olimpico outfit have announced this week that they intend to keep the former Ajax man despite the interest in him.

Real Madrid, Barcelona, Milan, Inter and Juventus are all apparently keen on landing the versatile stopper.

Rijkaard: Milan in pole position
6.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Barcelona boss Frank Rijkaard insists Milan will start their Champions League semi-final as favourites.

Although the Spanish giants are highly fancied to lift the trophy in Paris this May, the Dutchman thinks his former club will begin the tie in pole position.

“It will be a very interesting game,” said Rijkaard who won the European Cup on two occasions for Milan as a player. “They will be the favourites.”

The midfielder actually played alongside present Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti in that marvelous Rossoneri side of the late 80s and early 90s, but Rijkaard is impressed with the outfit’s present crop of players.

“Milan are a great side,” continued the former Dutch national Coach. “They are quite an attacking outfit and have some excellent individuals.”

Barca booked their semi-final date with Milan, winners against Lyon on Tuesday, thanks to a 2-0 win over Benfica last night.

Italian international Fabrizio Miccoli played for the visitors and rues the few missed chances that they created.

“We didn’t play at all in the first half, but had a few opportunities after the break which we didn’t take advantage of,” said the Juventus owned striker.

“But we left the competition with dignity even if we could have drawn the match and gone through to the last four.

“Milan – Barcelona? Whoever reaches the Final out of those two sides will win the Champions League.”

Miccoli is again starting to impress onlookers in Portugal after a debut Benfica season which has been hampered by injury.

However, he has quashed talk of a late World Cup bid. “My name has disappeared,” he admitted. “I just hope to end the season well after a campaign full of fitness problems.”

Week 35 brought forward
6.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan’s progression to the Champions League semi-finals has seen the entire Week 35 Serie A schedule switched to Saturday.

All 10 Serie A matches were originally set to be played on Sunday April 23 but have been brought forward to April 22.

The decision has been taken to give Milan an extra day of preparation ahead of their European Cup last four game against Barcelona.

The League were forced to move the entire calendar forward, rather than just Milan’s trip to Messina, as rules state that the last four rounds of Serie A have to be played simultaneously.

All games in Week 35 will kick off at 15.00 hours local time.

Simic blasts boss Ancelotti
6.4 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Dario Simic is on his way out of Milan after launching a stinging attack on boss Carlo Ancelotti.

“I’m certain, very certain that the time has arrived for a change of environment,” he told Sportske Novosti.

The defender is ready to turn his back on the hugely successful Rossoneri after regularly being overlooked by the tactician this term.

Simic has appeared in 13 League games, four in the Coppa Italia and twice in the Champions League, but he insists he deserved more of a chance and at least an explanation from the Coach.

“I’m disappointed and angry, especially with the coldness of Ancelotti,” continued the former Inter player.

“Despite my performances during games, the work I do in training and my professional comportment, that hasn’t been enough for the Coach to give me a reason for my lack of use.

“I think I deserve more respect than that currently shown.”

Simic did have a few injury problems earlier this term, yet he insists that he’s back to his best physically.

“This situation really makes no sense to me,” he noted. “I demonstrated that I was up to the job after my operation.

“However, the fact that I don’t even enter the Coach’s thoughts as an alternative to Jaap Stam clearly shows that he has no faith in me.”

Simic was already close to leaving the San Siro last season, but was convinced to stay by Vice-President Adriano Galliani.

Conti blocks Chivu departure
5.4 || webmaster

Football Italia

Roma legend Bruno Conti has reassured anxious fans that Cristian Chivu will not be sold at the end of the season.

The Romanian has been linked with a move away from the Olimpico, with reports on Tuesday suggesting that Real Madrid were plotting a swoop.

Yet Conti, the club’s technical director, has maintained that the versatile stopper is part of the Giallorossi’s future.

“It is very pleasing for us as a club that a player like Cristian is wanted by so many teams,” said the 1982 World Cup winner.

“However, Chivu is a player who we deem as untransferable. He is one of our pillars for the future of this club.

“We are not even thinking about the possibility of depriving ourselves of such a player.”

Conti also wanted to dismiss the latest whispers which suggested that the Spanish giants had already been in touch.

“I can deny stories of any contact between Real Madrid and ourselves for Chivu,” he concluded.

Chivu, who can play as both a central defender and a left-back, is admired by a number of Europe’s top clubs.

As well as Real, the likes of Barcelona, Milan, Inter and Juventus are all known to be keen on the international.

The former Ajax ace is currently tied to the Stadio Olimpico outfit until the summer of 2008.

Gallas opts for Milan
5.4 || webmaster

Football Italia

Chelsea defender William Gallas will wear the Milan jersey next season, according to reports in France.

The renowned L’Equipe newspaper today writes that the international is ready to end his Chelsea stint in favour of a San Siro switch.

Despite being wanted by the likes of Barcelona and Juventus, it seems that Gallas has set his sights on joining the Rossoneri.

The Frenchman was believed to be assessing his future at Stamford Bridge even if his present deal doesn’t expire until June 2008.

Milan are known to be looking to refresh their defensive options and the versatility of Gallas is widely admired.

The fact that he can play both in the centre of defence and also as a full-back has tempted Milan to make a move.

Chelsea, Milan nor the player himself has yet to make any comment regarding this latest round of speculation.

Pippo: Bring on Barca!
5.4 || webmaster

Football Italia

Pippo Inzaghi thought his career was over, but with 52 European goals under his belt, he believes Milan can take on anyone – including Barcelona.

“I have a good rapport with the goal in Europe,” smiled the hitman who put a brace past Lyon in last night’s 3-1 quarter-final win.

“It’s great to be the fourth most prolific striker in European history, catching a legend like Raul, but I think these statistics will be even more comforting when I finally hang up my boots and look back at what I have achieved. The important thing now is that I’m back to my best and can train regularly.”

Inzaghi thought his career was nearing its end when he was out injured for the best part of two years with a catalogue of setbacks and watching the doomed Istanbul Champions League Final with Liverpool from the stands, but has rediscovered his form at a crucial time.

“We struggled against a great Lyon side, but it’s these games that stick in the memory and give you sleepless nights with their very excitement,” he told Milan Channel.

Now the Rossoneri go into the semi-finals for the third time in four years and will face either Benfica or Barcelona.

“On paper everyone would prefer the Portuguese side, but we cannot make calculations at this stage when every team is of real quality,” noted SuperPippo.

“The important thing is that we are there and know we’ll need another two great games to reach Paris. I can say that this Milan side is capable of competing with anyone on the world stage. We’ve had an extraordinary run in the Champions League over the past few seasons and have to congratulate the club.”

The quarter-final victory at the death was reminiscent of Milan’s 3-2 win over Ajax on their way to the 2003 trophy.

“The goals on those two occasions were similar and Massimo Ambrosini knows I always ask him to push up and hold up the ball, as he’s very good in the air. Just like against Ajax, his contribution proved decisive for my goal. I hope this parallel is a good omen. At least this time UEFA gave it to me,” he said after Jon Dahl Tomasson ‘pinched’ it by tapping in from a yard.

Rossoneri hail super spirit
5.4 || webmaster

Football Italia

Once again Milan have stepped up a gear in the final minutes to continue in the Champions League and its stars claim it's all down to team spirit.

“We never give in – it’s in our DNA. The team manages to keep its head and fitness until the final whistle, while Lyon fell away in the last 15 minutes,” said Vice-President Adriano Galliani after the 3-1 win.

“I’d like to see some sort of technology to decide if the Kaka header was over the line. We also hit the woodwork twice before Inzaghi’s second, so it’s not as if we didn’t deserve it. Now we are definitely top of the European rankings with this qualification, which is very important for us. We are in the semi-finals and will see what happens, but in this competition we’ve no reason to feel inferior to anyone, including Barcelona.”

Kaka’s header was cleared off the line with the score still 1-1 and there are doubts as to whether or not Sylvain Wiltord’s intervention was too late to keep it out, but Pippo Inzaghi and Andriy Shevchenko finished off the game in the final minutes.

“Inzaghi is always in the right place at the right time! Every now and then you think things could go wrong, but we have the belief and knowledge that Milan can grab a goal at any time and that’s why we don’t let our heads drop,” said the Brazilian playmaker.

“The fans were also decisive, as playing at San Siro brings you a motivating atmosphere that charges you up. We could sense that Lyon were tiring and we had more room to push forward, but it wasn’t easy while they were set out so well on the field.”

Alessandro Nesta also noted that there is something in the Milan character that allows them to step up in the big games.

“It’s nights like these when Milan are always there. We aren’t necessarily at our best, but we manage to find a way. Lyon are a very strong side and we struggled to control their set-pieces with Juninho Pernambucano, but we gave it everything we had to win this and had the added bonus of a little luck.”

Kakhaber Kaladze saw shadows of the famous 3-2 quarter-final victory over Ajax in 2003, also decided by a last-gasp Inzaghi goal when all seemed lost.

“It’s difficult to describe nights like this and we won a very difficult match,” said the Georgian. “Lyon have an excellent midfield and we weren’t up to our usual standards, but it was a similar finale to the one against Ajax. I want to thank the San Siro fans for filling this stadium to the brim and supporting us all the way, as they could see how much we wanted this. We never stopped believing.”

Ancelotti enjoys Magical Milan
5.4 || webmaster

Football Italia

Carlo Ancelotti and Pippo Inzaghi admit Milan weren’t at their best against Lyon, but are relishing the emotional rollercoaster of this Champions League campaign.

“Right now, we have to look at this incredible result that we struggled badly to achieve and that made the emotions all the more positive,” said the Coach after the last-gasp 3-1 win.

“All the little things that happened along the way pale into insignificance. Lyon are a great side, but I think that over the two legs we did a little bit more.”

The Rossoneri were on their way out on the away goals rule until three minutes from time, when Pippo Inzaghi completed his brace. An Andriy Shevchenko strike in stoppages put an end to the French hopes.

“Andrea Pirlo marked Sylvain Wiltord tight and we moved the ball around too slowly, so it wasn’t a particularly good performance from us, but we were always in the thick of the battle and Lyon didn’t push us very much.”

Another substitution that surprised the San Siro saw Massimo Ambrosini come on for Pirlo, but the midfielder proved decisive in Inzaghi’s second goal.

“I had a few options and chose Ambrosini because he’s a real presence on set-pieces. If you remember, the goal we scored against Ajax in 2003 was also with Ambro holding up the ball, but above all I wanted Clarence Seedorf in a more creative playmaker role.”

The real blot on the landscape was the continuing problems Milan have in defence, particularly on dead-ball situations.

“We trained on set-pieces, but there were some uncertainties all over the field in the first half and that hit our confidence,” confessed Ancelotti.

The hero was Inzaghi, who scored a brace to send Milan through to the Champions League semi-finals, where they’ll face either Barcelona or Benfica.

“It was just a magical night, I can’t believe it!” said the striker. “I’m going to enjoy it now and I think I’ve earned the right to celebrate, as I’ve had some very tough times recently. I dedicate the goals to my brother, whose birthday it is tomorrow.”

The record-breaking hitman has been on stunning form since recovering from the latest in a catalogue of injuries.

“I’ve always said that the most reassuring thing was that with every game I improved. I can’t help but be happy to have scored so many goals after such bad injuries, but this club charges me up with its atmosphere and its attitude. This is a team that puts me in the ideal position to score and it’s great to be fit again.”

Inzaghi is surely now a contender for a place in Italy’s World Cup squad, especially after he pushed Milan teammate Alberto Gilardino on to the bench.

“It’s very pleasing that people are saying such things about me. All I can do is try to stay in this form, even if that won’t be easy, but at least I am not feeling pain in training anymore since I came back in October.”

AC Milan 3:1 Lyon - match report
4.4 || webmaster

Football Italia

Scorers: Inzaghi 25, 87 (M), Diarra 31 (L), Shevchenko 93 (M)

Milan swept through to the Champions League semi-finals in the most dramatic of fashions, as Pippo Inzaghi and Andriy Shevchenko sealed a stoppage-time 3-1 win!

The Rossoneri knew they needed to win this match after drawing the first leg 0-0 in France, but Gerard Houllier's men were still unbeaten going into this game. Pippo Inzaghi and Jaap Stam came into the starting line-up, while Lyon welcomed back midfield maestro Juninho Pernambucano - the man Andrea Pirlo studied for his set-piece technique - from suspension.

Inzaghi's scuffed shot was off target under pressure from Cris after 11 minutes, but Serginho's error handed the ball to Sidney Govou and he fired over the bar from 20 metres.

Soon after, Inzaghi prodded a Serginho cross wide of the near post, but there was panic in the Milan area when the ball bobbled in front of Dida and he completely miskicked his clearance. Thankfully for the Brazilian goalkeeper, Sylvain Wiltord couldn't make the most of it.

Milan again handed Lyon a glorious opportunity when Dida rushed out to close down Fred, but Malouda placed his lob onto the roof of a totally empty net.

Juninho tested Dida with one of his fierce free kicks at the near post, the Brazilian punching it away as it dipped.

Stam, who was making his return from injury, fell awkwardly on his left ankle and had to be replaced by Alessandro Costacurta.

Milan got away with their errors, but Lyon were punished at their first. Shevchenko won back the ball on the edge of the area and set Clarence Seedorf running down the left flank for Inzaghi's header into the bottom far corner of the net.

A strong counter-attack from Serginho and Kaka was closed down by a mass of Lyon bodies swarming around the Brazilian and Pirlo. Lyon went on a break of their own and Gennaro Gattuso was booked for a tactical foul.

However, Dida was again uncertain and Lyon equalised. The goalkeeper clattered into a sea of bodies as he came out to get Juninho's free kick and Mahamadou Diarra was able to rise above the crowd and head into an empty net.

Seedorf's snapshot was just wide of the near post from outside the area, as Milan knew they needed to win in order to qualify for the semi-finals.

Govou's hopeful effort was well wide, then a Juninho cross-shot was slapped out from under the crossbar by Dida.

From the resulting corner kick, Fred was left totally unmarked and turned his free header on to the upright with Dida immobile and the defence static.

Shevchenko prodded a Serginho cross right into the path of Gregory Coupet and Diarra performed a crucial tackle on Kaka inside the area.

There was controversy just before the break, as Cris kicked out at Inzaghi when both were on the floor, but it was only the Milan man who was booked for his reaction.

After the restart, Alessandro Nesta's header from a Pirlo free kick was off target.

Pirlo tripped Juninho Pernambucano just outside the area, but the set-piece specialist couldn't beat the defensive wall. There are suggestions it struck Pirlo's arm, but it was in front of his face.

Shevchenko went off on the counter-attack down the right flank, but was closed down from passing to Inzaghi and instead aimed a hopeful shot over the bar from a tight angle.

Dida was surprised by a fierce Abidal snapshot and couldn't stop it going out for a corner kick, although he probably should've done better in this incident.

Milan put together a fine team move with kaka and Serginho combining before Coupet palmed a Serginho shot wide of the near post.

Wiltord fired a powerful but inaccurate effort wide of the target, but the Rossoneri were improving and Clerc took Gattuso's cross off the head of Shevchenko. As the move continues, Seedorf drilled inches wide of the near post.

Costacurta needed an acrobatic clearance to prevent Govou from scoring from seven yards, then Cacapa nodded a corner kick wide.

Lyon sliced up the defence down Serginho's flank and Nesta had to clear from Govou in the centre. Ex-Roma forward John Carew replaced Fred and Massimo Ambrosini surprisingly took over from a quiet Pirlo, switching Seedorf to the playmaker role.

Serginho went on a slalom through five Lyon players, but the move couldn't be finalised.

The San Siro collectively held its breath on the resulting corner kick, as Coupet was beaten by a Kaka header and Wiltord's goalline clearance was only just in time to stop the ball completely crossing over.

Ancelotti made another unusual tactical choice for his final substitution, replacing Gattuso with Paolo Maldini and moving Serginho further up the field.

Coupet rushed out to capture a Kaka cross before it could reach Inzaghi and Shevchenko in the centre.

Less than three minutes from time, Milan restored their lead with an improbably dramatic goal. Shevchenko's angled drive took a touch off Coupet and managed to come off the inside of the far post, roll all the way across and thump the other upright as well. It seemed to be going out, but Inzaghi tapped in from a yard.

There were four minutes of stoppages at the San Siro and Milan put the final nail in Olympique Lyonnais' coffin with 100 seconds to go. Shevchenko was more alert than anyone to pounce on a wayward backpass and slot past Coupet from the tightest of angles.

Milan: Dida; Stam (Costacurta 24), Nesta, Kaladze, Serginho; Gattuso (Maldini 77), Pirlo (Ambrosini 71), Seedorf; Kakà; Shevchenko, Inzaghi

Lyon: Coupet; Clerc, Cris, Caçapa, Abidal; Govou (Reveillere 82), Diarra, Juninho; Wiltord, Fred (Carew 71), Malouda

Ref: Hauge (Nor)

Roma ponder Abbiati loan
4.4 || webmaster

Football Italia

Goalkeeper Christian Abbiati has moved a step closer to joining Roma for the 2006-07 season, according to reports.

Abbiati is currently on loan at Juventus from Milan but whispers in Italy on Tuesday suggest that he will sign for the Giallorossi at the end of this campaign.

Roma are evaluating the Abbiati path given the contract problems concerning current No 1 Alexander Doni.

The Brazilian’s present agreement expires in June and there is still some difference between his new wage demands and what the club are prepared to offer.

A split now seems to be on the cards with other speculation claiming that Doni is on the verge of joining Barcelona.

As a result, Abbiati is wanted by the capital club given the likelihood that he won’t be staying with the Rossoneri once he returns to the San Siro in the summer.

Milan are said to be prepared to offer him to Roma on loan in exchange for the loan of shot-stopper Ivan Pelizzoli, who has spent this term at Reggina.

Abbiati did return to his high levels of the past this term after he was snapped up by Juventus following an injury to Gigi Buffon.

Although Abbiati has now returned to the bench, he did greatly impress for the six months or so in which he was handed the first-choice gloves.

Milan next for Fiore?
4.4 || webmaster

Football Italia

Stefano Fiore’s agent has sensationally opened the door for his client to join Milan at the end of the season.

Fiore is currently on loan from Valencia at Fiorentina where it was thought that he would remain on a permanent basis.

However, the Tuscan outfit are unhappy with the £3m asking price which the Spanish side are demanding for the international.

Although the Viola do have an option to buy the player outright, director general Pantaleo Corvino is trying to get the asking price reduced.

As a consequence, Fiore could again become available on the transfer market and the San Siro giants are allegedly an option.

“I need to discuss the situation with Valencia and then meet up with Corvino,” Federico Pastorello told the Guerin Sportivo magazine.

“I won’t exclude an interest in Fiore by Milan. The Rossoneri value him highly and boss Carlo Ancelotti already wanted him while he was coaching Juventus.”

The former Udinese and Parma midfielder has impressed on his return to Italian football after his one-year nightmare in La Liga.

Valencia swooped for his services while at Lazio, but the versatile midfielder struggled to live up to his reputation.

Fiore could prove to be a valid alternative for either Andrea Pirlo or Clarence Seedorf in the Milan midfield next term.

Poulsen confirms Milan 'deal'
3.4 || webmaster

Football Italia

Schalke 04 midfielder Christian Poulsen has confirmed that he is on the verge of signing for Italian giants Milan.

Although the Danish midfielder has yet to finalise terms with the Rossoneri, he’s confident that he will be wearing their jersey next season.

“There is only Milan for me,” he is quoted as saying in the Extra Bladet newspaper. “Even if there are still a few details to iron out.”

Milan turned their attention to Poulsen, whose contract with his Bundesliga side expires in the summer, after impressing them in this season’s Champions League.

Although he infuriated the club, and Gennaro Gattuso in particular, with his rough man-marking of Kaka, the Rossoneri believe he would be a valuable addition to their squad.

Although the player, who first hit the headlines in Italian football at Euro 2004 for being spat on by Francesco Totti, is available on a free transfer, Milan may have to help finance the move.

That after Poulsen signed a pre-contract agreement with Villarreal which had a penalty clause included should the Scandinavian pull out of the switch.

“The Villarreal story is now behind us,” stated Jorgen Bonnensen, the player’s agent. “Even if it is true that there is a clause.

“We could take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and win without paying a penny, but that would take too long and we would prefer to sort things out with Villarreal.

“It matters not who has to pay the amount, the most important thing is that Christian has made his decision.”

It’s believed that Milan will pay the reported £600,000 in question after Poulsen failed to sign a permanent agreement before a March 10 deadline.

Maldini archives Lecce reverse
3.4 || webmaster

Football Italia

Paolo Maldini has urged his Milan colleagues to forget the Lecce loss and focus on their primary objective of winning the Champions League.

The Rossoneri basically handed Juventus the Scudetto on Saturday by allowing the Bianconeri to move nine points clear at the top of the table, with just six games left, after a 1-0 reverse at the Via Del Mare.

Yet Maldini is not regretting that set-back and is just fully concentrated on the Champions League match with Lyon on Tuesday.

“Let’s delete the Lecce loss from our minds and think about the Lyon game which is decisive for us,” he stated on Monday.

“We are playing for our main target tomorrow night which is to win the European Cup. We shouldn’t be worried because we are a strong side and in good physical shape.”

Maldini will be part of the squad for the tie after last week’s 0-0 first leg result, but he’s likely to start on the bench after only recently coming back from injury.

“I still have a few little problems which I am dealing with, but I will certainly be available for use,” he continued.

“I’m very optimistic about the game because we have always done very well in front of our own fans this season,” he noted.

“This is the most important part of our campaign to date and we have all that is needed to beat the French side.”

The 38-year-old’s ranking of the game is also mirrored by teammate and scoring sensation Andriy Shevchenko.

“This will be a decisive encounter for us even if it won’t feel the same as a final,” stated the Ukrainian international.

“It will be important for us to get through to the next round even if I don’t manage to get on the scoresheet. The result is what matters.”

Bring on Lyon, says Ancelotti
3.4 || webmaster

Football Italia

Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti maintains that his side aren’t feeling the pressure ahead of the Champions League decider against Lyon.

The Rossoneri surprisingly lost 1-0 at Lecce on Saturday and go into Tuesday’s San Siro quarter-final tie knowing that they must win after dangerously drawing 0-0 in France last week.

“We are well used to these types of games,” the tactician stated today. “There is no particular pressure on us.

“It seems as if we should be the more worried going into the game, but I don’t see why. We have to win yet that isn’t a problem for us.

“I am certain that we will put in a great performance because we are aware that we are up against an opponent of value.”

The French champions go into the tie looking for at least a score draw which will be good enough for a place in the last four and Ancelotti says he knows what to expect.

“Little changes whether they play at home or away,” he added. “They have a style of play and they stick to it.”

The away team will be boosted by the return of free-kick king Juninho who missed the first leg because of suspension.

“They have players of certain talent and Juninho is one of these,” continued the former Juventus boss.

“However, there are ways to stop his influence. We must not give away useless free-kicks during the game because he is a player of great personality.”

Ancelotti has a full squad from which to choose from and he has warned Lyon to expect an attacking opponent.

“We need to play well and attack,” he noted. “We have scored a lot of goals at home this season and we hope that trend continues.

“This is a game where we can’t really make any calculations. We just need to make the most of home advantage and ask our fans for their support.”

The Coach added that Paolo Maldini was available for selection, while he has to still choose whether to play Jaap Stam or Billy Costacurta in the right-back role.

Sheva: Rossonero for life
2.4 || webmaster

Football Italia

Andriy Shevchenko has again reiterated he has no desire to leave Milan and shaken off those £35m Chelsea rumours.

“Anything can happen in football, but my aim is to stay with the Rossoneri for life,” he told German newspaper ‘Bild’ this weekend.

The Ukrainian has been a transfer target for the biggest clubs in the world for several years and was crowned European Player of the Year in 2004.

This week there were reports in the British Press that Chelsea had ‘agreed’ a £35m deal to bring him to Stamford Bridge, but Sheva and Milan were quick to laugh them off.

“I hope the club is reading those rumours, that way they’ll call me into the office for a contract renewal,” smiled the striker.

Shevchenko arrived from Dynamo Kiev in 1999-200 and has now scored 127 goals in 204 games for the San Siro giants.

Milan vice-President Adriano Galliani has also pointed out that there is no truth in the claims there will be major sales this summer to fund reinforcements in defence.

“The fans should know that Shevchenko and all the other Rossoneri champions will stay with us,” said Galliani.

The transfer guru also looked back at the 1-0 defeat at Lecce yesterday evening that put an end to their Scudetto hopes.

“If we had won, then we would be just six points adrift of Juventus instead of nine. This is the second consecutive year in which we’ve lost the title at Lecce, so it seems to be our destiny.”

Carlo Ancelotti rotated the squad ahead of the Champions League quarter-final with Lyon and was made to pay for that approach.

“Unfortunately, it is a necessary evil and we can’t avoid that,” said Galliani. “Last week Inter lost with a second-string side at Parma and this time was our turn. All the teams involved in the Champions League at this stage are struggling to maintain their sharpness. We had plenty of chances at Lecce, but just couldn’t seem to score.”

Cafu back on track
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Football Italia

Marcos Cafu made his first appearance since undergoing surgery a month ago and thinks he’s ready to feature against Lyon.

“I felt no pain in my knee, so that injury has fully recovered,” said the Milan right-back following yesterday’s 1-0 defeat at Lecce.

“Now all I’m missing is match fitness, but that will gradually come and I can help the team in these closing stages of the season.”

The Brazilian is set for another World Cup appearance with the Selecao and that was in his mind when he decided to undergo surgery for both a knee injury and to correct a breathing problem, which he claims “will add years to my career.”

Milan have been struggling to replace him at right-back, fielding everyone from Jaap Stam and Alessandro Costacurta to legendary left-back Paolo Maldini in that role.

Now that he is back in action, it’s possible his pace and crossing ability will be called for in Tuesday’s Champions League quarter-final with Lyon.

“I hope that I can help my teammates out against the French side. We have grit, the desire to do well and go through to the final four. I know we can do it.”

The first leg ended 0-0 at the Stade Gerland, so the Rossoneri have to win at San Siro to qualify. Norwegian referee Terje Hauge has been assigned to this game.

Ancelotti hands over Scudetto
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Football Italia

Carlo Ancelotti concedes that Milan’s Scudetto hopes are over after defeat at Lecce, but also points out he’s been sure of that for some time.

“It has been a while now we have considered the title race over and done with,” said the Coach after falling nine points behind leaders Juventus.

“Of course, I hope this setback doesn’t damage our bid for second place, even if we still have a relatively consistent lead over Inter.”

However, if the Nerazzurri beat Messina this evening, then that gap will be cut to just two points with the Milan derby fast approaching.

“We played well in the first 45 minutes at the Stadio Via del Mare and I am happy with what we did, but once Lecce took the lead they shut up shop and didn’t concede any more space.”

It is the Salentini’s second victory on the trot and, although they remain in penultimate place, this could spark an unexpected fightback.

“We have lit up the flame of hope again,” said Coach Franco Paleari. “Now we must continue along this path and take it one day at a time. At the end of the season, we’ll see if all our efforts have been enough to keep us in Serie A. I have always believed in this squad and now the results are arriving.”

Lecce 1:0 AC Milan - match report
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Football Italia

Scorer: Konan 54 (L)

A second-string Milan side was defeated 1-0 at Lecce's Stadio Via del Mare to end their slender Scudetto hopes.

The Rossoneri were torn between their need to rest stars for Tuesday's Champions League quarter-final with Lyon and bid to close up the eight-point gap from Serie A leaders Juventus. Marcio Amoroso was given his first start for the club, while Serginho and Alessandro Nesta were suspended. Paolo Maldini made his first start since suffering a knee injury almost four months ago.

Lecce have picked up the pace recently with a 2-1 win over Siena, but had Tiziano Polenghi and Karim Saidi out injured.

Milan nearly took the lead in the opening minutes, as Vincenzo Sicignano parried an Alberto Gilardino header and Guillermo Giacomazzi's goalline clearance kept out his follow-up.

However, Lecce were pouring forward throughout the first half and forced the Rossoneri to focus on the counter-attack. Cristian Ledesma didn't make the most of a Massimo Ambrosini error, then Mirko Vucinic nodded Erminio Rullo's cross over the bar.

Babu's shot from the edge of the box tested Dida, but Gilardino wasted another good opportunity on Manuel Rui Costa's assist, hesitating and allowing Sicignano to narrow the angle.

Giacomazzi's header from a corner kick skimmed the woodwork, then Dida needed two touches to get a Suleymane Diamoutene strike from distance under control.

Both sides had players stopped - Vucinic and Amoroso - for debatable offside positions.

It was an open and entertaining game, as on 33 minutes Sicignano made a fantastic save to push Rui Costa's finish over the bar.

Kakha Kaladze wasted a good chance from close range, while Sicignano was also tested by a Gilardino snapshot at the near post.

After the restart, Dida's rather hasty rush off his line to close down substitute Axel Konan went awry and Kaladze was just about able to clear.

Lecce's pressure paid off soon after, as Vucinic rushed off on the counter-attack and set up Konan for an unstoppable finish.

Milan needed to get back into the game and replaced the quiet Amoroso with Pippo Inzaghi - who'd scored a 94th-minute goal to beat Lecce 2-1 at San Siro earlier this season. Marcos Cafu also made his comeback in place of Dario Simic and Clarence Seedorf allowed Andrea Pirlo a rest.

Diamoutene managed to close down an Inzaghi move, then Massimo Ambrosini's header was off target from a Marek Jankulovski cross.

Vucinic nearly made it 2-0, as his left-foot shot from the edge of the box shaved the upright.

Seedorf brought another splendid save out of goalkeper Sicignano with a powerful drive from 30 metres.

Rullo's handling offence inside the area went unpunished in the closing minutes, despite Rui Costa's penalty appeals.

A central Alfonso Camorani effort was easily smothered and Lecce held their concentration until the final whistle for an historic result.

Lecce: Sicignano; Cassetti, Diamoutene, Stovini, Rullo; Giacomazzi, Ledesma, Del Vecchio; Babù (Konan 46), Vucinic (Cozzolino 88), Pinardi (Camorani 72)

Milan: Dida; Simic (Cafu 61), Maldini, Kaladze, Jankulovski; Vogel, Pirlo (Seedorf 65), Ambrosini; Rui Costa; Amoroso (Inzaghi 55), Gilardino

Ref: Dondarini

Ancelotti admits to Sheva rows
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Football Italia

Carlo Ancelotti will rest Andriy Shevchenko for the trip to Lecce and admits he doesn’t always see eye to eye with the Milan hitman.

“Sheva has a contract with Milan and, even if every now and then he argues with the Coach, he is happy to stay,” said the tactician after reports there was a deal in place with Chelsea.

The Ukrainian striker has been spotted exchanging terse words with Ancelotti in some cases, but all parties involved have denied he wants to leave the club.

“At times we go over the top, but we understand each other. He knows when I am exaggerating and vice versa, then we always end up joking about it.”

Shevchenko has made the journey to the Stadio Via del Mare for today’s game, but will probably not feature so that he can rest ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League showdown with Lyon.

“I confirm that we’ll rotate the squad, especially as a few of my players haven’t quite recovered from the first leg in France. I’d consider this a normal thing to do and it’s likely that Marcio Amoroso will start upfront.”

The Brazilian was signed in January as a replacement for Christian Vieri, but has so far made just one Serie A appearance.

“Paolo Maldini should also be in the first 11, with Dario Simic on the right and I hope that Marcos Cafu can be fit enough for the bench. Massimo Ambrosini picked up a knock, but he’s in contention, too.”

Last week Milan’s 3-1 victory over Fiorentina cut the gap from leaders Juventus to eight points, but Ancelotti won’t hear talk of a late surge for the Scudetto.

“Our objective is to keep Inter at a distance in the race for second place, so we have to take this visit to Lecce seriously and concentrate on the game. Those who play will represent Milan well, as they impress in training, even if they don’t get as many opportunities to show it on the field.”

Milan squad: Dida, Fiori, Kalac; Cafu, Costacurta, Kaladze, Maldini, Marzoratti, Jankulovski, Simic; Ambrosini, Gattuso, Kakà, Pirlo, Rui Costa, Seedorf, Vogel; Amoroso, Gilardino, Inzaghi, Shevchenko.

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