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The Archive

September 2003

Fans key for Rivaldo
30.9 || scharatz

Rivaldo says that the affection of the fans and his teammates was the main factor behind his decision to stay with Milan.

The Brazilian quit the club on Friday after he had his request to terminate his contract accepted. But he was yesterday convinced to stay on until January 2 at the very least.

"The reason behind my change of mind was down to the reaction of the fans, the players and the club," he said on Tuesday.

"I’m very happy and touched by the ovation that I received at the San Siro on Sunday. I would also like to thank Paolo Maldini who would often call me to offer his support."

The 2002 World Cup winner had wanted out after he failed to break into Carlo Ancelotti’s first team plans.

However, he has been included in the squad to face Celta Vigo on Wednesday even if he admits he has received no assurances over playing time.

"I’m ready to play but I haven’t been guaranteed a first team shirt," he added from Milan’s Malpensa airport.

Rivaldo is part of a 21-man squad for the Spanish trip but the European champions will be without a few regulars.

Gennaro Gattuso has been given a two-match ban, while Clarence Seedorf, Kakha Kaladze and Fernando Redondo are all injured.

"It will be a tough tie because Celta are a dangerous attacking outfit," noted Vice-president Adriano Galliani.

"They have men like Savo Milosevic, Gustavo Lopez and Alexander Mostovoi. Let’s hope that their defence isn’t so good."

Milan will be looking for a win after they beat Ajax 1-0 in their opening Champions’ League game earlier this month.

Shev feels in fine form
29.9 || Seamus

Andriy Shevchenko feels he is playing the best football of his life as he celebrates his 27th birthday.

"I’m like a changed man," he told Italian TV programme ‘TG5’ on Monday. "These years in Milan have helped me to grow. I have matured and now have great faith in my own ability."

Shevchenko is Serie A’s joint top scorer, along with Parma’s Adriano, after his two goals against Lecce yesterday saw him move up to five.

"I’m happy with how I am doing at the moment and I’m really enjoying my football. I’m in good shape and this allows me to stay in top form."

The Rossoneri have made a good start to the Scudetto chase with three wins and a draw, but Sheva knows it won’t be easy to win the title.

"Juventus are a very strong side," he explained. "They have great character and play as a collective rather than individuals.

"Then there is Roma who have had a great start and who can count on a player like Francesco Totti."

But what about city rivals Inter, who Milan will face in what promises to be a heated derby next weekend?

"That game will be important for all those involved, the players, the clubs and the fans," he continued.

"Milan and Inter are both strong sides. The Nerazzurri are a complete team even if Christian Vieri is still out with injury."

Rivaldo in Milan U-turn
29.9 || Seamus

Milan have confirmed that Rivaldo has decided to stay with the club for the immediate future -just days after quitting the San Siro.

The Italian giants accepted his request to terminate his contract on Friday but the European champions have convinced Rivaldo to remain.

"Rivaldo will stay with Milan and will be in the squad to face Celta Vigo on Wednesday," said Vice-president Adriano Galliani.

The latter held talks, which last for over two and a half hours, with the Brazilian on Monday in order to change his mind.

The former Barcelona player had wanted out after failing to break into the Milan side under boss Carlo Ancelotti.

It is believed that the player, who is tied to the club until 2005, will assess his future at the end of December.

If he is still unhappy then he will leave in the New Year with the Premiership his most likely destination.

Adriano admits Milan wish
29.9 || Seamus

Although Adriano’s future seems to be with Inter, the young Brazilian says he would love to play for city rivals Milan.

"I would like to star for Milan," he told TV show ‘Controcampo’ on Sunday night. "I know that I belong to Parma and then Inter.

"However, who knows what the future holds. I would certainly like the chance to feature for the Rossoneri who are a team that fascinate me."

The 20-year-old is currently in his second season at Parma after Inter sold half of his contract to the Tardini outfit.

He has excelled in his time there and continues to as his five goals so far this term see him at the top of the scoring charts with Milan’s Andriy Shevchenko.

It is believed that the Nerazzurri will retain full ownership of the international striker next season.

AC Milan 3:0 Lecce - match report
29.9 || scharatz

Shevchenko 21, 70 (M), Tomasson 89 (M)

Andriy Shevchenko's brace swept Lecce aside and helped Milan maintain the Scudetto pace set by early front-runners Roma and Juventus.

Milan welcomed Lecce to the San Siro just days after Rivaldo's surprise decision to tear up his contract. The Brazilian was expected to feature in this game, especially as Pippo Inzaghi is out with a jaw and neck injury, but he stepped on to the field to salute all his former teammates and the fans before kick-off.

Carlo Ancelotti opted for an all-attack formation with Andrea Pirlo, Kaka', Manuel Rui Costa, Andriy Shevchenko and Jon Dahl Tomasson in the same starting eleven. Serginho and Marcos Cafu were also drafted in as full-backs.

Lecce were without star striker Javier Ernesto Chevanton as the Uruguayan is out for a fortnight with a thigh strain. Youngsters Mirko Vucinic and Axel Konan were given the nod.

Rui Costa is yet to score a single Serie A goal for Milan, but he could not have gone closer than the incident on 14 minutes. The Portuguese playmaker swept a splendid shot from the edge of the box that rattled the crossbar with Marco Amelia beaten.

There were penalty appeals when Kaka' ran into the box and appeared to be pushed off the ball, but the referee waved play on.

The pressure increased and Milan eventually broke the deadlock on 21 minutes. Rui Costa was again unlucky when his low drive hit the base of the post, but Marcos Cafu put the ball back into the centre for Shevchenko's finish.

Kaka' was again impressive and his powerful drive whistled past the post soon after.

Lecce began to fight back towards the end of the first half and Axel Konan tested Dida's reflexes. After the break Vucinic frankly should have scored, but he drilled wide from eight yards.

It remained an entertaining game and Tomasson's solo effort brought a tough save out of Amelia before Paolo Maldini looped a header over the bar.

The pressure eventually paid off to make the points safe with Shevchenko again on target. The Ukrainian dribbled past three players as he ran into the box before cutting a slide-rule finish between goalkeeper and near post.

Tomasson completed the rout in the final minute by tapping in from close range, but the credit for the goal must also go to Kaka for a delicate assist that pulled the goalkeeper away from his net.

Milan: Dida; Cafu (Simic 46), Nesta, Maldini, Serginho; Gattuso, Pirlo (Redondo 65), Kakà; Rui Costa (Brocchi 80); Shevchenko, Tomasson

Lecce: Amelia; Siviglia, Silvestri, Stovini; Cassetti (Billy 77), Piangerelli, Ledesma, Budel (Giacomazzi 70), Tonetto; Vucinic, Konan (Bojinov 62)

Ref: Rosetti

Milan confirm: Rivaldo may stay!
29.9 || scharatz

Rossoneri Vice-President Adriano Galliani has hinted that Rivaldo’s time in Serie A may not yet be over.

The Brazilian agreed to tear up his contract on Friday and is now a free agent, but could sensationally sign a new deal with Milan.

“I am trying to convince Rivaldo to stay on, at least until January,” revealed Galliani this evening. “We will have more talks tomorrow.”

The former Barcelona star was given a warm salute by the fans in the San Siro ahead of today’s 3-0 win over Lecce.

Rivaldo stepped on to the field before kick-off and warmly hugged each of his teammates.

“He was really moved by the reception he received from the supporters,” continued the Vice-President.

“We will see what happens, but there is certainly the possibility he could stay on for a few more months.”

Rivaldo had asked to leave due to the lack of first team football, but it seems that the Coach is willing to give him more room.

“I spoke to Carlo Ancelotti and he agrees with this move,” added Galliani. “After all, it is also in Rivaldo’s interests, as if he is sidelined until January then he’ll lose his place in the Brazilian national squad.”

Rivaldo admitted this weekend that the Premiership was his most likely destination, but the only firm offers so far have come from Middlesbrough and Newcastle United.

Rivaldo salutes San Siro
28.9 || scharatz

Rivaldo was on the field before today’s match with Lecce to salute his teammates and the Rossoneri fans.

“I came here to say goodbye to my colleagues,” revealed the now ex-Milan star. “I cannot deny that I am very close to the club and have always wanted to play for the great Milan.”

The former Barcelona man is now a free agent after agreeing to tear up his contract on Friday.

“I do regret that I wasn’t able to show this Stadium the real Rivaldo,” he added, “but now is the time to look forward and not back.”

The World Cup winner failed to impress during his 22 Serie A appearances and was further shut out of the first team by the arrival of Kaka’.

“My salute also goes to the fans, who have always supported me and even in the last few days continued to show their respect.”

It now looks increasingly likely the 31-year-old will move to the Premiership following interest from several clubs.

“I think that England is the logical destination for me because I've had so many offers from there that it would be the easiest place to go and succeed.”

The former World Player of the Year also confirmed interest from Middlesbrough and Newcastle United, but insisted he was aiming for higher ground.

“I would love to sign for Chelsea,” he added, “as it would be very easy for me to fit in quickly because there are already so many stars, some of whom I know directly and this would literally, guarantee success.”

However, as the reason he left Milan was in order to play more first team football, the star-studded Stamford Bridge outfit would not solve that problem.

AC Milan vs Lecce - match preview
27.9 || scharatz

Milan’s Scudetto hopes were dashed by failure to beat the small sides last season and that issue has not been resolved. Last week their 100 per cent record ground to a halt at the Stadio Renato Curi with a 1-1 draw.

Massimo Ambrosini’s red card in that game also means he will be suspended for this tie, but Clarence Seedorf should have recovered in time to take his place. Carlo Ancelotti experimented a new formation at Perugia with Manuel Rui Costa, Kaka and Andrea Pirlo in the same midfield, a tactic we may see repeated on the safer home turf.

Ancelotti can at least see some of his defence re-established with the return to fitness of Alessandro Nesta, but Kakha Kaladze and Giuseppe Pancaro remain sidelined. Pippo Inzaghi may be rested after he was hospitalised for a sore neck following last week’s clash with Zeljko Kalac.

Lecce are just the kind of team that can prove a costly hurdle to Milan. The youthful strike force of Guillermo Giacomazzi, Javier Ernesto Chevanton and Mirko Vucinic have remained intact from their Serie B campaign and are quickly adapting to the top flight. Surrounding this creative spark is a solid midfield that may try to frustrate the Rossoneri at the San Siro.

Milan (probable): Dida; Simic, Nesta, Maldini, Costacurta; Gattuso, Pirlo; Rui Costa, Kaka, Shevchenko; Inzaghi

Lecce (probable): Amelia; Siviglia, Silvestri, Stovini; Abruzzese, Budel, Ledesma; Piangerelli; Giacomazzi, Chevanton, Tonetto

Ancelotti salutes "brave" Rivaldo
27.9 || scharatz

Carlo Ancelotti has given his side of the story after Rivaldo tore up his contract with Milan.

“On a personal level I am very sorry to see Rivaldo go,” said the Coach. “He was very brave to leave such an important club as Milan.”

The former World Player of the Year has never found much space in the Serie A squad and spent the entire summer on the sidelines with a series of muscular worries.

The departure on Friday afternoon was a particular surprise as less than 24 hours earlier he had showdown talks with Ancelotti.

“I must admit I did not see this split coming,” continued the tactician. “Rivaldo seemed relaxed and content to me.”

Rivaldo also told the South American press this week that there were “other reasons” behind his lack of first team football.

"He wanted guarantees of a starting place, and with such a large squad that just isn't possible."

“I pick the starting line-up,” added Ancelotti, “and it is certainly not true that I dislike creative players. After all, last week I played Kaka’ and Manuel Rui Costa in the same side.”

Rivaldo's future looks bleak, as earlier today Brazil boss Carlos Parreira told him to find a new club quickly.

"If a player doesn't train and doesn't get regular football," noted the Selecao Coach, "then he won't be in the best condition for the national side."

Brazil's next World Cup qualifying games are in November.

Two-match Euro ban for Gattuso
26.9 || Seamus

Gennaro Gattuso has been handed a two-match Champions’ League ban for striking out at Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

The midfielder saw red for the incident during the 1-0 victory over Ajax on September 16.

The Swedish striker was holding Gattuso back and he struck out in a reaction foul during the final minutes of that opening match.

The Italian international will be forced to sit out the upcoming Euro ties with Celta Vigo and Bruges.

Celta will be without Jose Ignacio Saenz for next week’s clash with Milan after he was handed a three-match ban for stamping on Bruges man Andres Mendoza.

UEFA have also punished Italy with a £27,000 for a lack of adequate security measures during the 4-0 victory over Wales.

An investigation has also been opened that could see the Welsh FA sanctioned for the problems caused by their fans during the same Euro 2004 qualifier.

Brocchi extends Milan stay
26.9 || Seamus

AC Milan midfield player Cristian Brocchi has renewed his contract with the European champions until 2007.

New terms
The 27-year-old former Hellas-Verona FC and Internazionale FC player has agreed a two-year extension to his original deal. Brocchi was an important figure in last season's UEFA Champions League triumph, appearing in seven matches including the semi-final against Inter.

Rivaldo explains Milan exit
26.9 || scharatz

Rivaldo says he quit Milan because he simply couldn’t accept the fact that he was playing so rarely.

The Brazilian terminated his contract with the European giants on Friday after failing to break into the first team.

"I made my mind up last night," the World Cup winner said this afternoon. "I couldn’t handle not playing regularly anymore.

"I understood the situation in Week 1 against Ancona when I sat on the bench for the entire game.

"I thought to myself that if I couldn’t play in that kind of match then I wouldn’t feature in the really big clashes.

"This is just a personal decision and I feel that I’m making the right choice. I’m not looking for anyone to blame."

The attacking midfielder arrived in Italy last year after he rescinded his contract with Barcelona.

"I always dreamed of playing for Milan and I’m happy that I won the Champions’ League with this club," he added.

"I’m disappointed that the Rivaldo witnessed in Spain didn’t turn up here. I had my problems last term and nothing had changed much this time around."

Despite having showdown talks with boss Carlo Ancelotti this week, Rivaldo asked Milan this morning to end their agreement immediately.

"He asked us and we accepted to meet his needs on friendly terms," said Vice-president Adriano Galliani.

"I would like to thank Rivaldo for his work here in which he has contributed to the three trophies which we have won over the past 12 months."

Rivaldo, who was earning around £3.5m a season, is now a free agent and could team up with international colleague Ronaldo at Real Madrid. Even if he has other options.

"The fact that I played against Porto in the Super Cup means that I can’t be used in the Champions’ League this term," he noted.

"There is a chance that I could move to England but I will evaluate all of my options with calm."

26.9 || Seamus

Rivaldo is no longer a Milan player after he had his request to terminate his contract accepted.

The shock move comes just days after he held talks with Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti over his future use.

The Brazilian was unhappy at having rarely played for the Rossoneri and had threatened to leave the club in January.

The World Cup winner arrived at the San Siro last summer after he had his contract rescinded with Barcelona.

The club will hold a Press conference on Friday afternoon regarding the whole situation.

The player is now a free agent and can move to any club immediately with Real Madrid reportedly interested.

Rivaldo has Real desire
24.9 || scharatz

Unsettled Milan ace Rivaldo has said he would welcome a January move to European giants Real Madrid.

"It’s only logical that every player dreams of a transfer to Real," he told Spanish newspaper ‘AS’. "It would be an honour."

Rivaldo made the statement after his close friend Ronaldo claimed that he would ask his club to buy his international teammate.

The Rossoneri attacking midfielder is unhappy in Italy and could be set for a switch if he fails to play more regularly for the Champions’ League winners.

"We’ll just have to wait for a few months to see if there is any contact between the two clubs over a possible move to Madrid," added the former Barcelona ace.

"But let us not forget that I still have two years left on my current contract with Milan and I have total respect for my club."

Rivaldo was signed on a free transfer last summer but he hasn’t convinced boss Carlo Ancelotti of his abilities.

"These are tough times for me. It is difficult to train everyday but never get the chance to play," he continued.

"Football is my life and I believe that I can still give a lot to this sport. I have the ambition of a youngster that is eager to impress."

Rivaldo has also been linked with a move to Spanish club Espanyol.

Inzaghi hospitalised with neck worry
21.9 || scharatz

Pippo Inzaghi is undergoing tests in hospital for a suspected whiplash following a clash with Zeljko Kalac.

The striker was stretchered off during the second half of Milan’s 1-1 draw at Perugia this afternoon.

He got the worst of an accidental collision with the giant Australian goalkeeper and was taken to hospital wearing a neck brace.

Initial reports suggest his condition is by no means serious, although whiplash can be a tricky injury to recover from.

He has undergone x-rays on his back and neck, although the results are still not known.

Inzaghi is the latest addition to the Rossoneri injury list that currently contains Alessandro Nesta, Kakha Kaladze, Giuseppe Pancaro and Clarence Seedorf.

Perugia 1:1 AC Milan - match report
21.9 || scharatz

Gattuso 19 (M), Vryzas 31 (P)
Stadio Renato Curi

The Rossoneri are once again held at the Stadio Renato Curi, but perhaps more importantly lose Pippo Inzaghi to whiplash.

Milan have a terrible record in this Stadium and had not won here since 2000, so when Alessandro Nesta, Clarence Seedorf, Giuseppe Pancaro and Kakha Kaladze pulled out with injuries it set off alarm bells. Paolo Maldini played on despite dislocating his little finger midweek, while Brazilian youngster Kaka' was fielded alongside Manuel Rui Costa.

On thirteen minutes Andriy Shevchenko sprinted past Diamoutene on a Rui Costa through ball, but failed to keep his shot down.

Gennaro Gattuso is not known as a goalscorer but he broke the deadlock with a splendid solo effort. The rugged midfielder charged into the box, nutmegged Marco Di Loreto and drilled in by the near post.

Perugia eventually got back into the game with Zisis Vryzas, a man who often nets against the Rossoneri. The Greek international performed a diving header on a precise Ze Maria cross.

The Grifoni grew in confidence after this equaliser and there were penalty appeals for a sliding Maldini challenge on Jay Bothroyd, but the referee waved play on.

Shevchenko looked set to restore Milan's lead just before the break with a looping header, but Zeljko Kalac was at full stretch to fingertip the ball over the bar.

The Ukrainian's bad luck continued, as at the dawn of the second half his fierce drive cannoned off the frame of the goal.

Inzaghi ran into the box and clashed with Kalac on the hour mark. The striker got the worst of it and was stretchered off. Initial reports suggest he suffered whiplash and was taken to hospital wearing a neck brace for further tests.

Milan's day got even worse when Massimo Ambrosini saw red for a late challenge on Fabio Gatti, leaving the reigning European Champions in ten men.

They held on in the final minutes to take home a point in this hard-fought encounter despite late chances for Bothroyd and Ze Maria.

Perugia: Kalac; Alioui, Di Loreto, Diamoutene; Ze Maria, Tedesco, Obodo (Loumpoutis 77), Fusani, Grosso; Vryzas, Bothroyd (Margiotta 87)

Milan: Dida; Simic, Laursen, Maldini, Costacurta; Rui Costa, Gattuso (Pirlo 53), Ambrosini, Kakà; Shevchenko (Cafu 72), Inzaghi (Tomasson 67)

Ref: Paparesta

Sent off: Ambrosini 70 (M)

Carlo worried by Curi trip
21.9 || scharatz

Milan Coach Carlo Ancelotti realises that today’s match at Perugia’s Stadio Curi will be the toughest test of his team so far.

“The Grifoni are a very organised and muscular side,” he noted, “and this encounter will have to bring out our commitment rather than simply quality.”

Under Ancelotti’s guidance the Rossoneri have won the Champions’ League and Coppa Italia, but their technically gifted players could find it tough going.

“It is a very difficult Stadium to play in and the fans provide an imposing atmosphere. We’ll need to keep possession and move with the ball rather than have a static dominance in midfield.”

Milan are well aware of the dangers in Perugia, as they have not won here since 2000.

Ancelotti is already forced into one change due to Alessandro Nesta’s injury, but there is also a choice for the Trequartista role.

“Nesta picked up a knock to his ankle during the win over Ajax,” explained the Coach, “and then he suffered a small thigh problem. It’s nothing serious, but he needs a day or two to rest.”

Young gun Kaka’ was given the nod to start the Champions’ League game and faces competition from the off-form Manuel Rui Costa and Rivaldo.

“It is not true that Rivaldo has given up trying to fit in here,” insisted Ancelotti. “He is working well in training and is very motivated. He should continue with that attitude.”

Perugia vs AC Milan - match preview
20.9 || scharatz

Within half an hour the qualitative differences between the two sides doing battle at the Renato Curi Stadium on Sunday afternoon should be made crystal clear.

As Shevchenko and Inzaghi work out who will score first, the rest of the Milan team will be making sure they return to the San Siro Stadium with all the points from this encounter.

And in doing so, they will show-up their hosts as inferior opposition.

Confident of European and domestic glory this season, Ancelotti's players - Rivaldo, in particular - will be using this road trip to central Italy to impress their boss and secure a spot in his side.

And they will also use this little outing to boost their goal difference and help stave off the inevitable challenges that will come from Inter, Juventus and Roma later in the season.

Their performance should be attractive to watch after their meat and potatoes victory over Ajax mid-week in the Champions League.

Latest Team News

Perugia: the team may have qualified for the UEFA Cup at the end of last month, but after this game fans will be brought back to earth with a resounding thump.

They will be shown that Milan is not Wolfsburg.
In the past week, the home side's custodian, Kalac, has recovered from a foot injury and will start in goal.

This is good news for Serse Cosmi.

Without the imposing Australian launching himself at balls and charging off his line to intimidate on-coming strikers, his side would be courting disaster.

Grosso will also make a welcome return after passing a battery of fitness tests on Thursday afternoon.

But Gaddafi will be out for a further ten days with back problems.


It would be petty and and egotistical of Rivaldo to walk out on Milan because he is struggling to get a jersey on a weekly basis.

And although he would be missed, the club's vice president, Adriano Galliani, seems to think they would manage well enough without him.

When asked earlier this week about the Brazilian, who has been making noises in Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro newspapers about a move to England if he does not figure more often in Ancelotti's starting eleven, Galliani said: "If he wants to stay, he can; but if he wants to leave, we will not stop him."

Silvio Berlusconi's right-hand man likes tension in his side.

He told reporters that if 18 years with the rossoneri has taught him anything, it is that a happy side is a complacent side that never wins anything.

Amidst these headline-grabbing activities, the extension of Brocchi's contract has almost gone unnoticed.

The talented midfielder has signed on for another four years.

The injured Kaladze turned up for training on Thursday and did some one-on-one ball work with a member of the coaching squad.

And Pancaro worked out the same day in the club's gym.
Both players are expected to return to the side in the next couple of weeks.

Probable Team Line-Ups

Perugia (3-5-2): Kalac, Alioui, Di Loreto, Diamoutene, Ze Maria, Tedesco, Obodo, Fusani, Grosso, Bothroyd, Vryzas

Milan(4-2-3-1): Dida, Cafu, Nesta, Maldini, Costacurta, Gattuso, Pirlo, Rui Costa, Rivaldo, Shevchenko, Inzaghi

Players to Watch


New striker Jay Bothroyd scored a hat trick in a practice game against a side from the local academy on Thursday afternoon.

Flush with the confidence of such a feat, he will be looking to try his luck against the talented visitors.

And if Dida is not fully supported by his defenders, the ex-Coventry forward might just knock one in.

Milan: With Milan's Shevchenko and Inzaghi both scoring freely, it could be easy to forget Dida at the other end of the ground.

The Brazilian goalkeeper is making a name for himself as the heir apparent to Buffon
as the best custodian in Serie A.

And his courageous and intelligent performance against Ajax earlier this week had to
be seen to be believed.

If he had not saved Van der Vaart's last-ditch effort, Milan might have been held
to an embarrassing home draw.

Watch him turn in another brave and thoughtful display.

Milan derby date revealed
20.9 || scharatz

The dates for the Milan derby and the hotly awaited clash between the Rossoneri and Lazio have been confirmed.

Week 5 will have no Saturday fixtures at all due to security fears, as that is the day in which a special meeting of Defence Ministers will be held.

Therefore Perugia-Reggina is a late kick-off, but the big evening game that Sunday will be the Milan derby.

The San Siro will also host the top drawer tie from Week 6, as Milan welcome Lazio for a replay of last season’s stunning 2-2 draw.

The Nerazzurri are in action on Saturday, travelling to Brescia for the 6pm local time kick-off, while Juventus are in Ancona that same evening.

Week 5

Sun Oct 5

Perugia-Reggina (18.00)

Inter-Milan (20.30)

Week 6

Sat Oct 18

Brescia-Inter (18.00)

Ancona-Juventus (20.30)

Sun Oct 19

Milan-Lazio (20.30)

Ancelotti: Serie A tougher than Europe
20.9 || scharatz

Milan may have won the Champions’ League last season, but their Coach Carlo Ancelotti maintains the Scudetto is a tougher task.

“When foreign sides play against the Italians,” explained the tactician, “they have trouble finding space. On the contrary, Serie A outfits abroad find more room than they are accustomed to and can express themselves freely.”

The latest example of winning ways was exhibited by Inter’s 3-0 victory at Highbury, becoming the first ever Italian to beat Arsenal in their ground.

“The Nerazzurri really impressed me,” said the Milan boss. “On a tactical level they were simply perfect.”

Like many pundits, Ancelotti believes that the turning point for the Peninsula sides was the humiliating 2002 World Cup exit.

“That tournament saw the attacking teams triumph, while the more prudent outfits were punished. Since then we have clearly understood that an attitude change was needed.”

For two years running up to the World Cup, Italian teams had struggled in Europe and failed to reach the quarter-finals of the Champions’ League.

The sea-change was immediate, giving Milan the trophy and three out of the final four plied their trade in Serie A.

“We discovered the joy of playing open and attacking football,” confirmed Ancelotti. “But at the same time we remembered the Italian talent for an organised defence.”

Chelsea Manager Claudio Ranieri agrees with this analysis and praised Inter’s victory in London.

“Their tactical discipline, incredible work-rate of Emre and Cristiano Zanetti, not to mention the unbreakable defence,” explained Ranieri.

“Julio Cruz and Obafemi Martins were also crucial, but everyone that night was just fantastic.”

“A few years ago Italian football made the mistake of choking up the midfield with too many ball-winners,” noted the former Fiorentina boss.

“When we saw that leaving out creativity simply did not pay, the attitude changed and the results came with that development.”

Rivaldo can go say Milan
19.9 || scharatz

Milan have stated that they are ready to release Rivaldo if the player requests to leave the Italian giants.

The Brazilian international is unhappy at not being guaranteed a first team place and could quit the club in January.

"At this moment in time there isn’t a problem with Rivaldo," said Vice-president Adriano Galliani.

"If he is happy to stay then we will keep him. If he asks to go somewhere else then we will allow him to go."

The attacking midfielder has never really settled in Italy since his move from Barcelona last season.

"It is worth remembering that when you have such a quality squad there will always be thorns in the changing rooms," continued Galliani.

"But I prefer to have a competitive side. You don’t win anything with just 11 first team regulars, seven reserves and a bunch of youngsters.

"Eighteen years of experience has taught me that victories always occur when there is tension in the air. Tranquillity never delivers trophies."

Meanwhile, one player happy to stay at the San Siro despite the competition for places is Cristian Brocchi.

The former Verona and Inter midfielder has extended his contract until the summer of 2007.

Dida in Buffon chase
19.9 || scharatz

Milan’s Nelson Dida says he is working towards becoming the best goalkeeper in the world.

"Everyone seems to have finally recognised my qualities," said the South American. "Gigi Buffon is currently the best but I’m aiming to become the No 1."

The Brazilian made the statement following his wonderful performance against Ajax in midweek when he made a miraculous injury time save to ensure a 1-0 win.

"I just threw myself with all my power to stop that," explained the international. "It was a great feeling.

"Especially as it was at a very delicate part of the game. If they’d scored then it would have been impossible for us to hit back."

Dida is now recognised as the club’s first choice goalkeeper after he displaced Christian Abbiati at the start of last season.

"I dedicate my performance to the fans who have always offered me their support and to those who have believed in me," he concluded.

Super Dida wins praise
18.9 || scharatz

Milan goalkeeper Dida has won the plaudits after his superb injury time save ensured victory over Ajax on Tuesday.

The Brazilian produced a truly world class stop against the Dutch side which saw Milan get their Champions’ League campaign off with a win.

"Dida made a wonderful save which looked good and proved to be decisive," said Dino Zoff, Italy’s 1982 World Cup winning goalkeeper.

"It was definitely more spectacular and difficult than the goal that Pippo Inzaghi scored earlier in the game."

Dida is now recognised as the club’s first choice goalkeeper after he displaced Christian Abbiati at the start of last season.

And Milan goalkeeping Coach Villiam Vecchi is not surprised by the kind of performances he is putting in.

"Certain saves are only made if you have determination and immense physical ability," he explained.

"Dida has had a wonderful last 18 months and is earning a reputation for making some impossible saves.

"You should also see what he produces in training. Milan only sign good players but Dida has really improved since his arrival."

Prior to his heroics last term, the South American was widely remembered for an error he made in a Champions’ League game against Leeds.

Rossoneri thank Goal Twins
16.9 || scharatz

Carlo Ancelotti and goalscorer Pippo Inzaghi claim the attacking partnership that beat Ajax is at last gelling.

“It was a tough game,” admitted the Coach after their 1-0 win, “but we played well and limited the Ajax offence, even though they changed their tactics unexpectedly.”

“We upped the tempo tonight, and that is an important weapon at our disposal which we don’t always use.”

Brazilian youngster Kaka’ was a surprise starter and enchanted the San Siro crowd with his performance.

“Ajax are quite slow at the back and in central midfield,” explained Ancelotti, “so I opted for a player who would give us more depth and cutting passes.”

The 21-year-old Selecao star could push Manuel Rui Costa and Rivaldo out of the line-up if he continues to perform on these levels.

“Kaka’ is a Milan player and he will be used when the Coach thinks it is the opportune moment.”

“He did very well tonight, but this is going to be a long hard season and we will need help from everyone.”

The winning goal was created through a combination of Inzaghi and Andriy Shevchenko.

“Certainly compared to last year their partnership is improving,” added Ancelotti, “above all because they are both 100 per cent fit right now.”

The reigning Champions are already clear at the top of Group H following the 1-1 draw between Celta Vigo and Club Brugge.

The Rossoneri’s next match is a trip to Spain for surprise La Liga qualifiers Celta Vigo.

“Every game is difficult and Celta Vigo are very tough on home turf. It is still a very open Group.”

Inzaghi has now netted six goals in his last four official games between club level and international.

“I am truly happy,” said the Azzurri hero, “for the goal and also the performance from the whole team.”

Super Pippo had also netted twice in last year’s quarter-final against the Dutch masters.

“It seems Ajax bring me luck. This is a golden moment for me and I hope it continues for as long as possible.”

The winning goal arrived when he pounced on Shevchenko’s parried effort.

“The move had begun with us combining passes,” added the striker. “I am happy that the credit can be shared with my goal twin.”

The Ukrainian agreed that their partnership had come along leaps and bounds compared to a year ago.

“It was a lovely move and Pippo managed to get clear of his marker very well,” said Shevchenko.

“We have been doing well together for the last few games now and can really hit our stride soon.”

“Compared to last season we tried to give the team a lot more movement off the ball and if we were able to get more shots on goal it is thanks to the assistance from the midfield.”

The crowd in Milan was shaken by the late Ajax pressure and a wonder save from goalkeeper Dida.

“When we play at the San Siro everyone expects a great performance and we know this is a lot of pressure on us,” concluded the former Dynamo Kiev man. “If we want to get back to the Final again then we must give 100 per cent every time.”

AC Milan 1:0 Ajax - match report
16.9 || scharatz

Inzaghi 67 (M)
San Siro

Pippo Inzaghi's goal and a heroic performance from goalkeeper Dida have given ten-man Milan a hard-fought win over Ajax.

Milan open the defence of their title by replaying the Quarter-Final tie that almost saw them knocked out last season. It took a stoppage-time strike from Pippo Inzaghi, with a final touch from Jon Dahl Tomasson, to eventually see off Ajax 3-2 in this Stadium.

Carlo Ancelotti made a crucial tactical change for this game, introducing Brazilian starlet Kaka' for the off-form Manuel Rui Costa. Paolo Maldini and Billy Costacurta were forced to improvise following injuries to Kakha Kaladze and Giuseppe Pancaro.

Ajax have lost many of their stars over the summer, including Cristian Chivu, Andy van der Meyde and Mido.

The first chance fell to the visitors after 2 minutes, when Dida and Maldini had a misunderstanding, but the Dutch were unable to take advantage.

Ajax had a very aggressive start, but Milan had a great chance on 15 minutes when Andriy Shevchenko failed to keep his shot down on a splendid Andrea Pirlo pass.

Kaka' set up another interesting effort moments later, but Clarence Seedorf's cut-back was inbetween Shevchenko and Inzaghi. The Dutchman was playing against his former club but overall failed to impress.

After a period of early pressure, Ajax were gradually pushed back as Kaka' blasted over the bar following an Inzaghi assist and Pirlo curled over from an impossible angle.

Ajax remained dangerous from set-pieces and Rafael van der Vaart's curling free kick was fingertipped on to the crossbar by Dida.

Trabelsi was a constant danger to Costacurta and dribbled past the defender, only to see Dida close down the angle by the near post.

Perhaps the best chance of the first half was on 30 minutes, Shevchenko cutting back for Inzaghi's deflected volley.

There were more defensive worries for the Rossoneri, as Martin Laursen was forced to replace Costacurta after he picked up a knock. This pushed Maldini out to his old left-back role.

Dida was again called into a splendid flying one-handed save on a Zlatan Ibrahimovic header.

Seconds later Inzaghi controlled a long ball and was crowded out by some desperate Lobont and Julien Escude defending.

There was a great deal of controversy just before the break as Inzaghi saw penalty appeals rejected. The striker had turned past Pasanen when he appeared to flick up a leg to catch Inzaghi, but the referee waved play on.

Milan had a strong start to the second half as Shevchenko and Gennaro Gattuso swept over from good positions and the team poured forward.

Kaka' in particular was enchanting the crowd with a series of strong runs and telling passes, but Ancelotti's men simply couldn't find a way through the organised Ajax defence.

However, the Dutch were dangerous on the break and Dida bravely flung himself at the feet of Pienaar to block a canny back-heel on Ibrahimovic's low centre.

The extremely disappointing Seedorf was replaced by the more attack-minded Serginho on the hour mark.

The deadlock was finally broken by Super Pippo Inzaghi. He had his back to goal and passed to Shevchenko, then pounced on the loose ball as the Ukrainian's effort was parried.

Including internationals, Inzaghi has now scored six goals in his last four games.

Shevchenko is also on fine form and saw his dipping shot punched away by Lobont with some difficulty, while Inzaghi and Sheva failed to get past the goalkeeper in a one-on-one situation.

Taking note of the number of attack-minded players on the field, Ancelotti replaced the tired, but nonetheless irritated, Inzaghi with holding midfielder Massimo Ambrosini. Kaka' pushed up the field to partner Shevchenko.

Ajax poured forward in the final minutes and Alessandro Nesta performed a crucial intervention as Ibrahimovic was shaping up to nod in.

It was end to end stuff as the game drew to a close and Sheva saw another effort well saved before Kaka' somehow managed to hit the near post from the byline despite the goalkeeper standing in front of it.

The tension rose and Gennaro Gattuso saw red in stoppage time for striking out at Ibrahimovic. The midfielder maintained his shirt was being tugged, but he clearly swung out at the giant Swede.

Dida performed nothing short of a miracle in stoppage time with two consecutive point-blank reaction saves on Ibrahimovic and then van der Vaart.

The Brazilian goalkeeper even suffered a thigh injury during that incredible feat, but was forced to stay on for the final seconds and held out for the crucial victory.

Milan: Dida; Cafu, Nesta, Maldini, Costacurta (Laursen 33); Pirlo, Gattuso, Seedorf (Serginho 63); Kaka'; Inzaghi (Ambrosini 75), Shevchenko

Ajax: Lobont; Trabelsi, Pasanen, Escudè (Soaetaers 70), Maxwell; Pienaar (Sikora 80), Galasek, Yakubu, Van der Vaart; Ibrahimovic, Sonck (Snejder 54)

Ref: Michel (Slo)

Sent off: Gattuso 91 (M)

Milan vs. Ajax - match preview
16.9 || Seamus

Defending champions AC Milan welcome back Ajax to the San Siro in a rematch of last season's quarterfinals. That April night will haunt most of the Ajax squad to this day as they were literally seconds from eliminating a brave Milan side that eventually went on to be crowned champions of Europe.

Steven Pienaar, who has been in outstanding form this season, will find it particularly hard to remember that night with anything but remorse. The South African had evaded the great Maldini to scramble home what surely should have been the final nail in Milan's coffin in the 78th minute. Pienaar celebrated with a mocking jig before the furious Milan faithful and was shortly after replaced by his coach for tactical reasons. The youngster showed more naivety as he sauntered off the pitch with the clock ticking and nearly got into a brawl with Milan's Cristian Brocchi for not hurrying it along. Alas…the clock was to become Ajax's enemy as it was they who would need it more as Filippo Inzaghi completed a remarkable night by scoring a last gasp winner to send Milan through and a shell-shocked Ajax packing home.

"We are so disappointed because we were so close to going through. In many parts of the match I thought we were better than Milan. Football can be so tough sometimes." Those had been the words of a heart-broken Koeman back then. On Tuesday, his men will have a chance to redeem themselves and begin a new European adventure on the right foot.

AC Milan (LWWW): After losing the Italian Supercup to Juventus on penalties more than six weeks ago, Milan have finally found their touch mainly thanks to the exploits of Andriy Shevchenko. The Ukrainian bomber scored the winner in a tense but deserved UEFA Supercup win over Porto, then netted a brace as Milan got their title challenge off to a solid start versus newly-promoted Ancona, and was again on the score-sheet as they made it three wins on the trot by seeing of Bologna at home this weekend.

Ajax (DWWWWW): After barely scraping into the Champions League with a 3-2 aggregate overtime win over Austrian side Grazer, Ajax have finally got their act and form together. Ronald Koeman's men have taken maximum points from the opening four rounds of the Eredivisie to pull two points clear of closest rivals PSV Eindhoven. And as if to remind people they are no less potent in the absence of former skipper Christian Chivu (now at AS Roma), they blasted four goals past RKC over the weekend to warm-up for their CL opener in Milan.

Carlo Ancelotti has a few injury worries as his left-backs Kakha Kaladze and Giuseppe Pancaro are suffering from niggling injuries. However, they are boosted by the return of Paolo Maldini who missed the weekend match due to suspension. Brazilians Cafu and Kakà may return to the starting line-up, but this may mean that Rivaldo might one again have to be content with a place on the bench. The former Barca star is said to be extremely unhappy at the club and Tuesday's team selection might just be adjusted to accommodate him. Should Ancelotti feel merciful, it is possible that Milan opt for a Brazilian trio (Serginho-Rivaldo-Kakà) in support of lone striker Shevchenko.

A serious injury to Czech defender Zdenek Grygera will mean that 19-year old Nigel de Jong (who played a vital role in Ajax's CL campaign last year) will get the start against Milan. Ronald Koeman may also go for a trident in attack with Zlatan Ibrahimovich, Wesley Sonck and Tom Soetaers all getting the start. If the former great decides to be a little more cautious, Soetaers could make way for Van Damme moving Brazilian Maxwell into midfield.

AC Milan (4-3-1-2): Dida; Cafu, Nesta, Maldini, Costacurta; Gattuso, Ambrosini; Kakà, Rivaldo, Serginho; Shevchenko

Ajax (4-3-3): Lobont; Maxwell, Pasanen, Escudé, de Jong; Galásek, Pienaar, Van der Vaart; Soetaers, Ibrahimovich, Sonck

Galliani hopes Rivaldo will stay
15.9 || Seamus

Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani says he hopes that Rivaldo will decide to stay at the club despite his lack of first-team action so far this season.

"We have made some new signings and we know some players are suffering," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"But the season is a long one and there will be opportunities for everyone to play a role.

"I hope that Rivaldo decides to stay. I hope he wants to stay here, because we're only interested in keeping players who want to play for this club."

Rivaldo walks out of Bologna game
15.9 || Seamus

Milan star Rivaldo cast fresh doubt over his future after walking out of the club's match with Bologna last night.

The Brazilian was not called up to the squad following his displays for the Selecao last week, and refused to sit the stands.

There are reports suggesting that he has flown back to his homeland.

Ajax win Ancelotti respect
15.9 || Seamus

Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti insists that Champions’ League opponents Ajax are still a team to fear despite their summer sales.

The Dutch outfit sold Andy Van der Meyde to Inter and Cristian Chivu to Roma recently but the tactician is not taking anything for granted.

"They have lost some important players like Van der Meyde and Chivu but they will still play the same kind of football," he said ahead of Tuesday’s San Siro clash.

"They will continue to try to dominate possession which won’t make things easy for my team. A good start to the game will be vital for us."

Ancelotti knows Ajax well after they almost knocked Milan out of the competition last season before a last minute Pippo Inzaghi goal.

"I will never forget that game," added the former Juventus boss. "We were seconds from being eliminated in the quarter-finals.

"I hope to see the side play with the same kind of spirit that saw us come through that tie again."

The only notable team news is that Inzaghi, after five goals in three games, may be rested for the tie.

He may be replaced by Brazilian international Rivaldo, who Ancelotti insists can be an important player for the club in the year ahead.

"This will be a long season and I will need everybody’s help," he concluded.

Milan, Champions’ League holders, are top seeds in Group H which also includes Celta Vigo and Brugge.

The best and the rest from Seria A week 2
15.9 || Seamus

Italian based reporter Dominque Antognoni highlights which individuals are on a high and a low after the Week 2 games.


The best…

Pippo Inzaghi (Milan)
Inzaghi’s goal scoring record is something to be admired but his winner against Bologna - like his final two goals against Wales - were the mark of a great striker. Against the Rossoblu at the San Siro, he freed himself from three defenders with the ease and coolness that few will be able to replicate. Why does he continue to be so undervalued?


Mario Santana (Chievo)
He was simply fantastic against Juventus. It’s not everyday that you see someone totally fool Lilian Thuram but that’s what he did in the first half. A few years ago, his agent Filippo Cavadini, tried to get Inter to sign him. Maybe they will only be interested when he has a £15m asking price.


Cristian Chivu (Roma)
Admittedly, Francesco Totti’s chip in the 5-0 win over Brescia was beautiful but Chivu took just 15 minutes to introduce himself to the Giallorossi faithful. Although he was primarily signed to strengthen the defence, his free-kick at the Olimpico was extraordinary. Potentially the signing of the summer.


The rest…

Manuel Rui Costa (Milan)
He started well in Milan’s 2-1 win over Bologna but then he seemed to struggle. It seems that nobody nowadays likens him to Johan Cruyff anymore. He joined the Rossoneri to improve as a player but the fact is that hasn’t happened. Where’s the real Rui gone?


Beppe Signori (Bologna)
Just because you have great respect for a player doesn’t mean that he has to play all of the time. Signori looked like a fish out of water at the San Siro. Bologna’s counter attacking ploy really needed someone with pace up front. Signori wasn’t that man.


Mohamed Kallon (Inter)
Talk in Milan claimed that Kallon was in fine form but he played poorly at Siena. Inter’s desperate performance overall can’t really be used as an alibi either by the striker. But then again, didn’t this club sell both Ronaldo and Hernan Crespo in consecutive summers?

Atletico prodigy tells Milan to be patient
14.9 || Seamus

In the face of rerports suggest that AC Milan are intent of having him in their side next season, Spanish wonderkid Fernando Torres has declared that he has no plans to leave Atletico Madrid in the near future.

"Italy is a beautiful country but I would like to move there when I'm a few years older," revealed the massively talented 19-year-old striker, who was reportedly watched by Rossoneri director general Ariedo Braida during Spain's win against the Ukraine on Wednesday.

Inzaghi: I surprised myself
14.9 || Seamus

Match-winner Filippo Inzaghi cannot explain how he netted in tonight’s 2-1 win over Bologna, but Rivaldo has caused another storm at the San Siro.

“I am very happy to have scored my first Serie A goal of the season,” said the Milan striker, “even if to be honest I’m still not sure how I did it.”

Three Bologna defenders surrounded the Azzurri hero when he turned and squeezed an angled drive past Gianluca Pagliuca.

“We were a little tired,” continued Inzaghi, “as so many internationals here have been playing every few days. Overall we deserved the result as we had so many chances.”

The Rossoneri are currently joint top of the table along with Lazio, who also played this evening, but Carlo Ancelotti is again called to comment on a struggle with a smaller side.

“It was a deserved victory,” insisted the Coach. “We were in control without suffering under Bologna’s counter-attacks.”

The tactician proved decisive by introducing wide men Marcos Cafu and Serginho for the final push.

“When a game is stuck in deadlock you have to try different options. Last year perhaps we were more entertaining, but now Milan have greater consistency upfront.”

The performance was not witnessed by Rivaldo, as the former World Player of the Year walked out of the San Siro.

Tired from the midweek World Cup qualifiers in Brazil, he was not even called up for this game and refused to even sit in the stands.

Following his press interview threatening to leave Milan if he did not get a first team place, it now looks increasingly likely Rivaldo’s Serie A stint is at an end.

There are even unconfirmed reports the former Barcelona star has flown straight back to Brazil.

As for Bologna, they were left downhearted after conceding Inzaghi’s winner with five minutes on the clock.

“We had a terrible start,” explained Coach Carlo Mazzone, “and Milan took charge because we weren’t putting them under pressure.”

“After the first goal we shook off that fear and I really thought we’d take the point home, but once again we lose out to a late goal.”

Parma also netted in the final minutes of their Week 1 encounter to claw back a 2-2 draw at the Stadio Dall’Ara.

Milan 2-1 Bologna - match report
14.9 || Seamus

Serie A Week 2 - 13/9/03 (20.30)

Milan 2 - 1 Bologna
Shevchenko 10 (M), Nervo 32 (B), Inzaghi 85 (M)
San Siro

Super Pippo Inzaghi came to the rescue with a late winner after Bologna frustrated Milan at the San Siro.

Milan were forced to reshuffle their defence in this home debut. The suspended Paolo Maldini is joined in the stands by injured duo Kakha Kaladze and Giuseppe Pancaro. Brazilians Kaka' and Rivaldo are also rested following international duty.

Bologna have had a little more time to learn Carlo Mazzone's tactics and adopt a 3-5-2 system with Tomas Locatelli in a deeper role. Fausto Rossini is a former Milan man and last year netted with Atalanta in this Stadium.

It took just ten minutes for the Rossoneri to break through with their on form striker Andriy Shevchenko. The Ukrainian had scored both goals in Ancona for their Week 1 victory and rose to nod in an Andrea Pirlo free kick.

Pippo Inzaghi saw penalty appeals rejected when he leaned into a defender and fell in the box.

Milan seemed to be in control, but Clarence Seedorf failed to adequately clear a Beppe Signori free kick and it fell to Carlo Nervo for a stunning equaliser. The winger blasted a great strike in by the far post and Dida's hand was simply not enough to slow its momentum.

Inzaghi scored a hat-trick in this Stadium for last week's 4-0 win over Wales, but he is yet to score in Serie A this season and saw a good chance deflected wide.

Shevchenko almost grabbed a second from a delicate Pirlo cross, but his weak header was straight at the goalkeeper, while Manuel Rui Costa blazed wide from the edge of the box.

Mazzone's Bologna showed no fear and almost shocked Dida in the opening minutes of the second half, the goalkeeper scrambling a long range Sam Dalla Bona effort clear.

Shevchenko wasted another good header on the hour mark, this time providing the power but not the accuracy.

Milan were lacking width and - also with the Champions' League debut against Ajax in mind - replaced Rui Costa and Dario Simic with wide men Serginho and Marcos Cafu. Bologna also introduced Fabio Pecchia and Christian Amoroso.

Inzaghi increased his influence on the game and shook the side netting from close range.

The final half-hour was open to any result as Bologna were dangerous on the counter-attack, while Serginho's cross clipped the top of the crossbar.

Milan needed the victory and threw on third striker Jon Dahl Tomasson for the last ten minutes.

Soon after another looping Shevchenko header was fingertipped over the bar by Gianluca Pagliuca.

The Rossoneri were constantly frustrated by the Bologna defence, but Inzaghi made his mark at the right time. It was a typical Super Pippo strike, battling in between two different defenders with his back to goal to turn and sweep in.

Inzaghi almost grabbed a second moments later when Shevchenko's effort was parried towards him, but the defence scrambled the loose ball clear.


Milan: Dida; Simic (Cafu 63), Laursen, Nesta, Costacurta; Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf (Tomasson 79), Rui Costa (Serginho 58); Shevchenko, Inzaghi

Bologna: Pagliuca; Zaccardo, Natali, Moretti; Nervo (Bellucci 86), Dalla Bona, L Colucci (Amoroso 63), Locatelli (Pecchia 63), Guly; Signori, Rossini

Ref: Rosetti

Super Pippo thanks Milan
12.9 || scharatz

Pippo Inzaghi has explained how Milan have played a major part in his recent scoring exploits for Italy.

"My club undoubtedly deserve credit for my two performances for the national side in the last week," said the striker.

"In the last two seasons here, they’ve helped me to complete my maturity as a player. I feel like a stronger player today."

Inzaghi, who hadn’t scored for over 18 months with the Azzurri, was hailed as the hero after he netted four goals in two games against Wales and Serbia.

But the former Juventus player is now focusing on the season ahead with the current European champions.

"I would say that we are a better side this season because we can rely on the experiences of last year," he explained.

"We have set ourselves certain targets and we are confident that we can achieve them. Even if the other sides have also improved."

Inzaghi could be back in action on Saturday as Milan play host to Bologna in Week 2 of the campaign.

One match ban for Maldini
9.9 || scharatz

Paolo Maldini has escaped with just a one match ban after his Week 1 dismissal against Ancona.

The Italian legend was uncharacteristically sent-off following a scuffle with Fabio Bilica in Milan’s 2-0 win.

There were fears that the stopper could be suspended for two games after he raised his hands in an off the ball incident.

However, both men have only been ruled out of the Week 2 schedule which means Maldini will miss the game against Bologna.

The only other suspended players in Serie A this weekend will be Udinese defender Valerio Bertotto and Olivier Dacourt of Roma.

Gattuso crowns Maldini
8.9 || scharatz

Milan’s Gennaro Gattuso believes Paolo Maldini should be named as the 2003 European Player of the Year.

"Paolo deserves the Golden Ball," said the midfielder. "They should have given it to Franco Baresi a few years ago. This is an opportunity to make up for that error."

The Rossoneri captain had a glittering campaign last season when, despite his 34-years-of-age, he led his club to Champions’ League glory.

"If you take into account what he has achieved in his career coupled with last season’s honours then he undoubtedly deserves the award," added the Italian.

Meanwhile, the former Rangers crowd favourite dismissed reports that his club have lost their appetite for success.

"We are still hungry and we want to continue winning," he added. "It is about time that we brought home the Scudetto."

Gattuso also passed judgement on Milan’s major summer signing, Brazilian sensation Kaka.

"It is too early to describe him as a phenomenon," he added. "Even if he has great potential."

Rossoneri accept rotation
7.9 || scharatz

Clarence Seedorf and Rivaldo claim the rotation system is crucial to replicating Milan’s success in Serie A and Europe.

“Obviously nobody likes being on the bench,” noted Seedorf, “but it is inevitable when you are part of a large squad that has many games to play.”

The Dutchman featured heavily in the Rossoneri’s success last season and aims to make his mark, both on and off the field.

“In order to win, Milan need the support of every player in the team. The difference is made not just by who plays, but by those who aren’t always in the spotlight and yet are ready when called.”

Few can argue that captain Paolo Maldini was instrumental in Milan doing The Double last year.

“In my view Maldini absolutely deserves the European Player of the Year Award,” noted the former Ajax hero.

“He lifted the Champions’ League and Coppa Italia this season, but he has been waiting for this moment for years.”

Rivaldo is a former winner of that trophy, but failed to make an impact in his first Serie A season.

“I would prefer to be on the field obviously,” said the Brazilian, “but I am not depressed about being on the bench.”

“Milan are a great squad with many wonderful players. I am patient and my time will come. I have no intention of leaving the San Siro.”

Tomasson assured of future
4.9 || Seamus

Milan's fringe strike Jon Dahl Tomasson has revealed that he's been assured of his future by vice-president Adriano Galliani.

"The vice-president Adrian Galliani reassured me on the fact that I will have my chance of playing regularly this season," he said.

"When the Champions League begins I will play more. I'll be surprised if I'm left on the bench during that period."

Ancelotti does not consider me important - Rivaldo
4.9 || Seamus

Rivaldo's relationship with AC Milan appears to be nearing an unhappy ending.

"The backing of your coach is very important. It serves as stimulus to any player. Especially if you know that your coach considers you a decisive one. Unfortunately this does not happen at Milan," the former Barcelona star told Brazlian paper 'O Estado'.

This affirmation arrived after AC Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti left Rivaldo out of the starting eleven that defeated Ancona on Monday.

Ancelotti didn't do the same with Kakà, who started the match despite joining Milan a little over two weeks ago.

Expect Rivaldo to leave the Rossoneri come January if things don't change drastically.

Kaka relishing Sheva partnership
4.9 || Seamus

Milan new-boy Kaka says he is relishing playing alongside Andriy Shevchenko.

"Victories are important, but I also like scoring goals: I will score a lot here. Sheva and I, what a combination!" he said.

He continued: "Now that I have known your league, I can't wait to play also in Europe. And perhaps also in the Intercontinental Cup because that competition is closely followed in Brazil."

He added that veteran defender Billy Costacurta has helped him a great deal to settle into his new way of life.

"Billy Costacurta has been close to me over these days and explained a lot to me about Italian football," he said. "But the other Brazilians have also helped me. And Sheva as well who told me that he likes to play a quick football."

Inzaghi stars in Italy test
3.9 || Seamus

Pippo Inzaghi netted a hat-trick in the 6-1 friendly test against the Under-19 squad this afternoon, but Christian Vieri is still sidelined.

Milan hero Inzaghi, who was dropped from recent international outings, scored three goals during the first half of today’s training game.

Lazio striker Bernardo Corradi, who is the understudy to Vieri in Giovanni Trapattoni’s system, also hit the back of the net.

Alessandro Del Piero and a penalty from Lazio winger Massimo Oddo sealed the 6-1 scoreline against the European Championship-winning Under-19 side.

Vieri took part in a light training session this morning, but is still struggling to recover after picking up a knock during Inter’s 2-0 win over Modena.

Trap fielded the line-up we could see against Wales and Serbia & Montenegro for the upcoming Euro 2004 qualifiers.

The absence of the injured Francesco Totti could force the successful 4-2-3-1 system to undergo changes, returning to a more traditional creative midfielder behind the front two.

In this case, it seems that Juventus captain Del Piero will be the Totti replacement in the hole behind Inzaghi and Corradi.

There are injury worries, as Chievo’s Simone Perrotta is almost certainly out of action with a thigh problem, so Alessio Tacchinardi steps into central midfield.

There was some good news for Trapattoni, as Serbia have lost three stars familiar to Serie A followers.

Lazio’s Dejan Stankovic and Sinisa Mihajlovic are out of next Wednesday’s qualifier in Belgrade, while former Juventus striker Darko Kovacevic is sidelined with a calf strain.

Italy 6-1 Italy U19

Scorers: Inzaghi 20, 32, 37, Corradi 28, Del Piero 30, Padoin 36 (U19), Oddo pen 74

Italy: Buffon; Panucci, Nesta, Cannavaro, Zambrotta; Camoranesi, Zanetti, Tacchinardi; Del Piero; Corradi, Inzaghi

Can Kaka' oust Rivaldo?
3.9 || Seamus

Kaka’s impressive debut in a Milan shirt has prompted rumours that fellow Brazilian Rivaldo will be sold in January.

The 21-year-old starlet made his first official appearance in the 2-0 win at Ancona on Monday evening, playing a crucial part in the second goal.

At first it was believed the £5.3m signing would be loaned out to Paris Saint-Germain or Parma to gain some European experience before hitting the imposing stage of the San Siro.

But the club was amazed by the confidence and self-assurance shown by the former Sao Paolo starlet in his Serie A debut.

Rivaldo is continuing to struggle with muscular problems and has barely featured throughout the summer.

The ex-Barcelona man was expected to start the Ancona game, but failed to even make it on to the field.

It’s now believed the Rossoneri have lost patience with their ageing World Cup winner and wish to sell him as soon as the January transfer window opens.

A move back to South America is currently the most likely option with Palmeiras showing interest.

Roque Junior finalise prem move
2.9 || Seamus

Leeds United have finalised the loan signings of Roque Junior from AC Milan.

Leeds have completed the signing of Brazilian defender Roque Junior for the rest of the season after he received his work permit earlier today.

Leeds boss Peter Reid said: "He is a World Cup winner and a European Champions League winner and he is a big boost for the squad. He can play left back or left centre half, but is another quality player at the club."

Kaka happy after impressive debut
2.9 || Seamus

Milan midfielder Kaka was in good spirits after making an impressive debut in the club's 2-0 win over Ancona last night.

"I'm happy with my performance, it was a good debut," he told Milan Channel. "The most important thing was the victory of the team, to score a goal would have been fantastic but I have a lot of time. I try to adapt to the team's play and this evening I did not find it difficult thanks to my team-mates."

Winning start delights Carlo
2.9 || scharatz

Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti is confident about the season ahead after their 2-0 win at Ancona on Monday.

"I have to admit that we were rather bland at times but we were very dangerous on the counter attack," he stated.

"I’m happy with the way we conducted ourselves if you take into account that we played Porto on Friday.

"Obviously we still need to find our best form after a difficult pre-season but we are now ready for the new campaign."

Andriy Shevchenko was again the goal hero after his exploits against Porto. The Ukrainian netted twice last night in a game that also saw Brazilian ace Kaka make a fine debut.

"He struggled to get into the game during the first half," continued the Coach. "But Kaka made the difference after the break.

"He is a very intelligent player and served up some delightful passes for Shevchenko. As for Sheva, he’s in great shape already."

While it was all smiles for Ancelotti, his opposite number Leonardo Menichini was disappointed with the result.

"It was a shame that we conceded from a dead ball situation (Shevchenko’s free-kick)," said the boss.

"Up until that point we had done very well to keep Milan out. We didn’t play that badly and I’m not too disappointed with my players."

Menichini believes that the double dismissal of Fabio Bilica and Paolo Maldini was only of benefit to the visitors.

"When both sides went down to 10 men, there was more space for Milan to make the difference and they quickly scored again," he concluded.

Ancona 0:2 AC Milan - match report
1.9 || scharatz

Milan have joined the other Scudetto candidates at the top of the table after a 2-0 victory at Ancona. Two goals from Andriy Shevchenko proved to be the difference in a heated affair which saw Paolo Maldini dismissed.

Fresh from their European Super Cup success against Porto on Friday, boss Carlo Ancelotti made a number of changes to his side. He fielded new boy Kaka and surprisingly Pippo Inzaghi, who was expected to be rested in favour of Rivaldo.

Ancona Coach Leonardo Menichini decided to pack his midfield by playing with just one striker, Dario Hubner, supported by veteran Eusebio Di Francesco. Menichini warned before the game that his men would need to give 110% and their aggressive start must have pleased him.

But it was the Italian giants that threatened early on with Kaka. A quick counter-attacking move saw the Brazilian try his luck from 25 yards but his effort drifted over Scarpi’s crossbar. Both sides were trying to push forward but a lack of quality on the final ball saw few real goalscoring opportunities arise.

Pirlo had a chance on 21 minutes to test the Ancona No 1 with a free-kick but his shot sailed over the bar. Therefore it was no surprise when Shevchenko stepped up to take the next one on the half-hour mark. His lengthy effort bounced just in front of Scarpi, who maybe should have done better, to give his side the lead.

Ancona tried to react immediately and Nesta had to be at his best to save Milan’s blushes on 32 minutes after Russo put in a dangerous cross. While the Italian stopper made his presence felt again on 42 minutes when Hubner was proving to be a handful in the penalty area. Cafu and Kaka, twice, had decent efforts before the break but the first half ended with the Rossoneri leading 1-0.

There were no changes for the second period as Ancona increased the pressure on Milan which led to early bookings for Costacurta and Serginho. But referee Pierluigi Collina needed his red card on 59 minutes when Paolo Maldini and Ancona’s Fabio Bilica were dismissed for their part in a mini brawl in the Rossoneri penalty area.

Ancelotti made it clear that he was trying to shut up shop with the introduction of defender Martin Laursen and Massimo Ambrosini. That ploy nearly backfired on 65 minutes when Ancona went close to the equaliser. Carrus’ right footed effort ended up just wide of Dida’s right hand post.

That seemed to spark new life into Milan and especially Kaka. The attacking midfielder was proving to be a real thorn in the Ancona defence and his side twice went close within a couple of minutes thanks to his silky skills. Milan should have made it two on 70 minutes. Laursen saw his close range effort saved by Scarpi but Shev’s follow up, which was even closer to the goal line, ended up on the post rather than in the back of the net.

Yet Shev did find the target again soon after. Kaka opened up the Ancona defence by slotting the ball to Cafu on the right. His cross found Shev who controlled with the outside of his right foot before slipping the ball past Scarpi.

Ancona tried desperately to get back into the game but the most dangerous opportunities were created by the away side, as Seedorf and Kaka again threatened to increase Milan’s lead before Collina blew up for full time.

Ancona: Scarpi; Bilica, Viali, Milanese; Russo, Berretta, Carrus, Maini (Bruno 54), Sussi; Di Francesco (Sommese 79); Hubner (Ganz 57)

Milan: Dida; Cafu, Nesta, Maldini, Costacurta; Gattuso, Pirlo (Ambrosini 63), Serginho (Seedorf 78); Kaka; Inzaghi (Laursen 62), Shevchenko

Ref: Collina

Sent off: Maldini (M) 59, Bilica (A) 59

Ancona vs. Milan - match preview
1.9 || Seamus

Kaka should start for the European champions (Getty Images)08/31/2003. BACKGROUND

A draw at home would be a glorious way for newly-promoted Ancona to open its Serie A campaign against current European Champions, AC Milan.

But it would call for the home team to do battle against the visitor's primavera side if this was to have any chance of happening on Monday night.

And that would mean playing this match against an outfit minus the likes of such players as Andriy Shevchenko, Pippo Inzaghi, Clarence Seedorf and Kaka void of any real meaning.

Ancona will have these players to contend with, along with memories of their last encounter against Milan.

That was on 9 May 1993 in the 30th round of the Serie A Championship.

The home side failed to come close to the visitors on that day, losing 1-3.

Sebastiano Vecchiola put one on the board for Ancona in the opening minutes, but Frank Reijkaard, Marco Van Basten and Paolo Maldini replied for Milan and made sure the result of the game was beyond doubt midway through the second half.

Ancona still has the elegant, blue-eyed Maldini to worry about on Monday night.

But the real headaches will rest with Kaka in the midfield and Shevchenko up the front.

And as a result, they will go down much the same way they did a decade ago.

The home side's hopes of securing Carlo Mazzone as coach were dented at the start of July when the evergreen Roman decided to stay at Brescia for another season.

He told reporters he could not bare the pressures of guiding a newly-promoted side through the highs and lows of life in the top-flight competition.

Club President Ermanno Pieroni then spoke with Renzo Ulivieri and Gianluca Vialli before settling upon Leonardo Menichini, Mazzone's deputy at Brescia and a defender at Roma and Ascoli during the 1980s.

Pieroni was also busy buying players during the off-season. His most prudent purchase was Dario Hubner. The 36-year-old striker scored 14 goals last season for Piacenza.

Milan's off-season turned out to be everything it could have been in terms of trophies and signings.

They beat FC Porto in the low-key final of the Supercup in Montecarlo last week.

And they signed exquisite Brazilian midfielder Kaka on a four-year deal from Sao Paulo.

The facts of this deal are simple: He cost US$8.2 and will take home around US$2.2 a season, performance bonuses aside.

Kaka will become the sixth Brazilian in the squad.

The others are striker Rivaldo, defender Roque Junior, winger Serginho, goalkeeper Dida, World Cup captain Cafu and winger Serginho.


Ancona (3-5-2): Scarpi, Bilica, Viali, Milanese, Daino, Beretta, Andersson, Maini, Sussi, Hubner, Ganz.

Milan (4-3-1-2): Dida, Simic, Nesta, Maldini, Pancaro, Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf, Kakà, Inzaghi, Shevchenko.


Ancona: With Hubner about to play his last season of Serie A football, each game he appears in this season must be savoured.

And after his last encounter against Milan – for Piacenza back in May of this year, when he
scored two goals in that side's 4-2 win – he will be the difference between his new club being beaten and humiliated.

Milan: Shevchenko, hero of Milan's midweek Supercup win, lives for games like these ones.

And with silver service from Kaka and Seedorf in the midfield, he will give Ancona goalkeeper Alessio Scarpi more nightmares than a 9-year-old boy spending his first night away from home.

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