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The Archive

February 2004

Ancelotti: I know how to beat Lazio
29.2 || scharatz

Carlo Ancelotti's men were crushed 4-0 by Lazio in the Coppa Italia, but he claims Milan have learned from those mistakes.

“It wasn’t a psychological issue that saw us lose both legs of that semi-final,” mused the Rossoneri boss. “Lazio caused us problems on a purely tactical level. That is why I am confident of making up for that defeat.”

The Capital club ran out 6-1 winners on aggregate and put the star-studded Milan under constant pressure, but the last five Serie A meetings here have resulted in a draw.

“It is a very delicate fixture,” continued Ancelotti, “but that Cup humiliation is an important starting point. We understood the reasons behind that setback and worked on those aspects.”

Much has been made of Milan’s tactics in recent weeks after President Silvio Berlusconi publicly ordered his Coach to field two strikers upfront.

“We will not completely transform the side, but there will be a few minor adjustments. To the untrained eye they may not even be noticeable.”

Some changes from recent outings are forced upon Ancelotti, as Kaka’ is suspended, Alessandro Nesta is out with a muscular problem and Pippo Inzaghi is struggling to regain match fitness.

There are reports that Jon Dahl Tomasson will be given the nod to partner Andriy Shevchenko upfront with support from Manuel Rui Costa.

Tomasson takes on Lazio
28.2 || scharatz

Jon Dahl Tomasson is the favourite to partner Andriy Shevchenko at the Stadio Olimpico, leaving Pippo Inzaghi on the bench.

The Dane has scored some crucial goals so far this season – the most recent in the 3-2 derby victory over Inter – and filled in admirably while Inzaghi was injured.

But the Italian international’s poor performance in Prague midweek highlighted a clear lack of match fitness after six weeks on the sidelines and Tomasson could be handed a starting spot instead.

The former Feyenoord and Newcastle hitman has already bagged seven Serie A goals, two in the Coppa Italia and one Intercontinental Cup strike this season despite rarely starting the big games.

Many critics also claim that Inzaghi and Shevchenko are too similar to work together. It is curious to note that of Sheva’s six braces so far this season, five came when Tomasson was on the field.

The trip to face Lazio is a very delicate fixture indeed, especially after the 4-0 Coppa Italia drubbing suffered here earlier this month.

Tactical changes will be forced upon Carlo Ancelotti, as Brazilian creative midfielder Kaka’ is suspended.

This suggests that Manuel Rui Costa will play behind the front two, but Tomasson is considered a more solid alternative to Inzaghi as partner to Shevchenko.

Alessandro Nesta will not be able to play against his former club due to a muscular problem picked up during the derby.

The ex-Lazio captain has not even made the trip down to his home city, while Christian Brocchi is also out with a slight thigh injury.


Gk: Abbiati, Dida, Fiori

D: Cafu, Costacurta, Kaladze, Laursen, Maldini, Pancaro, Simic

M: Ambrosini, Gattuso, Pirlo, Redondo, Rui Costa, Seedorf, Serginho

F: Borriello, Inzaghi, Shevchenko, Tomasson

SS Lazio vs. AC Milan - preview
28.2 || scharatz

There were seven goals over two legs when these sides met in the Coppa Italia last month and all signs point to another spectacular showdown.

Lazio shocked many a pundit by running out 6-1 aggregate winners in the Cup semi-final, especially after the sheer power of their performance when crushing the trophy holders 4-0 at the Stadio Olimpico. Cesar, Fabio Liverani and a brace from Stefano Fiore sealed that memorable occasion, but it was by no means the only time there have been fireworks between these two teams. There was a remarkable 4-4 result in October 1999, including an Andriy Shevchenko hat-trick, and the last five Serie A encounters in the Capital have been draws. Lazio were the last side to earn all three points with a 2-1 victory in 1998, but Milan haven’t left here with a win since their 1-0 result in 1995.

Milan may have staged an extraordinary comeback from 2-0 down to win the derby 3-2, but the victory came at a price. Brazilian sensation Kaka’ is suspended for this trip to Rome, while Jon Dahl Tomasson and former Lazio legend Alessandro Nesta are in doubt with muscular problems suffered during that five-goal thriller. Paolo Maldini is definitely back in the side following his one-match ban, but above all Pippo Inzaghi is back to full fitness and should start alongside Andriy Shevchenko.

Lazio are also on fine form and hope to further consolidate their hold on that precious fourth Champions’ League place. A controversial goalless draw at Chievo halted their progress last week, but they are unbeaten in six games. Demetrio Albertini is unable to face his former club due to an injury, so Giuliano Giannichedda retains his midfield spot. This will be a particularly strange occasion for Jaap Stam, as the press has been filled with reports that he is set to sign for Milan at the end of the season.

The true turning point in their campaign has been the return to full fitness of Cesar, the only player in this squad who can provide real width and precise crosses for the head of Bernardo Corradi. The Milan defence couldn’t handle him in the Coppa Italia – have they learned their lesson?



Lazio (probable): Peruzzi; Stam, Couto, Mihajlovic, Zauri; Fiore, Giannichedda, Liverani; Lopez, Corradi, Cesar

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


Ambrosini: Milan on a mission
28.2 || scharatz

Massimo Ambrosini claims Milan’s 4-0 hammering in the Coppa Italia gives them an extra edge when facing Lazio once again.

“Having been defeated so soundly could be an advantage for us,” noted the Rossoneri midfielder. “Anyone who is beaten 4-0 has the desire to make up for it immediately and thankfully the calendar has given us that chance.”

Carlo Ancelotti’s men were the holders of the Coppa Italia, but were unceremoniously dumped out of the tournament with a 6-1 aggregate scoreline in the semi-finals.

“Lazio is the team that has made us suffer the most,” confessed Ambro, “both in terms of the result and especially the overall performance.”

The Capital club won both legs of that Cup semi, including a shock 2-1 victory at the San Siro.

“They love playing beautiful football, just like us, and have men with some excellent technique. Now Roberto Mancini has found the right tactical system to get the most out of his squad, so it will no doubt be a very entertaining match.”

Curiously, the last five Serie A encounters between these teams at the Stadio Olimpico has been a draw – including a memorable 4-4 result in 1999.

Milan are also eager to get a good result after their disappointing midweek draw at Sparta Prague.

“There are regrets about that Champions’ League result,” added Ambrosini, “because we played well and just couldn’t seem to score.”

“But for the last year this Milan side has such confidence in its abilities that if there is a poor result it won’t get downhearted. At the same time we can go anywhere and beat anyone, always maintaining respect for opponents. This is our true strength.”


Ancelotti regrets Milan mistakes
25.2 || scharatz

Carlo Ancelotti and his stars confirm they look back on the goalless draw in Prague with regret after wasting a hatful of chances.


“There are certainly regrets looking at this result,” said the tactician, “as we had so many opportunities to get an away goal. It was nonetheless a good performance and we are satisfied with that aspect of it.”


Milan dominated their trip to face Sparta Prague, but the scoreline means qualification will be decided at the San Siro.


“More importantly, we got to know a team we will meet again in two weeks’ time and emerged unscathed from their home stadium.”


Ancelotti refused to criticise Pippo Inzaghi and Andriy Shevchenko despite some wasteful finishing from excellent scoring positions.


“When a striker has a chance to score then it means his movement was correct and the assists were put in properly. The finishing wasn’t perfect, but at least the overall play was positive.”


There has been much talk of the two-striker system during the last few days and the Coach explains that this style has drawbacks.


“We put a lot of play down the centre and could have done with more pressure down the flanks, but that is a minor detail considering the sheer volume of chances we created.”


Ancelotti also revealed that he was fully prepared for the Sparta Prague approach to this match, considering the fact the Czech League has only recently started back up after the Winter break.


“We predicted they would have a strong start only to lose pace towards the end,” he noted, “but really we took control fairly early on and Prague were rarely dangerous.”


Clarence Seedorf was one of Milan’s best players on the night and insists it was a positive overall display.


“We did well and hardly suffered at all at the back,” said the Dutchman, “but we couldn’t make the most of our many chances.”


“It would have been important to get a goal and we tried every way we possibly could, but the ball didn’t want to go in.”


Seedorf remains hopeful that the reigning Champions can hold out Sparta at the San Siro in a fortnight.


“It was a great game and if we continue to play like this – with a little bit more luck – then we will undoubtedly get to the quarter-finals.”


Sparta Praha 0:0 AC Milan - report
25.2 || scharatz

Some truly woeful finishing from Andriy Shevchenko and Pippo Inzaghi saw Milan leave Sparta Prague with only a 0-0 draw.

Sparta Prague have already eliminated Lazio from this competition and aimed to do the same when reigning European Champions Milan came to the Czech Capital.

Alessandro Nesta and Jon Dahl Tomasson are out of action, but Pippo Inzaghi returned from a long-term injury to partner Andriy Shevchenko. Veteran Alessandro Costacurta stepped in to bolster the central defence.

President Silvio Berlusconi had urged his Coach to field an all-attack line-up and Carlo Ancelotti accepted this suggestion.

There were some familiar faces to Serie A, such as former Lazio midfielder Karel Poborsky and Jiri Stajner - who scored in last week's 2-2 draw between Italy and the Czech Republic.

It was an immediately aggressive start from both sides and Stajner had the first real shot on goal parried at the near post by Dida. Pergl then drilled a fierce effort wide from the edge of the box as a corner was not cleared effectively.

Milan also went close when a corner kick was caught in a sea of legs and Inzaghi just failed to toe-poke it home from six yards.

But Sparta had the better of the early play and a swerving Poborsky effort from 25 metres almost took Dida by surprise as the Brazilian flew to palm it out of the top corner.

The Rossoneri began to take control and on 18 minutes created two very good scoring opportunities. First Inzaghi chested down a splendid Kaka' chipped pass and his turn and volley was saved with a great deal of difficulty, then Shevchenko's angled drive was halted by a dubious offside flag.

On the half-hour mark Shevchenko's intelligent dummy on a Kaka' through ball left Inzaghi clear through on goal, but he is still not 100 per cent fit and was not fast enough to make the most of the chance.

Milan began to dominate possession, but Poborsky remained dangerous with a curling effort just over the crossbar.

Inzaghi was clearly lacking in pace, but it took a stunning Petr Johana challenge to prevent the Italian international confronting the goalkeeper in a one on one situation.

Almost all Milan's moves went through the centre with Kaka' or down the right flank with an inspired Marcos Cafu, but the Czech defence was very attentive.

Just before the break Inzaghi hooked down another splendid long ball forward from Andrea Pirlo, but couldn't quite turn his marker to get a shot on target.

Sparta had the first shot of the second half as Zelenka's deflected effort did not take Dida by surprise.

Clarence Seedorf - buoyed by his wonder goal in the Milan derby - saw the 'keeper off his line and tried to whip it in from 30 metres, but it was off target.

Sparta Prague thought they had opened the scoring on 51 minutes with Igor Gluscevic, but the goal was disallowed for an offside position. Replays showed that the decision was correct.

The Rossoneri really should have been ahead but for two incredible saves from Blazek on 57 minutes. First a well-worked move allowed Shevchenko to meet Seedorf's floated pass, but the 'keeper bravely rushed off his line to close him down.

The move progressed and this time Blazek was able to parry Kaka's close-range effort.

Three minutes later international goalkeeper Blazek performed another fine save to block Shevchenko's accurate volley.

Perhaps the best chance of the game was soon after, as Kaka's delightful pass found Shevchenko only for the Ukrainian to incredibly miss the ball completely with only the 'keeper to beat. The goal probably would not have counted, as Inzaghi was flagged offside.

Costacurta was forced to undergo treatment after an elbow from Gluscevic opened up a facial wound on his cheekbone.

There was an even more glaring miss on 71 minutes. Giuseppe Pancaro's bullet header on a Pirlo free kick was kept out by a stunning one-handed save, but Shevchenko and Inzaghi got in each others' way and somehow fired the loose ball wide from a yard.

Moments later there was a possibly even worse mistake, when a defensive error left three Milan players clear on goal, but Shevchenko incredibly chipped it on to the crossbar from 7 yards.

The more the visitors poured forward, the more Sparta became dangerous on the counter-attack and Dida performed a diffult save on Zelenka's piledriver.

Carlo Ancelotti's first substitution of the game was five minutes from time, when Serginho replaced the ineffective Inzaghi. It was too little, too late, and the qualification all goes down to the second leg in the San Siro.



Sparta Prague: Blazek; Pergl, Hubschman, Johana, Labant; Poborsky, Kovac, Michalik, Zelenka (Sivok 92); I Gluscevic (Baranek 73), Stajner (V Gluscevic 85)

Milan: Dida; Cafu, Costacurta, Maldini, Pancaro; Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf; Kakà; Shevchenko, Inzaghi (Serginho 85)

Ref: Poll (Eng)

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

The last time Sparta Praha advanced from the Champions League group stage was two seasons ago.

Their hopes of reaching the quarter-finals that season were dashed by the mid-winter sale of six key players.

This time around, the exit door at the Letná Stadium has seen seven players go through it.

But manager Jirí Kotrba is still hopeful that Sparta can beat AC Milan, a side he rates as "the best in the world."




Team News:


AC Milan:

Ancelotti is unlikely to field just one striker following Silvio Berlusconi's attack on his tactics.

Striker Filippo Inzaghi, who was on the bench against Inter on Saturday, is set to return to the starting line-up.

Inzaghi's insertion into the starting eleven is a direct result of Jon Dahl Tomasson's thigh injury.

The Danish striker's thigh has swelled up severly after he was kicked in leg in Saturday's contest with Inter.

Defender Alessandro Nesta is also out after sustaining a similar thigh injury during the aforementioned derby match.

There is some good news for Milan as Paolo Maldini returns to the line-up after a domestic ban.

Kaka is also expected to start on Tuesday instead of Rui Costa.




Sparta Prague:

Manager Jiri Kotrba faces the daunting task of breaking down the Milan's stingy defence, while keeping in mind that any slip-ups in their own back line could see this match get out of reach prior to the return leg at San Siro next week.

"It will be the best and most excellent team I and my players will play against," said the coach. "But we are ready to do anything to make it difficult for them," Kotrba said.

But Sparta are no strangers to Italian teams as they qualified for the knockout stage at Lazio's expense.

Sparta have no major injury concerns, but their squad has changed considerably following the departure of seven players who appeared in the group stage including Libor Sionko and Marek Kincl.




Probable Starting Lineups:


Sparta Praha:
Blazek; Pergl, Homola, Hubschman, Labant; Pobosky, Zelenka, Kovac, Michalik; Stajner and Rezek.

AC Milan:
Dida; Cafú, Costacurta, Maldini, Kaladze; Gattuso, Pirlo, Kaká, Seedorf; Filippo Inzaghi and Shevchenko.

Milan to use Silvio system
24.2 || scharatz

Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti is set to please President Silvio Berlusconi by fielding two strikers against Sparta Prague.

The Rossoneri chief called for his club to always play with two forwards and Ancelotti will do so in Tuesday’s Champions’ League tie.

"I had hoped that this story wouldn’t have arrived here," stated the tactician in a cold Prague. "But it is true. Our President wants an attacking Milan and that is what he will get."

Although Ancelotti failed to reveal his starting line-up, he is set to field Pippo Inzaghi alongside Andriy Shevchenko. Both will be supported by creative ace Kaka.

"We will be looking to play at our very best even if this is only the first leg of the last 16 tie," he added. "Qualification for the quarter final will only be decided at the San Siro."

Milan, Champions’ League holders, will be hot favourites to win the game but Ancelotti is paying Sparta respect.

"Sparta are a side to be feared," he added. "They are very dynamic and an organised team. They did well in the group stages by eliminating good sides."

Sparta progressed from a section that also included Chelsea – who topped the group – plus Besiktas and Lazio.

Meanwhile, Czech boss Jiri Kotrba seems to be preparing himself for a defeat. "This is the most important tie of my life," he stated.

"We are up against the best side in Europe and in order to cause them problems I think we will need a bit of luck."

Milan are without the injured duo of Alessandro Nesta and Jon Dahl Tomasson, while there are also doubts over Cafu.

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

Ancelotti: I’m still the boss
23.2 || scharatz

Carlo Ancelotti insists nothing has changed for him at Milan despite getting a lesson in tactics by President Silvio Berlusconi.

The Italian Prime Minister sparked a mini controversy after the 3-2 win over Inter by insisting that Ancelotti should always play with two strikers.

Milan started the game with Andriy Shevchenko supported by attacking midfielders Manuel Rui Costa and Kaka.

The Coach changed that after the break, with his side 2-0 down, by inserting Jon Dahl Tomasson alongside Shev which helped them in a remarkable comeback.

Berlusconi’s comments did lead to some suggestions that Ancelotti’s long-term future was on the line but the tactician has rubbished those claims.

Especially after he spent Saturday night in the company of Berlusconi and Vice-president Adriano Galliani at dinner.

"I still feel like the Milan Coach," stated Ancelotti. "Exactly how I felt before. I had a good evening with the President where we spoke about football, ate and I didn’t even have to pay.

"But nothing has changed in the slightest. In fact, you can say that I always play with two strikers as I have men like Shevchenko, Kaka, Borriello, Inzaghi, Rui Costa and Tomasson."

Galliani also commented on the situation where he insisted that Ancelotti was free to make his own decisions.

"Nobody tells Ancelotti how the team should play," he stated. "After all, we love Carlo at this club."

However, we won’t have to wait long to see whether Ancelotti will do as his President requests as the side face Sparta Prague on Tuesday.

A squad of 22 players flew out to the Czech Republic today even if the side are without Alessandro Nesta and Jon Dahl Tomasson for the Champions’ League clash.

Squad: Abbiati, Dida, Fiori; Cafu, Costacurta, Kaladze, Laursen, Maldini, Pancaro, Simic; Ambrosini, Brocchi, Gattuso, Kaka, Pirlo, Redondo, Rui Costa, Seedorf, Serginho; Borriello, Inzaghi, Shevchenko.

Nesta to miss Prague trip
22.2 || scharatz

Alessandro Nesta and Jon Dahl Tomasson are out of the Champions’ League match with Sparta Prague.

The defender limped off during the final minutes of Milan’s 3-2 derby win last night and has been diagnosed with a muscular problem.

Goalscorer Tomasson is also unable to take part in the European encounter after suffering a bruised left leg in a clash with Ivan Cordoba.

Massimo Ambrosini returns from injury to bolster the midfield options, while Paolo Maldini is available after missing the derby due to a one-match ban.

The 22-man team flies out to Prague for this second round, first leg match on Monday and will take to the field on Tuesday evening.



Gk: Abbiati, Dida, Fiori

D: Cafu, Costacurta, Kaladze, Laursen, Maldini, Pancaro, Simic

M: Ambrosini, Brocchi, Gattuso, Kakà, Pirlo, Redondo, Rui Costa, Seedorf, Serginho

F: Borriello, Inzaghi, Shevchenko

Ancelotti and Zac discuss derby
21.2 || scharatz

Carlo Ancelotti explains how he turned the game around to win 3-2, but Alberto Zaccheroni admits they threw this result away.

“It was a wonderful, important and entertaining victory that is sure to make all Milan fans happy,” said the former player.

The Rossoneri staged a remarkable fightback after going into the half-time break 2-0 down.

“Luck was certainly not on our side in the first half and we really did not play badly at all, conceding two goals on defensive distractions. But overall we had plenty of chances to score and played some good football.”

“After the break it was a different game and by stepping up a gear we managed to turn it all around.”

The turning point was the introduction of second striker Jon Dahl Tomasson for Manuel Rui Costa.

“Tomasson is very important in the box and his movements are crucial for the rest of the team,” explained Ancelotti.

“Choosing a starting eleven from this talented squad is a continual strain for me, as it means leaving out people like Tomasson and Pippo Inzaghi. Someone will inevitably be heartbroken, but a Coach has to make these decisions ahead of every different match.”

The two final goals were scored from distance and Ancelotti admits he asked Kaka’ and Clarence Seedorf to take shots from a variety of angles.

“With the pitch in these conditions taking shots from distance is a useful tool, as the ball picks up pace from the wet grass and can cause real problems for opponents.”

Milan President Silvio Berlusconi was celebrating the victory, but also put out a stark warning to Ancelotti.

“This is not a suggestion, but rather an order to anyone who will be in charge of this club,” said the patron.

“Milan are a winning team and must therefore always go out there with the ultimate attacking potential at our disposal. As of Monday this side must play with two strikers upfront or whoever is in charge will no longer be the Coach of Milan.”

Berlusconi, who is also a media mogul and Italy’s Prime Minister, has been known to publicly criticise his tacticians in the past – including current Inter boss Zaccheroni.

Alberto Zaccheroni admits that Inter threw away this derby game, but gives Milan respect for coming back from 2-0 down.

“We had a great first half with two goals and striking the woodwork,” noted the Inter boss, “but without doubt we fell asleep during the break and came out too sluggish for words.”

“It is a great shame, as we could have gone 3-0 up immediately, but Milan had a wonderful second half performance and they deserve our compliments for taking advantage of the situation.”

The Nerazzurri have now slipped to sixth place – a whopping 19 points adrift of their local rivals.

“Despite the fact that we were without many of our stars, we did not see such a massive difference between the two teams tonight,” insisted Zac.

When asked why Kaka’ and Clarence Seedorf were able to charge straight at the Inter defence in the second period, the Coach blamed the referee.

“The problem is that all our central midfielders were booked in the first half and were afraid of making more challenges on Kaka’. I think those decisions so early on were a little over the top, as for the rest of the game they are on edge.”

Christian Vieri was substituted 15 minutes from time and seemed particularly angry with this decision.

“Vieri worked a great deal for the team,” insisted Zac, “which is what I had asked him to do tonight. I was not disappointed with his performance and he did his duty in keeping the team tight and holding up the ball.”

AC Milan 3:2 Inter - report
21.2 || webmaster

Scorers: Stankovic 14 (I), C Zanetti 40 (I), Tomasson 56 (M), Kaka' 57 (M), Seedorf 85 (M)

Milan have one hand on the Scudetto after fighting back from two down to win the derby 3-2 with Clarence Seedorf's late stunner.

There were tactical changes for both sides in this crucial showdown at the San Siro. Alessandro Costacurta stepped in for the suspended Paolo Maldini in central defence, while despite returning to full fitness Pippo Inzaghi sat on the bench.

Inter fielded Dejan Stankovic in a more advanced Trequartista position for the first time since he arrived from Lazio at the end of January. The Serb lent support to star striking partnership Christian Vieri and Adriano, leaving Alvaro Recoba on the bench. Cristiano Zanetti made his return after six weeks out with injury.

16 points divided the two sides going into this game and Alberto Zaccheroni aimed to beat Milan for the first time since he left the club. The Rossoneri also hoped to end their taboo of never getting the better of Inter when Maldini was not on the field.

The form book goes out of the window in these occasions, but the 'home' side has won the Derby della Madonnina just once in the last 13 games.

Milan took the upper hand early on with Andriy Shevchenko and Kaka combining well several times, but the final shot was always off target.

There was room at the back for Christian Vieri to attack after a corner was cleared, but Marcos Cafu kept a cool head for a crucial challenge.

The Rossoneri raised their game and almost scored a stunning goal on 10 minutes. Clarence Seedorf's backheel found Kaka and Francesco Toldo palmed away the Brazilian's effort.

Inter fought back with Vieri's taut cross almost finding Adriano, but Milan were rescued from conceding a penalty for Cafu's push as the ball had already gone out of play.

However, it was the Nerazzurri who took the lead after 14 minutes in curious circumstances. Dejan Stankovic whipped in a corner kick and nobody seemed to get a touch on it before the ball slotted into the far corner. It was the ex-Lazio star's first goal for his new club.

Milan reacted and Shevchenko's diving header on a precise Andrea Pirlo centre was well wide, while Seedorf and Gennaro Gattuso piledrivers were smothered.

Francesco Toldo was fortunate to escape unharmed when he parried Kaka's powerful shot and it almost bounced back behind him, but the goalkeeper managed to recover the loost ball.

The Inter shot-stopper was kept busy with a difficult save on Shevchenko's rocket of a free kick from over 25 metres.

But it was the Nerazzurri who nearly doubled their lead with another scrappy move, as Adriano's low drive thumped the post and ricocheted off Dida's body before it could cross the line.

Moments later they did make it two with the aid of a massive deflection. Another corner kick was punched out to Cristiano Zanetti outside the box and his shot changed direction when it struck Kakha Kaladze to leave Dida stranded.

Carlo Ancelotti made a change for the second half and introduced second striker Jon Dahl Tomasson in place of Manuel Rui Costa.

Yet Adriano had the opportunity to close the game after five minutes and ballooned over the bar after Dida slipped.

But the substitution proved inspired, as on 55 minutes Milan pulled one back through Tomasson. Seedorf's fierce shot from the edge of the box was only spilled by Toldo and the Dane was ready to tap in the loose ball.

It opened the floodgates, as within 60 seconds the Rossoneri were level thanks to a stunning strike from Kaka'. The young Brazilian charged through the centre and drilled into the bottom corner from all of 20 metres out.

Milan have a tendency to improve their results after half-time breaks - earning an extra 15 points this season - but even Ancelotti hardly hoped to make such a spectacular comeback in the space of one minute.

Giuseppe Pancaro replaced Cafu, while Giorgios Karagounis took over from Stankovic and a clearly angry Christian Vieri made way for Julio Cruz. His reaction will further fuel reports that a move to Barcelona in the summer is likely.

The only forced substitution saw Alessandro Nesta limp off to be replaced by Martin Laursen.

The comeback was completed with six minutes to go thanks to a former Inter player. Clarence Seedorf hit an absolute missile from 30 metres that almost broke the back of Toldo's net and put Milan into the lead for the first time.

However, there was bad news immediately afterwards when Kaka' picked up a booking that will rule him out of next week's game with Lazio.

Alberto Zaccheroni's last roll of the dice was to throw on Alvaro Recoba for the last desperate fightback.

Milan: Dida; Cafu (Pancaro 70), Nesta (Laursen 74), Costacurta, Kaladze; Gattuso, Seedorf, Pirlo; Rui Costa (Tomasson 46), Kakà; Shevchenko

Inter: Toldo; Helveg, Adani, Cordoba; J Zanetti, C Zanetti, Farinos, Kily Gonzalez (Recoba 87); Stankovic (Karagounis 70); Vieri (Cruz 75), Adriano

Ref: Rosetti

AC Milan vs. Inter - preview
21.2 || scharatz

Will the Milan derby give the Rossoneri a final push towards the Scudetto, or revive an Inter side teetering on the edge of another crisis?

The Derby della Madonnina is never anything less than a passionate, fiery and controversial encounter with the cream of Italian football facing off in one of the world’s premiere soccer arenas. This local battle more often than not throws the form book out of the window, with the team that is struggling at that point emerging victorious.

Considering their results last weekend, it is difficult to pick a winner out of the hat. Milan’s run of seven consecutive Serie A wins was halted at lowly Lecce, while Inter were shocked on home turf by Udinese’s 2-1 victory. Alberto Zaccheroni’s future now appears to be in doubt after he lost fourth place to Lazio and opened up a 16-point gap from the leaders.

Both sides have big stars missing, as Rossoneri captain Paolo Maldini is suspended, while Pippo Inzaghi and Massimo Ambrosini are major doubts to feature. The Nerazzurri’s injury list is almost too long to mention, with Francesco Coco, Matias Almeyda, Cristiano Zanetti, Marco Materazzi, Fabio Cannavaro, Obafemi Martins, Emre Belozoglu and Carlos Gamarra sidelined for one reason or another. There are rumours that Alberto Zaccheroni – who won the title with Milan – could drop his 3-4-3 system in favour of a more solid 4-4-2 with Christian Vieri and Adriano starting their first Serie A game together.

Milan ran out 3-1 winners the last time these two sides met back in October, and many pundits believe it was that result which sealed Hector Cuper’s fate. Inzaghi, Kaka and Capocannoniere Andriy Shevchenko were on target that day before Martins’ late consolation strike.

The Champions’ League semi-final meetings also went in Carlo Ancelotti’s favour, albeit only on the away goals rule, but in recent years the Derby has been a red and black celebration with three Milan victories on the trot. In fact, Inter have emerged with all three points just once in the last seven meetings, including a crushing 6-0 defeat in May 2001.



MIlan (probable): Dida; Cafu, Nesta, Costacurta, Pancaro; Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf, Rui Costa; Kaka, Shevchenko

Inter (probable): Toldo; Helveg, Adani, Cordoba; J Zanetti, Farinos, Stankovic, Pasquale; Recoba, Vieri, Adriano


Ancelotti: Anything goes!
21.2 || scharatz

Carlo Ancelotti admits he has no idea what the result will be in tonight's Milan derby, but can say that both sides will play attacking football.


“It will be a very open game,” commented the Rossoneri boss.

“With Alberto Zaccheroni’s arrival Inter have changed to a more attack-minded outfit, whereas a year ago they played defensively with an aim to hit us on the break.”


Milan won the last derby 3-1, a result that effectively ended Hector Cuper’s reign at the San Siro, and are 16 points clear of their local rivals.


However, a ‘home’ side has won this fixture just once in the last 13 encounters.


“Those points won’t count once we take to the field,” insisted Ancelotti. “Inter also have goals such as that Champions’ League place, but above all a derby game is a trophy in itself.”


Pippo Inzaghi looks set to make an appearance, although it is not yet known whether this will be from the start.


Inter are also expected to make tactical changes with Kily Gonzalez perhaps replacing Alvaro Recoba in the trident attack.


“Dejan Stankovic would guarantee them more balance in midfield, while Recoba would be more dangerous in the area. We must try to cut out their service to the strikers and win back more balls in midfield than we have been of late.”


In fact, the Serie A leaders have been struggling in the last few weeks with a close-run 2-1 win over Perugia and disappointing 1-1 draw at Lecce.


“We haven’t exactly been on fire recently,” confessed the Coach, “but my team is in good condition. The midweek internationals will influence my decisions on who will get more rest than others.”


Ancelotti made a public appeal to Italy boss Giovanni Trapattoni not to use too many star players in a friendly match, but other nations used Milan men for almost the whole 90 minutes.


Meanwhile, veteran Billy Costacurta steps in to make up for the absence of suspended captain Paolo Maldini.

Maldini ban appeal fails
17.2 || scharatz

Paolo Maldini’s insistence he didn’t kick Axel Konan on purpose has fallen on deaf ears as the Milan captain is suspended for the derby.

The Rossoneri hero was booked during the closing stages of their 1-1 draw at Lecce, creating an automatic one-match ban.

Maldini and the club maintained both players were looking at the ball when they clashed in midfield and that it should therefore not have warranted a yellow card.

“We are not angry,” insisted Carlo Ancelotti, “but there is clearly regret for an incident that damaged our campaign. We are particularly upset that there was a lack of consistency from the referee.”

He is one of seven Serie A players who will sit out the Week 22 games, including Juventus midfield dynamo Alessio Tacchinardi.

Bologna are particularly hard hit for their encounter with the Bianconeri, as both Fabio Pecchia and Leonardo Colucci are suspended.

Brescia boss Gianni De Biasi will have to watch their match against Lecce from the stands after his red card for dissent.


One-Match Ban:

Pecchia (Bologna), Colucci (Bologna), Tacchinardi (Juventus), Maldini (Milan), Balestri (Modena), Mignani (Siena), Seric (Parma)

Stam set for Milan - agent
17.2 || scharatz

Jaap Stam’s agent has revealed that the Lazio player is on the verge of a summer move to Milan.

The Dutchman is expected to quit the capital club at the end of the season and the Rossoneri seem to have beat Inter and Juventus for his services.

"Jaap has already agreed terms with Milan," Henk van Ginkel told the ‘Volkskrant’ newspaper.

"Juventus and Inter were also interested in the player but he only wanted to join the European champions."

Although van Ginkel is confident that the transfer will go through, he admits that the two clubs have yet to agree a fee.

"Lazio and Milan must now look to reach an agreement by the end of this month, otherwise it could collapse.

"If that happens then Stam will see out his contract with Lazio (which expires in 2005) before returning to his homeland.

"He isn’t interested in long drawn out talks. He has his family to think of and also wants to concentrate on the European Championships."

Speculation suggests that Stam, 32, has agreed a two-year deal with the San Siro outfit.

Stam had already stated on his personal website that he wanted a move to one of the Milan clubs rather than Juventus.

Shevchenko: What crisis?
16.2 || scharatz

Milan striker Andriy Shevchenko has dismissed talk of a crisis after the 1-1 draw at lowly Lecce.

The Rossoneri, who lost 4-0 at Lazio in the Cup last week, struggled at the Via Del Mare but Shev was keen to praise their opponents.

"There is no crisis here," said the Ukrainian. "Lecce caused us problems in the first half where we played badly.

"However, we played football at the highest levels after the break. Had we performed like that for 90 minutes we would have won."

The striker again caught the eye as he scored his 17th goal of the season to mark his 200th appearance for the club.

"My goal was only important for the result," he added. "Fortunately Roma also drew but there are still plenty of games to go in the Scudetto chase."

Milan will be next in action on Saturday when they play city rivals Inter. But the European Champions will be without Paolo Maldini.

The captain was booked which means he will be suspended for the derby. A decision which has infuriated the legend.

"I didn’t see my opponent and he didn’t see me," said the stopper. "There was no intention in the contact so I shouldn’t have been shown the yellow card."

Lecce 1:1 AC Milan - report
15.2 || scharatz

Chevanton 19 (L), Shevchenko 52 (M)
Stadio Via Del Mare


Milan are the runaway leaders of Serie A, but their triumphant Serie A march has been halted by little Lecce.

There was a minute's silence ahead of this match for cycling champion and former Tour de France winner Marco Pantani - a passionate Milan fan who died on Saturday evening.

Valeri Bojinov was particularly eager to get a goal in this match, as it was his 18th birthday and the young Bulgarian has been linked with a move to the Rossoneri.

Gennaro Gattuso clashed heads with Cristian Ledesma in the opening minutes and lost a lot of blood, but insisted on carrying on with a large bandage.

Both sides had good early chances with Clarence Seedorf, Bojinov, Max Tonetto's fierce drive and a very dangerous Javier Ernesto Chevanton header.

But it was Chevanton who broke the deadlock after 19 minutes with his 11th goal of the season. The Uruguayan was brought down by Marcos Cafu on the edge of the box and slammed in one of his magnificent trademark free kicks to leave Dida with no chance.

Milan poured forward in search of an equaliser and there was a confident save on Andriy Shevchenko's header, while a Cafu effort was charged down.

Carlo Ancelotti threw on Jon Dahl Tomasson in the second half and adapted his system to a 4-4-2.

It proved an inspired substitution, as within seven minutes Tomasson had held up the ball for Shevchenko's splendid volley from just outside the box. It was a special moment for the Ukrainian, as it was at the Stadio Via del Mare that he scored his first Serie A goal in 1999.

Lecce were perhaps fortunate not to be left in ten men, as Bovo was already booked when he hacked down Tomasson soon after.

Alessandro Nesta did not play in the midweek 4-0 Coppa Italia thrashing at Lazio and he performed a crucial tackle as Chevanton lined up his shot.

The Uruguayan hitman was forced to limp off with a slight muscular problem ten minutes from time.

There was also bad news for the Rossoneri, as Paolo Maldini was booked for a challenge on Axel Konan and will miss the Milan derby through suspension.

Milan thought they had scored the winner in the final minute, but Alessandro Nesta's header was cleared off the line by Jorge Bolano.



Lecce: Sicignano; Siviglia, Bovo, Stovini, Tonetto; Cassetti, Bolano, Ledesma, Franceschini (Abruzzese 79); Chevanton (Vucinic 81), Bojinov (Konan 57)

Milan: Dida; Cafu, Nesta, Maldini, Kaladze; Gattuso (Brocchi 70), Pirlo, Seedorf; Rui Costa (Tomasson 46), Kaka' (Serginho 87); Shevchenko

Ref: Pieri

Ancelotti keeps the faith
15.2 || scharatz

Carlo Ancelotti has already put Milan's Coppa thrashing behind him and insists that 4-0 drubbing did them good.

“The team is feeling just fine,” assured the Coach, “and not all defeats are damaging to morale. That setback at Lazio has not dented our belief and confidence, so I have complete faith in these players.”

The 6-1 aggregate exit from the trophy they won last season rang alarm bells, as these represented the first defeats of 2004 for the runaway Serie A leaders.

Pippo Inzaghi also picked up another injury and this back pain will keep him out of today’s trip to Lecce.

“The Southerners are a vivacious squad,” explained Ancelotti, “with some very talented strikers. Javier Ernesto Chevanton and Valeri Bojinov really are on top form right now.”

Lecce have already made a name for themselves by holding Juventus to a draw here, while they are fresh from three away wins on the trot.

However, it should be noted that Milan are on a record breaking run that sees them unbeaten on their League travels this season with eight wins, two draws and only three goals conceded.

“We will continue to play with two strikers upfront,” revealed the tactician. “Inzaghi will only start training with his teammates again from Monday, but should be ready for the Milan derby.”

The trip to the Stadio Via del Mare will be a special occasion for Serie A top scorer Andriy Shevchenko, as it was here that he scored his first Rossoneri goal in 1999.

Lecce vs. AC Milan - preview
15.2 || scharatz

League leaders Milan will start as hot favourites to win at the Via Del Mare but they shouldn’t underestimate little Lecce. The southern outfit have won their last three away games which has put them in contention to beat the drop.

The January arrivals of Sicignano, Bolano and Franceschini have given the club renewed hope that they can avoid relegation. Especially with the young strike force of Valeri Bojinov and Javier Chevanton. The latter is particular keen to impress as he has admitted that he would love a summer move to Milan.

The Rossoneri have won all of their League games so far in 2004, their last 2-1 against Perugia on Sunday. The giants had struggled to break down the Umbrian outfit before Rui Costa came off the bench to open the scoring. That goal may see him start as he was only a substitute in that game.

Boss Carlo Ancelotti could decide to field Shevchenko as a lone striker, closely aided by the talented Rui Costa and Brazilian sensation Kaka. The only other selection problem for Ancelotti is who to replace the suspended Giuseppe Pancaro with. Billy Costacurta is favourite even if Serginho and Dario Simic are contenders.

Milan, still without the injured Max Ambrosini, may be tempted to rest a few players but are undoubtedly aware that Juventus were held by Lecce just before Christmas. Especially as they have a five point lead over Roma to protect.



Lecce (probable): Sicignano; Siviglia, Silvestri, Stovini, Tonetto; Cassetti, Bolano, Ledesma, Franceschini; Chevanton, Bojinov

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


COPPA ITALIA: SS Lazio 4:0 AC Milan - report
11.2 || scharatz

Lazio swept through to the Coppa Italia Final after putting four past holders Milan in a 6-1 aggregate victory.

Biancocelesti fans flocked to see this semi-final and hopes were high after earning a shock 2-1 first leg win at the San Siro.

Milan were unable to field Pippo Inzaghi from the start as he suffered a minor muscular problem before kick-off, so Andriy Shevchenko was partnered by Under-21 international Marco Borriello with support from Manuel Rui Costa.

The Biancocelesti were shaken earlier today by the arrest of former Lazio President Sergio Cragnotti for fraudulent bankruptcy.

Milan had the first real chance on 4 minutes when Shevchenko’s powerful half-volley was palmed wide by Matteo Sereni.

There was almost another disastrous error for Christian Abbiati when a bizarre Alessandro Costacurta backpass forced him to nod over his own bar. On the resulting corner kick Claudio Lopez turned his header off target.

The home side had a very strong start and Fabio Liverani threaded through an intelligent ball for Cesar’s cool finish to put Lazio 3-1 up on aggregate.

Liverani was on sparkling form and took full advantage of a defensive error to charge through the centre and turn in Cesar’s cutback as the reshuffled Milan back four was torn to shreds.

When they ran at the defence with pace, Lazio almost always found a way through and Abbiati was forced into a difficult save on Cesar.

Another nail in Milan’s coffin came on 36 minutes, as Bernardo Corradi held the ball up for Stefano Fiore’s unstoppable drive.

It got even worse as just before the break Fiore doubled his tally when his volley took a deflection off Costacurta to make it 4-0.

There was controversy when Dario Simic charged down a Claudio Lopez header with his arm, but Pierluigi Collina judged the move to be involuntary.

Inzaghi and Clarence Seedorf came on for the second half and the Italian nearly got one back for Milan with a tricky Sereni reaction save from close range.

It was not a tense match, but Christian Brocchi was shown a straight red card for swearing at the referee and Collina was inflexible.

Lopez has been playing well since finally achieving match fitness and Abbiati just about blocked his left-foot volley with his legs.

The goalkeeper was again called to parry Corradi’s close range and a late Roberto Muzzi drive as Lazio kept on coming.

Inzaghi was the last Milan man to give in and his glancing header skimmed the crossbar, but there was at least one happy moment for him as his younger brother Simone stepped on to the field for Lazio.



Lazio 4-0 Milan

Scorers: Cesar 11 (L), Liverani 16 (L), Fiore 36, 42 (L)

Lazio qualify 6-1 on aggregate


Lazio: Sereni, Oddo, Stam, Mihajlovic (Muzzi 72), Favalli; Fiore, Albertini (Zauri 62), Liverani, Cesar; Corradi (S Inzaghi 71), Lopez

Milan: Abbiati; Simic, Laursen, Costacurta, Kaladze; Brocchi, Redondo, Serginho; Rui Costa (Seedorf 46); Shevchenko (F Inzaghi 46), Borriello (Gattuso 70)

Ref: Collina

Sent off: Brocchi 57 (M)

COPPA ITALIA: SS Lazio vs. AC Milan - preview
11.2 || scharatz

Lazio and Milan will play each other on Wednesday night for the second leg of the Coppa Italia semi final at the Olimpico stadium of Rome.

The first leg ended in an important 2-1 away win for Lazio which puts them on the front seat for the qualification to the Coppa Italia final. This means that Lazio will qualify with either a win or a draw while Milan will need to win at least 2-0 to be able to reach the final. A 2-1 win for Milan would send both teams to extra time and eventually the penalties. However, holders Milan, will not surrender without a fight, even though Ancelotti will most probably rely on the second line players that he used last week in the first leg.

Mancini seems to have easily solved the Stankovic departure problem as Fiore has taken a more central role in the midfield and became the leader of the team with excellent performances. In fact, thanks to this new intuition by Mancio, Lazio have won two consecutive and important away games against Milan and Parma which saw them a step closer to the Coppa Italia final and back in fourth place in Serie A.

Ancelotti's Milan is passing through an extraordinary moment of form and they will want to prove that last week's home loss against the biancocelesti was just an episode which will not occur again. For this reason, the rossoneri's coach is expecting his side to go to Rome and win so to be able to reach the second successive Coppa Italia final.


TEAM NEWS:

Lazio - Mancini will have to play without Negro and Dabo, both injured, and Giannichedda and Couto, both suspended. The rest of the team should be more or less the same that defeated Parma away from home except for Sereni who will replace Peruzzi between the goal posts.

Milan - Ancelotti is expected to have another turnover for the Coppa Italia, especially since some key players face a late fitness test, in particular Maldini and Tomasson. Apart from them, Ambrosini will not be part of the match as he is still unavailable due to injury.


PROBABLE FORMATIONS:

Lazio (4-3-3): Sereni; Zauri, Stam, Mihajlovic, Favalli; Liverani, Albertini, Cesar; Fiore, Lopez, Corradi

Milan (4-4-2): Abbiati; Cafu, Nesta, Laursen, Serginho; Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf, Rui Costa; Tomasson, Inzaghi


PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Fiore (Lazio) - Now that he's back to his favourite role, in the centre of the midfield, behind the forwards, Fiore has been producing quality performances. Milan will need to hold him to stop Lazio's attacks.

Inzaghi (Milan) - After returning from injury last week against Lazio, Inzaghi showed his worth immediately by scoring a goal that keeps Milan's qualification hopes alive.

Ancelotti takes on Trap
10.2 || scharatz

A club versus country row is about to erupt after comments made by Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti.

The tactician today insisted that he would do everything in his power to deny Italy a number of his players in the February 18 friendly against the Czech Republic.

"We’ll do what we can to stop our players from being called up," he said at Milanello this afternoon.

"When you consider that we have got the Milan derby on the Saturday after and then the Champions’ League, the fewer players we lose the better. If I was Trap I would be aware of this."

Ancelotti’s stance may cause some real problems for Giovanni Trapattoni with the 2004 European Championships on the horizon.

In fact, there were reports yesterday which suggested that the tactician would ignore any players for the Finals who pulled out of pre-tournament friendlies.

"This is not an attack on Trapattoni," continued Ancelotti. "It is also relevant to other countries.

"There are some players here that could easily feature for their national sides but others who could do without an international game."

When asked which of his players he would ‘allow’ to join up with the Azzurri, he responded with Pippo Inzaghi.

"A game for Italy could be of use to him after his recent injury problems but there are others who could suffer if selected," he explained.

The former Milan and Roma midfielder also dismissed claims that he may one day Coach Inter or Lazio. "I could never join those clubs because of my past," he concluded.

Simic extends till 2007
9.2 || Seamus

Croatian defender, Dario Simic, has extended with Milan till the 30th of June 2007.

Previously, his contract expired on the 30th of June 2005.

Ancelotti sees Roma threat
9.2 || scharatz

Carlo Ancelotti insists that Roma are his side’s number one rivals for Lo Scudetto. But the Milan boss isn’t ruling out Juventus.

That is the assessment of the tactician the day after Roma’s scintillating 4-0 destruction of the Bianconeri.

"The capital side were great," he told ‘Radio Anch’Io Sport’ on Monday. "Juventus were never in the game.

"I think the match was won in midfield where Dacourt, Mancini and Emerson played really well. The tie ended for Juve at 2-0 when Paolo Montero was sent-off."

That result has left Roma five points behind Milan, with Juve a further three adrift. Yet Ancelotti is not ignoring the Turin threat.

"There are still plenty of games left in which anything can happen," added the former Italian international.

"Roma and Juventus are two teams to be fearful of even if the Giallorossi are our most dangerous opponents right now.

"They also have the advantage of not having the Champions’ League to think about this term. But don’t count out Juventus.

"I think the defeat could hit Juve hard mentally but not hard enough to see their title bid come off the tracks.

"It was a heavy loss but Lippi has a side that knows how to pick themselves up as they have done in the past."

However, Roma and Milan do have a clear advantage over Juventus defensively. Roma have conceded 9 goals, Milan 10 but Juve a massive 25.

"That is an important statistic," added Ancelotti. "History shows that you usually win the League with a mean defence."

Rui can’t stop scoring
9.2 || scharatz

After going three years without a goal, Manuel Rui Costa has scored in consecutive home games for Milan.

The playmaker scored his first League goal since April 2001 against Ancona in Week 18 but was on target again yesterday in the 2-1 win over Perugia.

"I’ve finally got over my drought," said the Portuguese star. "Hopefully I can keep on this path for now."

Rui Costa started the game from the bench but he made an immediate impact as a substitute when he curled in a wonderful free-kick.

"I just work hard everyday," added the former Fiorentina player. "When I’m asked to play I just aim to be ready.

"Could my free-kick lead to Lo Scudetto? I hope so but I don’t know. It was just important that we won."

Milan are now five points clear of Roma after the Giallorossi thumped Juventus 4-0 last night.

AC Milan 2:1 Perugia - report
8.2 || scharatz

Rui Costa 74 (M), Pirlo pen 77 (M), Fresi pen 83 (P)
Stadio San Siro


Manuel Rui Costa bagged his second goal in three games to help put Milan on the way to a tricky victory.

Milan were five points clear at the top of the table going into this game, but Perugia have often caused upsets against the Rossoneri. They have already held Carlo Ancelotti's men to a 1-1 draw in Week 3 and fielded new signings Marcelo Zalayeta and Dario Hubner upfront.

Despite the return to full fitness of Pippo Inzaghi, Milan stuck with Andriy Shevchenko and Jon Dahl Tomasson.

The Rossoneri had a strong start and kept up the pressure, but Zeljko Kalac performed a good reaction save on Shevchenko's angled drive and a fierce Kaka' solo effort.

Perugia always provided an aerial threat and Giovanni Ignoffo nodded just wide of the far post.

On 33 minutes the Grifoni really should have taken the lead at the San Siro. Paolo Maldini's slip in the box allowed Fusani to steal the ball, but Perugia were unable to squeeze a shot through as the Milan defence rushed to his aid.

The home side came out fighting for the second half and laid siege to the Perugia goal with shots raining in from Tomasson, Kaka' and Marcos Cafu.

Giuseppe Pancaro placed his strong header from a Pirlo free kick over the bar from six yards.

Kaka's header was then cleared off the line by Ignoffo, so Ancelotti threw on Manuel Rui Costa and Pippo Inzaghi for the final 25 minutes.

It proved a decisive substitution, as soon after the Portuguese international curled a simply stunning free kick in off the crossbar. Rui Costa had gone for three years without scoring for the Rossoneri, but this is his second in three games.

That opened the floodgates and Kalac brought down Inzaghi for a penalty moments later. Andrea Pirlo stepped up and converted despite the Australian goalkeeper getting a hand to it.

The game still wasn't over, as with eight minutes left on the clock Giuseppe Pancaro saw red for a last man foul on Luca Fusani. Former Juventus defender Salvatore Fresi took the resulting penalty and converted to reopen the game.

Perugia refused to give in and Do Prado's angled drive shaved the far post with Dida beaten.


Milan: Dida; Cafu, Maldini, Nesta, Pancaro; Seedorf (Rui Costa 67), Pirlo, Gattuso; Kakà (Serginho 81), Shevchenko, Tomasson (Inzaghi 67)

Perugia: Kalac; Di Loreto, Fresi, Ignoffo; Ze Maria (Do Prado 55), Giandomenico, Fusani, Obodo, Manfredini; Hubner (Brienza 62), Zalayeta

Ref: Trefoloni

Sent off: Pancaro 82 (M)

Ancelotti keeps options open
8.2 || scharatz

The pressure is on Milan to see off little Perugia this afternoon, but Carlo Ancelotti is keeping his cards close to his chest.

“Andriy Shevchenko will certainly start upfront,” he revealed, “but as to his partner I haven’t quite decided yet. It could be Kaka, Jon Dahl Tomasson, Pippo Inzaghi or Marco Borriello.”

The Rossoneri had been unstoppable in 2004, notching up eight wins on the trot between Serie A and the Coppa Italia, but their midweek 2-1 Cup defeat to Lazio rang alarm bells.

“This match with Perugia will be a very tough and physical affair,” warned Ancelotti. “Both sides really want the points and it will be a battle from start to finish, especially with players like Dario Hubner and Marcelo Zalayeta on the field.”

The Grifoni are yet to win a single League game this season, but already held Milan to a surprise 1-1 draw at the Stadio Curi back in Week 3.

Curiously, the leaders remain unbeaten on their travels in all competitions, but have already lost twice at the San Siro in Serie A and Coppa ties.

“Perhaps we have less space at home because visiting teams come here looking to close up and play the counter-attack,” mused the Coach.

“Thankfully I have a squad which allows me many different tactical systems and I honestly believe we can do well in all our objectives. As for winning those trophies, there are other elements such as luck and injuries everyone has to contend with.”

AC Milan vs. Perugia - preview
7.2 || scharatz

Milan could further extend their lead at the top of the table with their two closest contenders facing off this Sunday, but take on their very own bête noir.

Perugia have a long history of causing problems for the Milanese giants, including a shock 1-0 win at the Stadio Curi last season, a 3-1 result the year before and an historic 2-1 victory at the San Siro in 2000.

Serse Cosmi’s men may not have won a single Serie A game so far this season – a new club record – but they are one of only two teams to have held Milan on their travels in this campaign. The Grifoni continue to struggle with injuries, as Fabrizio Ravanelli, Eusebio Di Francesco and the suspended Nastos are unlikely to feature. However, Dario Hubner and former Juventus striker Marcelo Zalayeta are set to start in the San Siro.

There seems to be no stopping Carlo Ancelotti’s side at the moment and their five-point lead at the top could be further extended during this weekend. Since the three points for a win rule was introduced, no team has ever managed to hit the 48 mark after just 19 games.

They boast the strongest defence and second most prolific strike force with top scorer Andriy Shevchenko bagging 16 for himself. Pippo Inzaghi is slowly recovering from a long-term thigh injury and could make his comeback as a substitute in this game, but Cristian Brocchi, Kakha Kaladze and Massimo Ambrosini remain sidelined.



Milan (probable): Dida; Cafu, Nesta, Maldini, Pancaro; Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf, Rui Costa; Kaka, Shevchenko

Perugia (probable): Kalac; Ignoffo, Fresi, Di Loreto; Ze Maria, Obodo, Codrea, Giandomenico, Manfredini; Hubner, Zalayeta

Nesta not downhearted
6.2 || scharatz

Milan may have lost their first game of 2004, but Alessandro Nesta insists this isn’t the start of a dip in their fortunes.

“Up until now our results have been excellent,” he told 'Milan Channel', “and this slip up just means we must get back up and resume our path.”

The 2-1 Coppa Italia defeat to Lazio was a surprise result that could rule the trophy holders out of the Final.

“We can still make up for our errors at the Stadio Olimpico and turn this tie around. It was a bad start and it’s often difficult to recover from that, but we could have equalised in the second half.”

Nonetheless, the Rossoneri have made it clear this season that their main target is the Scudetto and that five-point lead at the top could be further extended this weekend.

First they must see off plucky Perugia, who are yet to win a single Serie A game this season but already held them 1-1 in Week 3.

“Serse Cosmi’s side has changed a great deal over the January transfer window,” continued Nesta, “and are always unpredictable. With our strike force we will score eventually, so it is important not to concede.”

That front line is further empowered by the return to full fitness of Pippo Inzaghi, but all eyes will be on the battle of joint runners-up Roma and Juventus on Sunday night.

“Whatever the result at the Stadio Olimpico will suit us just fine,” said the former Lazio captain.

COPPA ITALIA: AC Milan 1:2 SS Lazio - report
5.2 || scharatz

Lazio have one foot in the Coppa Italia Final after a 2-1 first leg victory against holders Milan. Goals from Stefano Fiore and Fernando Couto saw the capital side collect their first win at San Siro against the Rossoneri for 14 years.

Milan went into the tie in good shape having won their last eight games. They also welcomed back Pippo Inzaghi after a 50-day stint on the sidelines because of injury. Yet the Rossoneri couldn’t have made a worse start as they went behind in the first minute.

Martin Laursen passed the ball back to goalkeeper Christian Abbiati, but his attempt to clip it back to the Dane resulted in the ball hitting Stefano Fiore and rebounding into the back of the net.

Milan’s attempts to get back into the match were tame. Serginho headed wide from a corner, before a last ditch Couto challenge saw Inzaghi mess up a great chance to equalise as he converged on goal.

Lazio ‘keeper Sereni was forced to make a great save on 21 minutes when Tomasson’s flick header almost ended up in the corner of the net. Yet it was the away side that doubled their lead in the 36th minute.

Sinisa Mihajlovic, who had already caused problems with his set pieces minutes earlier, put in a corner which eventually found Corradi. The Italian’s shot was turned in from close range by Couto with Abbiati stranded. Milan 0 Lazio 2.

With two away goals already in the bag, you could have forgiven some Lazio fans of thinking that qualification was already secured. Yet that hope was shattered in first half injury time when Inzaghi latched on to a Rui Costa pass to shoot the ball across the face of the six-yard box and the ‘keeper to make it 2-1.

The second half opened with an early scare for Lazio as Mihajlovic almost headed into his own net. The away side then went within centimetres of extending their lead when former Milan favourite Albertini struck the post with a shot from just outside the box.

Sereni had to be at his best to keep out Inzaghi on 54 and then Borriello on 69. Milan should have then been awarded a penalty when Giannichedda clearly handled in the area but referee Rosetti didn’t see it.

Milan pushed forward but it was Lazio who had two more decent efforts. Fiore saw his diagonal shot shave the post, before Abbiati saved with his feet from Zauri in the last minute. Milan will now have to win in Rome by scoring at least twice next Wednesday to go through.

Milan 1-2 Lazio
Scorers: Fiore (L) 1, Couto (L) 36, Inzaghi (M) 45

Milan: Abbiati; Simic (Cafu 77), Laursen, Nesta, Pancaro (Borriello 61); Brocchi, Redondo, Serginho; Rui Costa; Inzaghi (Kaka 77), Tomasson

Lazio: Sereni; Stam, Couto, Mihajlovic, Zauri; Fiore (Favalli 83), Albertini, Giannichedda, Cesar (Lopez 71); Muzzi (Liverani 57), Corradi

Ref: Rosetti

Milan exclude Vieri bid
5.2 || scharatz

Milan won’t be making a summer swoop for Inter striker Christian Vieri says Vice-president Adriano Galliani.

Reports in Italy over the past few days have suggested that the striker will leave his current club and Milan have been strongly linked.

Yet Galliani, who was rumoured to have met Vieri at a charity event earlier this week, insisted that the 31-year-old is not in their plans.

"There is absolutely no chance of seeing Vieri at Milan," said the Rossoneri chief. "We already have Pippo Inzaghi, Andriy Shevchenko and Jon Dahl Tomasson.

"We’ll add a young forward to these three players. I can categorically exclude the arrival of a big name striker."

COPPA ITALIA: AC Milan vs. SS Lazio - preview
5.2 || scharatz

Milan will be hosting Lazio at the 'San Siro' stadium on Thursday night for the first leg of the Coppa Italia TIM Cup.

The current Serie A leaders are passing through an excellent moment, having won all their matches since the start of 2004 and incremented their league lead to five points over closest rivals, Roma and Juventus. The strength of Milan seems to be that whoever Ancelotti decides to play and whatever tactic is used, the team does not lose any technical and physical quality.

In fact for this match, the rossoneri mentor is expected to field most players of the second line-up and will also see the return of Filippo Inzaghi from injury which has kept him out for over a month now.

It will not be easy for Lazio and Roberto Mancini knows this. The biancocelesti have not won a match at San Siro against the rossoneri for the past 14 years and with Stankovic's departure and current problems that Lazio are facing, the indications are not very positive for them.

However as Mancini well said, 90 minute matches are not won just by the players' names but also by other factors such as concentration and determination. The Lazio coach will be hoping his players will have these characteristics when they face Milan to stand a chance of passing to the final, an objective which has increased in importance following their European debacle. This obviously means that Mancio will play his best possible formation and hope his players will repeat the performance displayed in the same stadum some months ago, but with a different result.


TEAM NEWS:

Milan - Ancelotti will most probably rest some of the regular starters while he will play from the first minute Filippo Inzaghi who should partner the in-form Tomasson up-front.

Lazio - Only Nergo is unavailable for Mancini, so he has nearly a full team to choose from as.the Coppa Italia is too an important objective for Lazio to play with the second-string players.


PROBABLE FORMATIONS:

Milan (4-4-2): Fiori; Simic, Laursen, Maldini, Pancaro; Serginho, Redondo, Seedorf, Rui Costa; Inzaghi, Tomasson

Lazio (4-4-2): Peruzzi; Oddo, Stam, Mihajlovic, Favalli; Fiore, Giannichedda, Liverani, Cesar; Corradi, Inzaghi


PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Inzaghi (Milan): Apart from the result, this match is very important for Milan to test Inzaghi's conditions following his injury. Ancelotti is looking forward to have the Italian international 100% back as this gives him a chance to rest Shevcenko once in a while.

Inzaghi (Lazio): Filippo Inzaghi's brother, Simone, has already stated that he will do what he can to stop his brother from reaching the final of the Coppa Italia. This match will see an interesting duel between the two brothers who for a strange coincidence they both have just recovered from their respective injuries.

Pippo set for comeback
4.2 || scharatz

Milan striker Pippo Inzaghi will return to action in Thursday’s Coppa Italia semi-final against Lazio.

The Italian international has been sidelined with a calf injury since December 21 but he will be back at the Olimpico.

"Inzaghi will start," stated boss Carlo Ancelotti. "How long will he get? We’re not sure. We’ll have to see how he is feeling at half time.

"I doubt that he will stay on the field of play for the entire 90 minutes but he will do well as he is in good shape. He just needs match fitness.

"He’s worked very hard in recent weeks and looked very lively in training. He is an important figure for us and we know what he is capable of."

Milan have dealt admirably with Inzaghi’s absence. They have sometimes played with Kaka and Rui Costa supporting Shevchenko, or have fielded Jon Dahl Tomasson instead.

The latter, in hot form right now, will probably start alongside Inzaghi against Lazio tomorrow night.

Ancelotti is also likely to make a number of other changes to his side with a crucial League game against Perugia on Sunday.

Paolo Maldini will be rested in a defence which should see Dario Simic, Martin Laursen and Giuseppe Pancaro feature.

In midfield, both Fernando Redondo and Christian Brocchi will be given another chance to shine after their good performances in the 2-1 win over Siena last Wednesday.

Tomasson wants Milan future
3.2 || Seamus

Jon Dahl Tomasson has pledged his future to Milan despite a number of clubs being interested in his services.

The Dane has really caught the eye in recent weeks with some crucial goals but he may soon be relegated to the bench once Pippo Inzaghi returns from injury.

"I know that a lot of clubs in Italy and abroad are keen on me and that is very pleasing," said the former Newcastle flop.

"Yet I really want to stay at Milan. I’m part of an important club, in fact I’m at the number one club in the world."

Tomasson is proving to be a valid member of the Milan squad as they continue in their quest to win the Scudetto, the Champions’ League and the Coppa Italia.

"I want to win everything this year," added the international forward. "I know that will be difficult but I’m very ambitious.

"I believe that we have an unbelievable amount of quality at this club and we really could win it all."

Milan’s next game is on Thursday when they face Lazio in the first leg of their Italian Cup semi-final. The other last four match is between Juventus and Inter.

Ancelotti has Roma fear
3.2 || scharatz

Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti is hoping Juventus will beat Roma on Sunday – because he fears the Giallorossi in the title race.

"A draw would probably be the best result as we would move seven points clear of them both if we beat Perugia," he told the ‘Gazzetta dello Sport.’

"However, if you look at the fixture list then it may be better for us if Juventus actually win in the capital.

"That’s because they have the same schedule as us with Serie A, the Champions’ League and the Coppa Italia still to play for.

"Roma have just the League and the UEFA Cup left. That may leave them with some crucial energy towards the end of the campaign."

Many see Milan as favourites to win Lo Scudetto now having gone five points clear at the top. Yet Ancelotti is remaining cautious.

"We’re not satisfied with the gap," he added. "There is a real desire here to step even harder on the accelerator.

"We can’t allow ourselves to just stop now. My players must just concentrate on playing with the intention of winning.

"This is no time to start raising our voices because the road to the Scudetto is still a long one."

Although Ancelotti has joked in the past few weeks that a good old fashioned plate of pasta is the reason behind their success, he’s today revealed their real secret.

"There is great harmony throughout the squad," he added. "I have 25 players who are all ready to work hard. They don’t create problems and they all accept my decisions."

Milan chase Parma duo
3.2 || scharatz

Scudetto chasing Milan are understood to have started talks for the Parma duo of Alberto Gilardino and Daniele Bonera.

The Tardini outfit are expected to lose more of their star players in the summer and both men have numerous admirers.

It was believed that Juventus were in pole position to sign the Under-21 internationals but the Rossoneri have joined the chase.

Gilardino has had a fantastic last year in which he has developed into Italy’s most promising striker.

He has particularly impressed this term after he did a wonderful job at replacing Adriano during his three-month injury lay-off.

Bonera, 23, is an old school Italian defender who can play either in the centre or as right-full back.

Milan are understood to have tabled a £6m bid for the two men but the Tardini outfit believe that is too low.

The Gialloblu want closer to £10m for the pair.

Bologna 0:2 AC Milan - report
1.2 || webmaster

Scorers: Shevchenko 19 (M), Tomasson 89 (M)

Clinical finishing from Andriy Shevchenko and some dogged defending allow Milan to extend their lead at the top of the table.

Bologna are also on fine form since the arrival of Hidetoshi Nakata on loan from Parma, and the home side had the best of the early play.

Tomas Locatelli aimed a free header straight at Dida, while Carlo Nervo failed to make the most of a good Nakata pass.

However,it was the Rossoneri who took the lead on 19 minutes. Andriy Shevchenko took advantage of slack marking to spring the offside trap and nod in from eight yards.

Soon after there were timid penalty appeals for a Cesare Natali push on Kaka', but the referee waved play on.

Just before the break Manuel Rui Costa's low cross found Kaka in the six-yard box, but Gianluca Pagliuca performed a stunning reaction save to prevent the Brazilian adding to his seasonal tally.

There were controversial moments before half-time, as Pirlo appeared to handle a Nervo cross in the box, while Giuseppe Pancaro clashed with the winger in a separate off the ball incident.

Bologna increased the pressure towards the end of the first half and some desperate defending prevented Locatelli's slide-rule pass reaching Igli Tare.

Milan picked up the pace after the break and Shevchenko sprung the offside trap to turn an angled drive inches wide of the far post.

There were more penalty appeals when Alessandro Nesta appeared to block a header with his arm, but once again the referee waved play on as the two players were very close together.

Dida managed to push a powerful Nakata effort round the post with some difficulty as the pressure increased, leaving Milan room to counter-attack and Kaka's curling shot shaved the woodwork.

The Rossoblu refused to give in and Dida was made to work hard on two powerful Pecchia attempts from the edge of the box.

Bologna poured forward and in the final minute Serginho's floated pass was chested down by Jon Dahl Tomasson and the Dane lobbed Pagliuca to make the points safe for Milan.

Bologna: Pagliuca; Zanchi, Natali, Moretti; Nervo (Bellucci 48), Nakata, Loviso (Meghni 67), Pecchia, Sussi (Terzi 67); Locatelli, Tare

Milan: Dida; Cafu, Nesta, Maldini, Pancaro; Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf (Redondo 77); Rui Costa (Serginho 62), Kaka'; Shevchenko (Tomasson 82)

Ref: Pellegrino





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