Kaka hails AC Milan fans
30.4 || webmaster
Milan star Kaká hopes the Rossoneri fans will be their 12th man for Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final with Manchester United.
The San Siro outfit hosts the Red Devils in the return leg and the Brazilian is hoping to feel the same magic atmosphere he found at Old Trafford last week.
“That game was a real spectacle and I am convinced the second leg will be another amazing match – perhaps even more amazing than the first one,” Kaká told uefa.com.
“I was impressed by the atmosphere inside Old Trafford, even at half-time when Manchester were losing 2-1 the United fans were still singing and cheering on their team,” explained the attacking midfielder.
“I am sure our fans will show the same kind of spirit. We haven’t enjoyed a great season, but our supporters have been brilliant and have been by our side throughout.”
Milan were defeated 3-2 thanks to a late goal by Wayne Rooney, but Kaká is confident that his side has a great chance of progressing to the Final in Athens.
“We left Old Trafford a little bit disappointed on Tuesday night because of the late goal we conceded, but not with our heads down.
“I don’t want to take anything away from the quality of United’s play and Rooney’s goal, it was an incredibly good finish.
“If the match had finished 2-2 I still feel we would have a mountain to climb, although those away goals are very important,” he explained.
“Losing the first leg is not the end of the world and I believe we have a great chance of turning the tie around at the San Siro,” concluded Kaká, the Champions League top scorer with nine goals.
In the meantime, Milan police chief Gian Valerio Lombardi confirmed that the sale of alcohol will be prohibited from 7am local time in the area surrounding the Stadium, city centre and Linate airport.
“The decision has been taken after incidents occurred in the past on the occasion of international ties, also due to the fact that supporters were allowed to buy alcohol before the match,” read an official statement.
Kick off is scheduled for 7.45pm GMT with the winners facing either Chelsea or Liverpool in the Final on May 23 in Athens and will be designated as the home team.
Ronaldo hails 'incredible' Kaka
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Milan striker Ronaldo has praised his Rossoneri teammate and fellow Brazil international Kaká. “He is an incredible player.”
The 25-year-old is considered by many to be one of the best players in the world and was a target for Ronaldo’s former outfit Real Madrid.
“Ricky is an incredible player, he is strong and fast, as well as skilful, and is always focused on the goal,” said Ronaldo during the television programme Controcampo.
“There is no risk of him leaving Milan, he is fine here and I am sure this is where he will stay,” added the former Inter man.
“Who do I prefer between him and Cristiano Ronaldo? I would always take Kakà, Cristiano has some great tricks but Ricky is decisive and has an eye for the goal like few other players around.”
Ronaldo has scored seven goals in 13 games for the Rossoneri since his January move from Real Madrid and he confirmed that the secret of his impressive form lies in Milanello’s enthusiastic environment.
“I am thrilled to be here, it is a winning team and it is great to work in such a peaceful atmosphere” explained the striker.
“I came here to make my contribution and I am pleased that the entire team has improved. It’s not just down to me, many players have improved lately.
“I am glad to be here, I wanted a challenge, and that pushed me to join Milan. I still wanted to prove that I am a top class player in a great team in the most challenging football League – Serie A.”
Ronaldo also commented on goalkeeper Nelson Dida, whose latest poor performances have been criticised by the Press and fans.
“Anyone can make mistakes. I don’t understand why they are saying all these things. It’s difficult for me to accept it because he is the most professional player I have ever seen.
“He is always the first one to arrive and last one to leave training. In any case, he is relaxed and feeling good, I am sure he will show us what he can do.”
Inzaghi: "I'm ready for Manchester United"
29.4 || webmaster
Pippo Inzaghi is polishing his scoring boots for Wednesday’s semi-final against Manchester United, as he seems certain to push Alberto Gilardino on to the bench.
“I feel ready and am in good shape,” said the Milan striker. He is the best Italian scorer in Champions League history with 40 goals in 67 games – 56 in European competition overall – and netted a crucial strike in the 2-0 quarter-final victory at Bayern Munich.
Gilardino was preferred in the lone striker role in the first leg at Old Trafford, but was very disappointing in that 3-2 defeat.
“It is flattering to know that the fans are expecting my goals, but I am convinced that to beat Manchester United we will need a great Milan performance, not just from me.”
With Carlo Ancelotti resting Kaka, using Clarence Seedorf for only 65 minutes and playing Gilardino for the entire 90 in the 1-0 win at Torino on Saturday, it seems likely that he will use Inzaghi supported by those two creative midfielders.
“It is wonderful to feel so much confidence in my abilities, because that really helps. I can guarantee I will give it my all, just as my teammates will. We hope to give our fans and ourselves a performance on a par with our game in Munich.”
The Rossoneri were in trouble during that quarter-final when they were held 2-2 on home turf by Bayern, but qualified by winning the second leg 2-0 in Germany.
Now they are again called upon to overturn a negative situation, but this time Inzaghi points out they have an advantage.
“There are games you cannot wait to play in. It is a Champions League semi-final and we know that we’re facing a tough side, but we are also aware of our own strength. Plus we are playing at San Siro and that is a valuable bonus.”
Ancelotti also hinted that Gennaro Gattuso has recovered from a strain to the sole of his foot, but the only doubt remains in defence.
“At the moment only Paolo Maldini is a concern, but we have another four days to get him fit,” said the Coach.
Ancelotti drops Manchester United hints
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Carlo Ancelotti has hinted at the line-up that will play against Manchester United on Wednesday. “Only Paolo Maldini is a doubt.”
Milan rested several stars, including Kaka, for today’s 1-0 win away to Torino that propelled them into third place.
“We played a good first half, then in the second Toro improved a great deal. We could have done better with the extra man towards the end, but then we got a little tired,” said the Coach.
“The important thing, in any case, was to get the three points and that is what we did.”
Clarence Seedorf’s first half goal proved decisive at the Stadio Olimpico and the line-up gave clues for the starting XI against Manchester United.
Gennaro Gattuso and Maldini were not part of the squad in Turin, but Ancelotti was confident on the midfielder’s recovery from a bruise to the sole of his foot.
“Right now, the only player who is in doubt for the semi-final is Maldini,” he noted.
Alberto Gilardino played the entire 90 minutes and was very disappointing in the first leg at Old Trafford, so this would suggest he will be on the bench at San Siro to make way for Pippo Inzaghi.
Kaka did not step on to the field and Seedorf lasted just 65 minutes, so Milan are likely to use a 4-3-2-1 system against Manchester United with these two creative midfielders supporting Inzaghi.
Torino 0:1 AC Milan - match report
28.4 || webmaster
Scorer: Seedorf 25 (M)
Clarence Seedorf maintained Milan's march in Serie A, but Torino will need a better performance than this to avoid relegation.
The Rossoneri again rested some top stars for Wednesday's Champions League semi-final with Manchester United and had Kakha Kaladze suspended. Toro desperately needed points to avoid the drop in these final weeks, having picked up one in four games. Former Milan men Christian Abbiati and Francesco Coco faced their old teammates, but Simone Barone sat out a ban.
Roberto Stellone nodded off target and Cristian Brocchi's volley whistled wide of the upright.
Ardito deflected Ronaldo's effort out for a corner and Alessandro Rosina was abandoned by his teammates on the counter, eventually stopped by Alessandro Nesta.
Clarence Seedorf broke the deadlock with a powerful strike. The Dutchman took advantage of the extra space left by a back-tracking defence to unleash a fierce right-foot drive that slotted into the top corner despite Abbiati getting a hand to it.
The Granata were defending so deep that even Nesta got forward to have a show charged down on the edge of the area. Milan hit the back of the net again when Abbiati only palmed a Brocchi shot into the path of Ronaldo, but it was ruled offside. Seedorf was running every attack in Kaka's absence and set up a good chance for Marcos Cafu.
Rosina was Torino's only inspired player and skipped into the box, but the ball ran away from him. It was mostly one-way traffic, as Andrea Pirlo curled two efforts just wide of the far post and Ronaldo scuffed his finish from nine yards.
Gianni De Biasi had to make changes and at half-time threw on Roberto Muzzi for the disappointing Coco, while Yoann Gourcuff replaced Massimo Ambrosini.
Toro almost equalised in bizarre fashion, as Gilardino cleared a free kick on to Giuseppe Favalli's back and it ricocheted over the bar. Nelson Dida then flapped a cross off Muzzi's head and smothered Rosina's follow-up.
Gilardino fired a good Gourcuff cross well wide as he only snatched at the volley, while Muzzi was furious when he felt he had been hauled down by Nesta clear on goal, but the linesman awarded the free kick against the Toro striker. It appeared to be a mutual pushing and shoving match.
Gilardino was stopped for offside and booked for dissent, so he will be suspended for the next Serie A tie.
Dida did nothing to boost his confidence, as he completely missed a corner kick and Muzzi drilled wide of the far post with the goal at his mercy. Marek Jankulovski replaced Seedorf for a tactical reshuffle.
Torino again felt hard done by as Nikola Lazetic dispossessed Cafu and ran towards the area, but the referee judged it to be a foul.
Substitute Jankulovski drilled wide from 25 metres with his trusty left foot and a weak Ronaldo angled drive failed to trouble Abbiati. Ronaldo was a little more effective when running down the left flank, as Oscar Brevi hauled him back and earned a second yellow card.
Gourcuff wasted a golden opportunity to kill off the game, hesitating when clear on goal with only Abbiati to beat. The Frenchman had a terrible match and in the final minute gave away a foolish free kick on the edge of the area. Ronaldo rushed out to charge it down from Muzzi, going too quickly and earning a yellow card. At the second attempt Muzzi drilled it through the wall and out.
Torino: Abbiati; Comotto, Brevi, Franceschini, Balestri; Lazetic (Ogbonna 80), De Ascentis, Ardito, Coco (Muzzi 46); Rosina (Gallo 84), Stellone
Milan: Dida; Cafu, Nesta, Bonera, Favalli; Ambrosini (Gourcuff 46), Pirlo, Brocchi; Seedorf (Jankulovski 65); Gilardino, Ronaldo
Sent off: Brevi 73 (T)
Galliani reveals transfer secrets
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Adriano Galliani has revealed Milan’s bid for Ronaldinho, why Kaka won’t “do a Shevchenko” and why Gigi Buffon saved Nelson Dida.
The Rossoneri have long been linked with a bid for the Juventus goalkeeper, one that may yet be revived this summer.
However, the transfer guru explained precisely why they decided to renew Dida’s contract earlier this month.
“We offered him another three years on his deal after having asked Juventus for Buffon. The Bianconeri told us he was not for sale.”
The revelation will do little to boost the Brazilian’s confidence, as his stuttering form has seen the fans and media turn on him.
Dida’s contract was set to expire at the end of this season and he had been linked with a Bosman move to Barcelona.
Galliani also responded to more newspaper talk on Milan’s future plans if they qualify for the Champions League, including rumours Kaka will join Real Madrid.
“Kaka will certainly be staying with us. It is what he wants, last summer he signed a contract until 2011 and so he will remain at Milan.
“Even if we do not finish in the top four this term, he is 105 per cent sure of staying. There will not be another Andriy Shevchenko saga.”
The Ukrainian caused controversy when he demanded a transfer to Chelsea and Milan have struggled to find an adequate replacement, as Ronaldo is cup-tied.
The name most commonly associated with the Rossoneri is another Brazilian – Ronaldinho – with President Silvio Berlusconi repeatedly stating they are in “pole position” to sign the Barcelona player.
“None of our emissaries have ever spoken to his agent Roberto de Assis,” insisted Galliani. “Barcelona own his contract and I don’t think they want to sell their star. Buying Ronaldinho would be the icing on the cake. We have the cake, but I doubt we’ll get to taste the icing.”
Cairo: Make me proud
27.4 || webmaster
Torino chief Urbano Cairo has urged his player’s to turn on the style against Milan. “We need a once-in-a-lifetime performance,” he insisted.
The Granata host the Rossoneri at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday and are in desperate need of returning to winning ways, as they are only two points above the relegation zone.
“Carlo Ancelotti will probably field many reserves in view of their Champions League match with Manchester United next week, but Milan remain a strong side,” said Cairo to Studio Sport.
“I don’t think they will already be focused on the semi-final, therefore I don’t expect any favours. We will have to do our best and play a once-in-a-lifetime game to defeat them.”
Cairo also declared that he hopes the town municipality will soon make a decision on the mythical Filidelfia stadium, where Torino used to play before 1960.
“I want to organise a march in order to awaken public opinion and the politicians. I hope that the mayor Sergio Chiamparino will take part as well.
“The Filadelfia has been standing derelict for the past 10 years and I think it is time to rebuild it,” explained the Granata official.
AC Milan reveal dream duo
26.4 || webmaster
Milan Vice-President Adriano Galliani has revealed that he would love to see Kaká playing alongside Man Utd ace Cristiano Ronaldo.
The two attacking midfielders came face-to-face at Old Trafford on Tuesday in the Champions League semi-final and will do battle again at the San Siro next week in the return leg.
“Who is better, Kaká or Ronaldo? We wouldn’t change Kaka for Ronaldo, but we would definitely like to have both of them,” said Galliani in an interview to The Sun.
“If you had our Ronaldo in attack with Kaká and Cristiano behind, then you could calmly go to the cinema and, without worry, ask how Milan got on,” added the former Lega Calcio chief.
“However, life doesn’t allow you to have everything you want. We are happy with Kaká, he is the top scorer in the Champions League with nine goals.
“He scored twice at Old Trafford and has the pure class of a phenomenon.”
Galliani mainly fears Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney in view of the big match at the San Siro on Wednesday, when a 1-0 win would allow the Rossoneri to progress to the Athens Final.
“We know our own strengths and we will approach this as a positive week, preparing in the best way possible.
“Of course, United are opponents of the highest level. After the first game against Bayern I was still certain we would qualify because they do not have attackers of the calibre of Rooney and Ronaldo.”
“In any case, I agree with Rooney that Manchester United and Milan have the same chance of qualifying,” concluded Galliani.
In the meantime, all 67,500 tickets available for Wednesday’s match at the Stadio Meazza have been sold, as confirmed by the club’s website.
Ronaldo hits out at Capello
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Milan striker Ronaldo has attacked his former Coach Fabio Capello. “I don’t want any kind of relationship with him.”
The Brazilian joined the San Siro outfit in January from Real Madrid in a £5m move, also motivated by an apparent lack of faith from the former Juventus boss.
“Capello often contradicted himself,” said Ronaldo in an interview to Spanish television channel Canal+.
“Sometimes he would tell me I had to train harder than everyone else and at other times he would tell me I was the best player in the world,” added the former Inter star.
“The truth is that I did not, and I do not want, any kind of relationship with my former Coach now that I am in Milan.”
Ronaldo confirmed his difficult relationship not only with the Pieris-born tactician, but with the entire Merengues management.
“I would like Real Madrid to win La Liga, but only for my former teammates, not for those that are in charge of the club. They did not behave as you would expect of people who manage such an important side.”
The Brazilian was also asked to comment on Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo, who played an important role in the Red Devils’ Champions League win on Tuesday.
“I believe he is one of the best players in the world. Ronaldinho? I would like to have him here in Milan, but I think it will be very difficult for that to happen,” concluded Ronaldo.
Buffon to join AC Milan?
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Reports in Italy suggest that Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon will join Milan in the summer, with Christian Abbiati heading the other way.
The world champion has kept his promise of helping the club return to Serie A after last summer’s Calciopoli demotion, but is now ready to move on to pastures new.
According to Il Corriere dello Sport, Buffon has finalised a pact with the Old Lady and has agreed to turn down any offer from Inter, in order to avoid problems with the supporters.
Buffon’s likely destination therefore becomes Milan, who are reportedly ready to offer Juventus £25m plus Christian Abbiati, who is currently on loan with Torino.
Sporting director Alessio Secco reiterated on Wednesday that Buffon is not for sale, but refused to make any promises, fuelling speculation that a summer move is indeed on the cards.
In the meantime, the Bianconeri are looking for possible alternatives and have eyed Celtic goalkeeper Artur Boruc.
The Polish No 1, who was also linked with a move to Milan, is contracted to the Bhoys until 2009. He impressed this term with some stunning displays in the Champions League.
Sheva cheers on AC Milan
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Andriy Shevchenko hopes Milan beat Manchester United and admits he misses “many things” about the Rossoneri.
“To play a Champions League Final against Milan would be very difficult for me, but I am not thinking about it, as we still have a tough second leg to go through,” he said after Chelsea’s 1-0 win over Liverpool.
“If destiny decides, then I will face Milan. What do I miss about the club? So many things, above all that Milan are a family for me. That is all I need to explain it. I had seven wonderful years there.”
There are three Premiership sides in the semi-finals, but Shevchenko is backing the Italians to overturn their 3-2 first leg defeat at Old Trafford.
“Milan have a great chance at San Siro,” he told Sky Italia television. “They played very well in Manchester in the first half, then changed a little in the second, but Kaka was absolutely wonderful. To qualify all Milan have to do is play the way they know how.”
Shevchenko has struggled to adapt to life at Chelsea after his controversial summer move.
“English football is tough to get used to, especially in the first four months having been at Milan for seven years. I think one must adapt to situations and that’s what I’m trying to do. I am working for the team and the important thing is that the results come.”
The Ukrainian was substituted during tonight’s 1-0 win over Liverpool at Stamford Bridge.
“Today we played well. It will be a difficult second leg in a special stadium with a heated atmosphere, but the team is ready. We created chances tonight and everyone made sacrifices for the squad, as we all ran and worked together, so we are happy.”
The Champions League Final is on May 23 in Athens.
Ancelotti confident of Final spot
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Milan Coach Carlo Ancelotti is confident of eliminating Manchester United from the Champions League. “It’s only half-time and it’s all to play for.”
The Rossoneri were leading 2-1 at Old Trafford in the semi-final first leg, but conceded a stoppage-time Wayne Rooney strike to go down 3-2.
“It is only to be expected that there is bitterness at the way the game ended,” he told ‘Milan Channel.’
“Rooney’s goal penalised us considering the overall performance of the squad, as we did not deserve to lose. In practical terms, nothing has really changed. We are at half-time and the other 90 minutes will be on our turf. That is a very important factor.”
Clarence Seedorf suggested that losing the first leg was actually an advantage for Milan and Ancelotti agreed with this interpretation.
“We have an excellent chance of reaching the Final and even if it had ended 2-2, we still would’ve had everything to play for.
“It is similar to what happened against Bayern Munich. If we had closed the first leg winning 2-1, then we would have gone to Germany a little more prudent and with the brakes on. The 2-2 scoreline forced us to go out there and win.
“Now we are faced with the same conditions, but with a slight change that could yet prove decisive – we are at San Siro.”
Yet Ancelotti cannot help but be disappointed at losing the match after leading 2-1 through a Kaka brace.
“We had the chance to go 3-1 up, so at that stage things would have definitely turned in our favour, but we must not forget we were playing Manchester United away from home and to keep them under control for an hour was very important.
“This is what gives me optimism and confidence for the second leg. We did it there, we can certainly do it here.”
Gennaro Gattuso and Paolo Maldini suffered injuries in Manchester, but both hope to be ready for the May 2 showdown.
“They are both doing better and our objective over the next few days is to recover all of them and improve the condition of others,” added the Coach.
“Pippo Inzaghi, Serginho and Kakha Kaladze – who is suspended in Serie A and therefore can train hard for a week – can all give their contribution next Wednesday.”
Maldini: I can make it
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Paolo Maldini assures he can recover in time for the Champions League semi-final with Manchester United.
The defender came off with a recurring knee injury at half-time in last night’s 3-2 first leg defeat at Old Trafford.
There had been reports the veteran would require surgery that’d end his season – perhaps even put an early end to his career – but Maldini is optimistic.
“I will do everything possible to be back for the second leg at San Siro on May 2 and maintain we have all the necessary conditions to do so,” he told the official Milan website.
Maldini and Gennaro Gattuso left the field with injuries during the game and he thinks that was the key to this loss.
“When Rino and I went off the pitch, I think United’s attitude and approach to the match changed,” he noted.
The Rossoneri had been leading 2-1 in Manchester only for a stoppage-time Wayne Rooney strike to seal the 3-2 final score.
Seedorf: Defeat helps AC Milan
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Clarence Seedorf believes it will be easier for Milan to reach the Champions League Final having lost the first leg to Manchester United.
“We know that we must win at San Siro and this team has proved that when it needs to win, it does not fail,” he said after the 3-2 semi-final defeat. “I may seem strange for saying this, but I believe it.”
The Dutchman is confident Milan can turn the tie around in the second leg on May 2.
“We will have our fans behind us, just as the English supporters backed them. I can already imagine San Siro as I’ve never seen it before. If we managed to overturn a negative scoreline at Bayern Munich, then of course we can do it on our own turf. San Siro is our extra man.
“We made a mistake in the final minute and of course winning at Old Trafford would have been the best, but having taken the lead away from home in such a wonderful stadium gives you the feeling you’re close to your objective.”
The tie is still wide open, as Kaka scored two away goals and have a very strong home record in Europe.
“I have an excellent rapport with Kaka,” continued Seedorf, who set up the first goal. “We understand each other immediately and when we have the opportunity to play close together we can do great things.
“The more time went on, the better we combined. We had worked out where we could hurt United. The first half went brilliantly, as we were organised and did not concede any dangerous counter-attacks.”
Gattuso ready for return
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Milan are confident that Gennaro Gattuso will recover in time for the second leg of their Champions League semi-final against Manchester United.
The midfielder was stretchered off while the Rossoneri were leading 2-1 at Old Trafford, before his team went on to lose 3-2 thanks to a late goal by Wayne Rooney.
“Rino Gattuso suffered a knock to the sole of his foot and left the field due to the pain,” read a note on the club’s website.
“However, we are optimistic about his recovery for Milan-Manchester. He should be available for the return leg at the San Siro.”
The former Rangers star declared that he would do all he could to recover in time for the crucial clash, where a 1-0 win would be enough for the Rossoneri to progress to the May 23 Final.
“I will do everything I can to play at the San Siro. I was annoyed to have to leave my teammates – I very rarely leave the field and it really burned me,” declared Gattuso after the match.
“The result was also painful considering how we played, so obviously we are angry, but don’t worry – we will go for it. At Old Trafford, we have proved to be a great team.”
Paolo Maldini was also forced out of the game at half-time after suffering a recurrence of his knee injury.
However, the club were not willing to make any prediction on his recovery, as his situation will need to be evaluated further.
Nesta rues missed chance
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Alessandro Nesta was disappointed after Milan conceded a late winner against Manchester United in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final.
Kaká scored twice before the break, but his brace wasn’t enough to secure victory, as the Rossoneri allowed Wayne Rooney to net with only seconds remaining.
That gave the Red Devils a narrow 3-2 lead ahead of next week’s second leg at the San Siro.
“We played well in the first half,” said Nesta. “Unfortunately we stopped playing after the break and that is where we made our biggest mistake.
“We thought we were out of danger, like against Bayern, but it didn’t turn out that way. Anyway, we will fight next week. They were fired up thanks to their fans, but the return leg will be different.
“We have great supporters and that will be confirmed in the second leg. I am sure we can do it,” concluded Nesta.
Massimo Ambrosini is also feeling confident ahead of Wednesday’s match at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza.
“We are sad about how it ended tonight, but optimistic for the next match,” said the midfielder. “We sat back too much and let United take the initiative.
“Having conceded that late goal will force us to play an attacking match – but that might not be a negative aspect.
“A 2-2 draw would have allowed us to play a waiting game. Instead, now we know we must win. We are ready for the return leg,” concluded the Rossonero.
Kaka closes in on European award
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Milan hero Kaka won the challenge with Cristiano Ronaldo in Manchester and spoke of his Ballon d’Or chances.
“I have always said the Ballon d’Or depends on what I do with Milan. First of all I think about the team, then secondly these personal rewards come as a consequence.”
The Brazilian netted a brace at Old Trafford despite the 3-2 defeat to Manchester United in the Champions League semi-final last night.
“They were two tough goals, but I could have scored the third in that move with Clarence. The ball got away from me and I couldn’t quite reach it.”
The second strike saw him humiliate the United defence, as his flicks forced Patrice Evra and Gabriel Heinze to collide.
“I saw that was my only opportunity to get to the ball, so I stuck my head in and hoped for the best.”
Kaka has to be a contender for the European Player of the Year award, as he is top scorer in the Champions League with nine goals in 11 games.
The Rossoneri appeared to be in control and were leading 2-1, but the Red Devils fought back to sneak a 3-2 stoppage-time win.
“I think it was a psychological problem. The whole team went deep and at the end of the day we paid for that, as Manchester have great movement and you need to really push them to keep United down,” added Kaka.
“I have full faith in my squad and believe Milan are the favourites. I already said after the Bayern first leg that to win the Champions League you need to play games that will enter the history books.
“We did that in Munich and will again on May 2. I have great confidence in our chances of reaching the Final.”
Milan kept their heads despite going a goal down almost immediately thanks to a Nelson Dida howler – and Kaka admitted there were worries after seeing Roma destroyed here 7-1 in the quarter-finals.
“After five minutes there is obviously the fear that Manchester can go goal crazy. This is why my equaliser was so important and I celebrated so much.
“Our thoughts ever so slightly went back to Roma, seeing how quickly they managed to score, but Milan showed character and kept going. That is what we should have done in the second half, too.”
Oddo takes the blame
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Massimo Oddo praised Wayne Rooney, but insists his winning goal could have been avoided at Old Trafford.
“I think this result is not negative for Milan,” said the defender after their 3-2 defeat to Manchester United in the Champions League semi-final.
“Obviously it would have been better as a draw, but unfortunately as a team we made a completely avoidable error in stoppages.”
Cristian Brocchi gave the ball away in midfield and Rooney was able to give United a 91st minute winner at Old Trafford.
The two teams face off again on May 2 and Oddo maintains a place in the Athens Final is still very much up for grabs.
“I believe the second leg and qualification are within our grasp if we play as we know how at San Siro.”
Oddo also defended teammate Nelson Dida, who seemed shaky, particularly when flapping a Cristiano Ronaldo header into his own net after six minutes.
“Dida was unlucky in the first goal and the second with the ricochet. I think Rooney scored a great goal for the third, as nobody expected him to hit it first time like that. I doubt any goalkeeper would stop it.”
Gattuso angry at himself
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Gennaro Gattuso was furious at himself for suffering an injury, but promised to “do battle” in the second leg.
Milan were leading 2-1 when Rino was stretchered off with a strain to the sole of his foot and the team went on to lose 3-2 against Manchester United.
“There is a week and I will do everything I can to be there. In any case, we will certainly do battle at San Siro,” said the visibly irritated midfielder.
“I was annoyed to have to leave my teammates. I very rarely leave the field and it really burned me. The result was also painful considering how we played, so obviously we are angry, but don’t worry – we will go for it.
“To reach the Final we need a great performance, but we knew that anyway, even if it had ended 2-2. Now I am convinced the 70,000 fans in San Siro will give us a helping hand.”
Although they have to win in the second leg on May 2, Milan have two away goals at Old Trafford.
“I don’t see any reason why we should be worried. After this match we emerge a strong outfit with real champions and we will go into the second leg relaxed.
“We certainly showed we are a tough side, as we fought back from a goal down to lead and the fans pushed Manchester on to victory. It is not a bad result.”
Gattuso was jeered as he was stretchered off, but did not take it personally from a club he has so often been linked to.
“The fans all over the world are the same. They cheer on their own colours and jeer the opposition, that’s as it should be.
“Those rumours about me and Manchester United have been going for years, but I sweat blood for the Milan jersey and it is part of my life. I want to keep wearing it for a very long time.”
Ancelotti: We gifted Man Utd win
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Carlo Ancelotti was left to rue mistakes in Manchester. “We dominated for an hour and a draw would have been the right result.”
Milan were leading 2-1 at Old Trafford, yet conceded a stoppage-time goal for the 3-2 defeat in the Champions League semi-final.
“It’s disappointing, but we were foolish and gifted Manchester United the victory when a draw was probably the more accurate reflection of the game,” said the Coach.
“We fell back in the final stages, couldn’t move the ball around the same way and gave away a silly deciding goal in stoppages.
“We knew Manchester never give in and that there would be moments of difficulty, as they are very aggressive and play at a high tempo. The shame is that we played better for an hour, but in turn that gives us more confidence for the second leg. We’re in better shape than we were in the Bayern tie at this stage.”
The Rossoneri drew 2-2 on home turf in the first leg against Bayern Munich, but went on to qualify by winning 2-0 in Munich.
The game seemed to change in Manchester when Gennaro Gattuso was stretchered off with an injury, as that changed the balance of the midfield.
“Gattuso picked up a knock to his foot and we obviously hope he can recover. He is a very important player for us – the heart and soul of the team.”
The star of the show was undoubtedly Kaka, who bagged a brace at Old Trafford.
“Kaka could have netted a hat-trick, but that was our last real chance before we handed Manchester United the reins. I think it was above all a psychological problem, as we became afraid and tried to cling on to the result. That is a dangerous approach, as at this level you risk being overcome.
“The key was that we were too static in possession. The full-backs were worried about protecting their wings, so we were forced to play the long ball and Alberto Gilardino was stuck between their centre-backs. We did great for an hour, less so towards the end.”
A 3-2 defeat is not a bad result away from home, especially considering that Manchester United took the lead after just six minutes.
“We conceded on a set-piece, but after 15 minutes we really got into gear and for an hour were excellent. We did very well to limit Cristiano Ronaldo, who was hardly ever really dangerous when he came forward.”
Galliani: Gattuso loss the key
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Milan Vice-President Adriano Galliani believes the turning point in the 3-2 Old Trafford defeat was losing Paolo Maldini and Gennaro Gattuso.
“I think we were penalised by the double injury, as you feel the difference when champions like Maldini and Gattuso go off. We gave away the ball for the third goal as well, but 3-2 away from home is not a bad result and we should keep our heads up,” said the transfer guru.
The Rossoneri were leading Manchester United 2-1, but succumbed to a stoppage-time Wayne Rooney goal.
“I believe that Manchester are not the favourites to go through, as it remains 50/50. At this level there is incredible balance and it was only broken here at the 91st minute, but there are another 90 to go.
“Clarence Seedorf set up a great chance for Kaka that could have gone 3-1 up. Without wanting to do down Daniele Bonera or Cristian Brocchi, if Maldini and Gattuso had stayed on I doubt we would have lost tonight. The fact remains when Rino went off we were winning 2-1.”
With the second leg at San Siro on May 2, it is possible both players will also be ruled out of that match.
“Maldini’s knee is swollen. He did not receive a knock, it was a recurring problem. Gattuso has a great deal of pain in the sole of his foot and has trouble even walking at the moment. We will have to see what the medical staff tell us tomorrow.”
The highlight for Galliani was without doubt Kaka’s brace, winning the duel with Cristiano Ronaldo.
“Despite seeing that other great champion Cristiano Ronaldo tonight, I continue to believe Kaka is the best in the world. He’s the top scorer in the Champions League with nine goals and can give his best in this role as support striker, which also serves to balance out the midfield.”
Yet Kaka’s incredible form has helped to hide deficiencies in the other strikers in Europe this term, as Alberto Gilardino was disappointing.
“I think almost all great teams have a player who makes the difference. Gilardino was physically dominated tonight and worked hard. We have Ronaldo at home who cannot play in this competition, but next season he will give a big hand to Milan in the Champions League,” added Galliani.
“Had we not conceded in stoppages, we would be here talking about an extraordinary Milan performance. We conceded a late goal against Bayern Munich as well, this seems to be our destiny, but we overcame that and can do so again.”
Milan had drawn 2-2 in the first leg of that Champions League quarter-final at San Siro, only to win 2-0 in Germany.
“After the first leg against Bayern we were far more worried and upset than we are now. Manchester are a great side, but we can beat them in San Siro.
“Manchester are extremely aggressive on home turf and I think they will lose that edge on their travels without this crowd pushing them on.”
Milan went 1-0 down after just five minutes thanks to a Nelson Dida howler on Cristiano Ronaldo’s header.
“Dida, like all goalkeepers, can have a mistake and then make up for it. I don’t feel he should be blamed, football is all about incidents and these things can happen. It was a lucky goal for United.
“We should all stay calm, as I am sure Milan are entirely capable of overturning this result in the second leg. As I said, 3-2 away from home is not a bad result.”
Rooney fears Rossoneri
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Wayne Rooney is well aware that the Champions League semi-final is wide open as Manchester United must visit San Siro.
The England international scored a brace, including the stoppage-time winner to beat Milan 3-2 in the first leg at Old Trafford.
“It’s very important. It was a difficult game and it was important we got the victory tonight with Milan scoring two goals. We kept going till the end and I’m glad we got the win,” he told Sky Italia.
“We keep fighting till the end, that’s the way we play. We had the better of the first half and went in 2-1 down, so we knew we had to run at them and got a good victory in the end.”
However, the Rossoneri have scored two away goals and have an excellent home record in Europe, so the tie is still wide open. Are Manchester United the favourites?
“I don’t know. We went to Milan two years ago and it’s a tough place to go. We’re happy with our position, but I expect Milan are as well. We will go out there and try to hold out.”
The second leg at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza is on May 2.
Kaka: So close and yet so far
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Kaka saw the defeat in Manchester as a wasted opportunity, but is confident Milan can still reach the Final.
“These were important goals and it’s a shame it ended this way, but we have the second leg at San Siro and our fans will help us to reach the Final once again,” said the Brazilian.
His brace had given them the lead at Old Trafford, but Manchester United fought back to win 3-2 in stoppages.
The second leg of this Champions League semi-final will be at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on May 2.
“This is a bitter defeat, as we could have drawn or even won. We went too deep in the second half,” added Kaka.
The Rossoneri star was named Man of the Match and won the ‘duel’ with fellow potential best player in the world Cristiano Ronaldo.
“I have always said the battle was between Milan and Manchester United, it’s all newspaper talk that there was a rivalry between myself and Ronaldo.”
Manchester United 3:2 AC Milan - match report
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Scorers: Ronaldo 6 (Ma) Kaka 22, 37 (Mi), Rooney 60, 91 (Ma)
Kaka's brace shook Old Trafford, but Manchester United fought back to win 3-2 in the very open Champions League semi-final.
Nelson Dida recovered from a shoulder injury to start in the stadium where Milan won the 2003 Champions League, while Alberto Gilardino returned from his ban for this semi-final first leg, but Ronaldo was cup-tied. Manchester United were hoping to repeat their remarkable 7-1 win over Roma, but were missing Rio Ferdinand, Gary Neville and Nemanja Vidic.
Alessandro Nesta got back quickly to deflect a Wayne Rooney shot over the bar, but from the resulting corner kick Dida lost sight of the corner kick and only got a hand to Cristiano Ronaldo's header, instead bundling it over the line. It was a howler from the Brazilian and gave Manchester United the lead after just six minutes. Although originally credited as an own goal, it was later awarded to Ronaldo.
Dida made up for it a little later, flying to push away a Michael Carrick volley into the ground.
Massimo Ambrosini couldn't get enough power on his header from a Massimo Oddo cross, then O'Shea performed a crucial challenge on Clarence Seedorf inside the area.
Milan were growing and on 22 minutes drew level. Kaka did his trademark change of pace to run on to a Seedorf through ball, blaze past Gabriel Heinze and stroke an angled left-foot drive into the bottom far corner. The Brazilian consolidated his position as Champions League top scorer this season on eight goals in 11 games.
Ryan Giggs' header looped well over and the Welsh wizard's cross soon after just went past Rooney's outstretched foot when it just needed a touch to send it past Dida.
The Milan goalkeeper beat away a Ronaldo snapshot with his palms and Nesta was able to clear the loose ball as it came back in.
If Manchester United's goal was granted by a defensive howler, then the Reds restored the favour. Kaka headed the ball forward, flicked and headed again to send Patrice Evra and Heinze clattering into each other. So the Selecao star had an open goal to aim at and give Milan the lead and a precious second away strike.
Moments later Kaka unleashed a missile from over 30 metres that Edwin Van der Sar palmed round the post. From the corner Nesta's header was over. Evra was booked for holding Oddo and will be suspended for the second leg. Soon after he brought down Gennaro Gattuso, risking another card.
On the stroke of half-time, Andrea Pirlo's free kick drifted past the near post.
Paolo Maldini suffered a recurrence of his knee injury and was replaced by Daniele Bonera in the second period. Manchester United had a great chance to draw level when a corner came to Carrick completely unmarked at the back post, but he somehow sidefooted wide from six yards.
Seedorf played a defensive role, clearing the pass before it could reach Paul Scholes. During that move Gattuso went down with that recurring injury and was stretchered off to make way for Cristian Brocchi.
Pirlo's pass over the defence sent Kaka clear on the counter, but this time his finish across the face of goal was off target.
A splendid team move sparked by Massimo Ambrosini went through Kaka, Seedorf and back for the Brazilian to volley over as he lost his balance under pressure.
However, just as Milan seemed to be in control, Scholes flicked the ball up in the air for Rooney to shake off a challenge and prod past Dida as he rushed forward desperately. Again, the goalkeeper got a touch, but it was not enough.
There was controversy when Kaka and Giggs were both booked for an incident, as the referee stopped play to award a free kick when Kaka was rushing forward.
Rooney's lob was cleared and it fell to a Darren Fletcher strike that Dida saved brilliantly at point-blank range. The 'keeper also captured a deflected Giggs effort.
Giggs turned a free kick round the near post, although Kaka's challenge had been on the ball, not Scholes. Bonera did bring down Rooney in a similar position and was booked, though once again Giggs' set-piece was disappointing.
Former Juventus goalkeeper Van der Sar smothered a Pirlo free kick. Nesta's brave sliding tackle to close down Ronaldo saw both fly into the advertising boards and require treatment.
Heinze managed to close down Kaka's counter and Fletcher's angled drive was straight at Dida.
Cristiano Ronaldo dropped two defenders with his step-overs and Dida fingertipped it on to the side-netting.
Yoann Gourcuff replaced the extremely quiet Gilardino, who barely touched the ball all night. It was another substitute, Brocchi, who foolishly gave the ball away to Giggs in midfield in stoppages. The Manchester United man ran forward and Rooney hit a first-time shot low in at the near post to make it 3-2.
Milan: Dida; Oddo, Nesta, Maldini (Bonera 46), Jankulovski; Gattuso (Brocchi 53), Pirlo, Ambrosini, Seedorf; Kaka; Gilardino (Gourcuff 84)
Manchester United: Van der Sar; O’Shea, Brown, Heinze, Evra; Fletcher, Carrick, Scholes; Cristiano Ronaldo, Rooney, Giggs
Ref: Vassaras (Gre)
AC Milan chief talks tactics
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President Silvio Berlusconi has stepped into the shoes of boss Carlo Ancelotti by revealing Milan’s tactics for the Manchester United tie.
The two teams meet at Old Trafford in the Champions League with pre-match speculation suggesting that the Rossoneri would start with a 4-3-2-1 formation.
However, Berlusconi has this afternoon revealed that the San Siro giants will be more attacking than that as they intend to field a 4-3-1-2.
“Tonight’s formation will see Alberto Gilardino upfront with Kaka being used as a second striker,” noted the former Prime Minister.
“Clarence Seedorf will then play in the position which is usually occupied by the Brazilian.
“As for the rest, it will be the usual Milan. I think Marek Jankulovski will play on the left side and he will be the one who will have to control this extraordinary Cristiano Ronaldo.”
Despite the task ahead of them, Berlusconi is confident that the six-time European champions will prove their worth against the Red Devils.
“Milan rule on the pitch and can impose their kind of game,” he added. “I believe we can win in Manchester, keeping the prestige of Italian football high.”
The media mogul also dismissed fresh newspaper rumours that Milan are lining up a summer bid for Juventus ‘keeper Gigi Buffon.
“We have just renewed the contract of our Brazilian goalkeeper Nelson Dida and we believe in him,” he underlined.
“Therefore we do not need Buffon, who obviously I respect and whom I consider a great player.”
Buffon sparks AC Milan derby
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Both Milan clubs are in a race to sign Juventus and Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, according to reports in Italy.
The shot-stopper was one of the first players to commit his future to Juve after demotion, but he’s recently hinted that he’s ready to move on to pastures new.
After seemingly ruling out a transfer abroad, the Milanese giants are ready to make a bid for the former Parma man.
The Bianconeri have valued Buffon at £28m, a price Nerazzurri chief Massimo Moratti is allegedly ready to pay by possibly including Julio Cesar in the deal.
Milan are keen on signing the World Cup winner too, despite recently extending the contract of Nelson Dida.
The Via Turati club are also said to be monitoring the form of River Plate No 1 Juan Pablo Carrizo as an alternative to Dida or Buffon.
Juve President Giovanni Cobolli Gigli has confirmed that Buffon’s future is undecided after stating that his chances of staying were 50-50 to the Corriere della Sera newspaper.
Giggs fears AC Milan duo
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Manchester United winger Ryan Giggs has conceded that he is concerned about the Milan pair of Kaka and Clarence Seedorf.
The two teams face off against each other at Old Trafford this evening as they look for a place in the Champions League Final and Giggs has nothing but respect for the Rossoneri.
“Milan have the players to counter-attack well with Kaka and Seedorf, they float around looking to exploit gaps,” said Giggs to uefa.com.
“With the experience they have at the back they can sit back and defend comfortably and hit teams fast on the break. That is their main strength.
“I believe it will be a tight game, it will be close like 1999,” he continued, referring to the semi-final against Juventus which they came through with a 3-2 win in Turin.
“Most semis are close and these are two very good experienced teams who know the importance of what is at stake. It will be closely fought.”
United do have problems though as they have only 11 first team players fit as the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Gary Neville and Louis Saha are all out.
However, the 33-year-old is confident his side can do well nonetheless and has great trust in Cristiano Ronaldo.
“Ronni is flying this season,” continued the Welshman. “He is probably the best in the world right now. At his age and as a winger he is nothing short of brilliant.”
Six-time European champions Milan have prevailed in their three previous two-legged encounters with United and have won nine of eleven semi-finals in Europe’s top competition.
The match will kick off at 19.45 local time and has been assigned to referee Kyros Vassaras of Greece.
Manchester United (probable): Van Der Sar; Fletcher, Brown, Heinze, O'Shea; Carrick, Scholes; Ronaldo, Giggs, Rooney; Smith
Milan (probable): Dida; Oddo, Nesta, Maldini, Jankulovski; Ambrosini, Pirlo, Gattuso; Seedorf, Kaka; Gilardino
AC Milan don't fear Manchester United
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Carlo Ancelotti and Paolo Maldini are both in optimistic mood ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final between Milan and Manchester United.
The English giants knocked Roma out of the competition in the last round with the help of a 7-1 mauling at Old Trafford, but the Rossoneri are eyeing a place in the Athens Final.
“We don’t fear United, but we do respect them,” noted the Milanese captain. “United play some great football at home, but every game is different.
“I can’t see what difference the Manchester-Roma tie can have on our morale which is sky high at the moment.
“I think that United are a better side than they were two years ago [when Milan won 2-0 on aggregate] and their youngsters have matured, but I think Milan are up to the task.
“And I’m sure that the English, while watching Bayern Munich-Milan, were hoping to see the German side go through…”
The Italian giants are looking good again after a problematic first half of the season and the defender is eager for a repeat of the 2005 Final, when they were defeated on penalties by Liverpool.
“That loss in Istanbul still hurts,” added the former Italian international. “But our real motivation is that we are still in the running to achieve our primary objective this season – to win the Champions League.
“Our history over the last 20 years says that Milan are a club who have always been protagonists at home and abroad.”
Cristiano Ronaldo is being pinpointed as United’s danger man over the two legs and Maldini has explained exactly why.
“I think he is one of the top five players in the world,” he noted. “He has it all – pace, power, fantasy and an eye for goal. Will I mark him? Not man on man because we don’t play like that.”
Ancelotti is also aware of the Portuguese threat, but he’s a tactician who can field his own fantasista in the shape of Kaka – the tournament’s top scorer this term.
“Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo are amongst the best players in the world without a doubt,” stated the Coach.
“United will be without a few important players, but we can’t think too much about that. Our job is to play our game and do well.”
The former Roma midfielder also took advantage of the pre-match Press conference to silence Patrick Vieira, after the Inter man asked why they were allowed to enter the competition given their Calciopoli punishment.
“Vieira would have done better by keeping quiet,” he noted. “Milan have always demonstrated fair play in this tournament and everyone knows it.”
Zaccardo leans towards AC Milan
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Cristian Zaccardo has suggested that he would like a move to Milan should he leave Palermo in the summer.
The youngster has admitted that his future in Sicily has yet to be decided, but he seems to have clear ideas about what shirt he would like to wear if a move did occur.
“I will meet with the club officials at the end of the season to discuss my future,” noted the former Bologna man. “After all, there are a few things that need adjusting in my contract.
“Which club out of Juventus, Inter and Milan would I prefer if I was sold? I’ve always liked the Rossoneri…”
Zaccardo, a part of the victorious Italian World Cup squad, has been tracked by some big clubs in the past.
Fiorentina and Juventus have been associated recently, but Milan could also make a bid at the end of the season.
Zaccardo’s ability to play at right-back may be enough to convince them to swoop if Marcos Cafu does return to Brazil in June.
Fergie ready for AC Milan
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Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson is confident ahead of the Champions League clash with Milan.
The Red Devils host the six-time European champions at Old Trafford on Tuesday evening for the first leg of the competition’s semi-final.
However, the tactician is aware that it will not be easy to repeat the excellent match which earned his side the shocking 7-1 win against Roma in the last round.
“We know we will face a tough opponent, but we are ready and will give our all,” said Ferguson in his pre-match press conference.
“It will be very hard to repeat a performance like the one we offered against Roma, but we are confident that we can do well,” added the Reds’ boss, who will have to do without the likes of Gary Neville and Rio Ferdinand.
“We have many injured men and I might have some problems in deciding who to sit on the bench, but the team’s spirits are high and we are optimistic, I am sure the substitutes will meet our expectations.
“We are motivated, it won’t be easy but it is logical that we must face a strong side in the semi-final.”
Ferguson also commented the rumours pairing Gennaro Gattuso with Manchester, as the world champion is highly considered by the Scottish tactician, although he declared that his future is with Milan.
“I don’t like to answer questions on market talks, but I admit he is a player I like a lot and I think he has improved recently. He used to be more aggressive, now he is very balanced.
“In any case, Milan have several strong players like Andrea Pirlo in the midfield. Rafa Benitez said that Carlo Ancelotti should assign Paolo Maldini to Cristiano Ronaldo? Is he the new Milan Coach?” added Ferguson smiling.
“Maldini has always been one of my favourite players, he played a great match against Bayern. He is an experienced footballer, but Milan field him not only for that reason, but also because he can still give a lot to the team.
“I would also like more experience for my side, but when I look at Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo I can only think that the future lies ahead of us,” concluded Ferguson.
Manchester United (probable): Van Der Sar; Fletcher, Brown, Heinze, Evra; Giggs, Carrick, Scholes; Ronaldo, Solskjaer, Rooney
Galliani keeps European hope
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Vice-President Adriano Galliani is not sure that Milan are stronger than Manchester United, but is confident ahead of their Champions League tie.
The Rossoneri travelled to England on Monday morning in view of Tuesday night’s big match at Old Trafford, when they will play their fourth semi-final in the past five years.
“We will face Manchester United with our usual spirit, aware that it will be the ninth semi-final in the Silvio Berlusconi era and that is amazing if we think back to what happened last summer,” said Galliani.
“Are we stronger than them? I’m not sure. I watch a lot of international football and I believed that we were stronger than Bayern, but that is not the case with United.
“They are very strong when they counterattack, they are very fast and are a dangerous side, although each match is different from all the others.
“In any case I am sure it will be a fascinating challenge, in a wonderful stadium with a fantastic crowd. There are all the perfect conditions for this to be a great match,” added the Rossoneri official.
The Red Devils qualified for the semi-finals thanks to an impressive 7-1 win against Roma at Old Trafford in the previous round, but Galliani does not seem overly worried.
“I didn’t see that match and I can’t judge. I am sure that result will not condition our performance.
“We are doing well, in the last 18 matches we equalled Inter’s run, unfortunately we were plagued by injuries in the first part of the season. That is when the Nerazzurri earned such a wide lead over us,” concluded Galliani.
The semi-final will kick off at 7.45pm local time and will be refereed by Kyros Vassaras of Greece.
Gattuso commits to AC Milan
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Milan midfielder Gennaro Gattuso has admitted that he likes English football but he believes his future will be with Milan.
The world champion has been linked with a move to Manchester United, whom he will face in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final at Old Trafford on Tuesday.
“I once said my dream was to play in England and that the team I liked best was United,” Gattuso told The Sun.
“I really like the atmosphere in England and I think my style is probably more suited to English football than Italy,” added Ringhio.
“You cannot be anything other than proud when the United Coach wants to sign you. Some contacts were made in the past, however I see my future at Milan now.”
Gattuso was part of the Milan team which defeated the Red Devils on the way to the 2005 Champions League Final against Liverpool in Istanbul, an evening he will never forget.
“After that Final I wanted to quit the club, not because I didn’t like Milan any more but because I was so sad about what had happened,” explained the Rossonero.
“Now I would really like to play Liverpool in the Final again. First however, we must face United. Cristiano Ronaldo is probably among the top three or four players in the world but United’s whole team will be strong.
“Both United and Milan have some players left from when we met in 2005, but this match will be totally different from then,” concluded Gattuso.
Dida to face United
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Nelson Dida has recovered from his shoulder injury and should return for Milan against Manchester United on Tuesday night.
The Rossoneri face the Premiership side in the Champions League semi-finals with the first leg at Old Trafford sure to be a tense encounter.
The goalkeeper was injured in the match against Messina 10 days ago, damaging the same shoulder he had already injured during the Coppa Italia match with Roma earlier this term.
But the Brazilian has reportedly recovered completely and should be on the pitch for the European clash, when he hopes to repeat his excellent performance against Bayern Munich in the previous round.
However, Coach Carlo Ancelotti will have to do without Filippo Inzaghi, who is not yet at full fitness and will leave the striker’s role to Alberto Gilardino.
Milan have been semi-finalists 11 times in the competition and only twice have they failed to go on to the Final.
Furthermore, they have won six and lost two of their previous two-legged ties against English opposition and hope that Old Trafford will confirm itself as a lucky venue.
The Salford venue was also where the Rossoneri won the 2003 Champions League Final against Juventus, beating their rivals 3-2 on penalties after a goalless draw.
Cafu considers new deal
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Milan defender Marcos Cafu has announced that he might extend his contract with the Rossoneri. “Adriano Galliani said we can discuss a renewal.”
The Brazilian, who will turn 37 in June, is contracted to the San Siro outfit until the summer and stated in November that he had received an offer in Brazil, which he was considering carefully.
“Galliani gave me the good news, maybe I can extend my contract with Milan,” said Cafu.
“We will meet this week to discuss the details, in order to understand if we can reach an agreement,” added the former Roma star.
“I have been hearing people say that I am old for the past ten years, but I have never given up.
“I believe I can still play for a long time, I have no intention of stopping. Now, chances are that I might stay here for another season rather than returning to Brazil,” concluded Il Pendolino.
Cafu, who arrived at Roma in 1997 from Palmeiras, joined Milan in 2003, playing 101 Serie A matches and 33 Champions League ties so far.
Milan are set to undergo a complete renovation process in their defensive department at the end of the current campaign, as veterans Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Costacurta seem likely to retire.
Ancelotti keeps options open
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Carlo Ancelotti has named a 25-man squad travelling to Old Trafford for Tuesday's clash.
With Nelson Dida a major risk due to a shoulder injury, he has brought along all four goalkeepers for the Champions League semi-final against Manchester United.
Milan have Alessandro 'Billy' Costacurta and Serginho in the side despite long-term injuries, although Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Nesta are expected to start.
Alberto Gilardino returns after missing the 2-0 victory away to Bayern Munich with a ban.
Ronaldo is unavailable for this competition, as he has already played for Real Madrid in the Champions League this season.
Milan squad: Dida, Kalac, Fiori, Storari; Bonera, Cafu, Costacurta, Favalli, Jankulovski, Kaladze, Maldini, Nesta, Oddo, Serginho, Simic; Ambrosini, Brocchi, Gattuso, Gourcuff, Kakà, Pirlo, Seedorf; Gilardino, Inzaghi, Ricardo Oliveira
Jordan: AC Milan can do it
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Former Milan man Joe Jordan thinks Manchester United can be defeated at Old Trafford and outlines how it can be done.
The Scotsman ought to know, as his Portsmouth beat Sir Alex Ferguson’s squad 2-0 a fortnight ago.
“We attacked them and used all our strength. We were fortunate with Rio Ferdinand’s own goal and Edwin Van der Sar’s error, but there wasn’t a single moment in that match when we released our grip,” he told ‘Il Giornale’ newspaper.
“That constant aggression is the only option against the strongest side in the Premiership. If I were Carlo Ancelotti, I would play with the 4-4-2 system at San Siro, but the 4-4-1-1 at Old Trafford.
“Even when Manchester United are under pressure, they always manage to score. In the first 20 minutes they’ll come for Milan like a wolf going for the jugular.”
Roma were thrashed 7-1 here in the quarter-finals, but Jordan does not think Milan will fall into the same trap.
“The Rossoneri are a lot more experienced in this type of game. Roma took the wrong tactical approach, as they were not prudent enough. Milan will not make that mistake and have players who are guarantees at this level.”
The two teams crossed paths in 2004-05, as Ancelotti’s men won both legs 1-0 to progress.
“Milan have a good history here, but Manchester have matured with Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo since then. They are the freshest and most potent of the four semi-finalists. Milan are more relaxed, but when I watch Kaka I always expect something wonderful to happen.”
Jordan is still fondly remembered by the Rossoneri fans, having made the move from Manchester United in 1981.
“I had been earning £25,000 per season, but got double those wages in Milan. I accepted that challenge after having rejected offers from Bayern Munich and Ajax when I was still at Leeds United,” added ‘Lo Squalo.’
“Milan were a grand club, more prestigious than Manchester, as it was the side of Cesare Maldini, Fabio Cudicini, Gianni Rivera and Nils Liedholm.”
Berlusconi advises Ancelotti
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Milan President Silvio Berlusconi has backed Carlo Ancelotti ahead of the Champions League semi-final with Manchester United.
“Ancelotti’s position is not up for debate,” insisted the patron amid reports his contract renewal depends on winning the European trophy this season.
The Rossoneri started the campaign with an eight-point Calciopoli penalty and had to go through the Champions League preliminary round.
Despite that situation, they are now comfortably in fourth place in Serie A and reached their fourth semi-final in five years.
“We have overcome the injustice that really hit us hard. Milan is always Milan, so when the injury list is clear, they return to being the protagonist this club always was.”
One of the reasons for their upturn in fortunes has been the January arrival of Ronaldo, who bagged a brace in the 3-1 win over Cagliari yesterday evening.
“It’s a shame he’s cup-tied and won’t be able to play at Old Trafford. We can see he is not just a great goalscorer, but also knows how to spread the play and provide assists. The whole team moves better with Ronaldo there.”
Berlusconi has always been very public in his tactical advice to Coach Ancelotti and gave his view of what approach to take on Tuesday.
“I think we will be in the Final to hold the flag aloft for Italy’s honour,” said the former Prime Minister.
“We have to step on to the field looking to win and that means controlling the tempo and the play.”
UEFA have assigned Greek referee Kyros Vassaras to this semi-final first leg at Old Trafford, assisted by Dimitrios Bozatzidis, Dimitrios Saraidaris and fourth official Christoforos Zografos.
They were also in charge of Chelsea’s 2-1 win away to Valencia in the quarter-final second leg, one of several positive results with English clubs.
In the four seasonal meetings officiated by Vassaras, the Premiership sides have always won. This includes Liverpool’s 2-1 win in Barcelona, a 2-0 Chelsea result over Werder Bremen and Arsenal’s 3-0 preliminary round victory at Dynamo Zagreb.
There is at least some consolation for Milan, as in the six games Vassaras has overseen this term, there were only two home wins.
The Rossoneri have crossed paths with the Greek official several times and only lost 2-1 to Celta Vigo at San Siro in the 2003-04 group phase.
They drew 0-0 at Celtic Park in 2004-05, won 2-0 over PSV Eindhoven in the semi-finals of the same tournament, beat Lens 2-1 and triumphed 1-0 at Lokomotiv Moscow in 2002-03 – the edition Milan won at Old Trafford.
Ronaldo: Let us entertain you
22.4 || webmaster
Ronaldo has scored seven goals in 12 games for Milan and reveals the secret of his newfound form. “We’re having fun!”
His brace last night sent the Rossoneri on their way to a 3-1 victory over Cagliari – their seventh in eight rounds.
“I have been in good physical shape for a month now and have always scored goals in my career,” explained the striker.
“I am very happy with how I’m doing here and how the whole squad is progressing. We are having fun.”
Many thought it was a gamble bringing him in from Real Madrid in January, but Il Fenomeno has proved his critics wrong.
“I wasn’t in the best form when I arrived, but I have improved a lot at this club. The summer training regime will be crucial, as it will set my legs up for the whole year.”
The only negative aspect of this move is the fact he is cup-tied, so Ronaldo cannot play in Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final against Manchester United.
“I will be cheering on my teammates and it’s a shame I can’t join them on the pitch. I am happy when I play, but I can’t do anything about this, so I have to sit back and bear it.”
Milan has changed Ronaldo in more ways than one, as he has shelved the trademark shaved head in favour of short dark hair.
“President Silvio Berlusconi asked me to let my hair grown and shave my beard instead. You know, if the President says something to you, then you have to listen,” he smiled.
Ancelotti sees 'predictable' Manchester United
22.4 || webmaster
Carlo Ancelotti urged his players to be more focused and looked ahead to the Champions League. “Manchester United are strong, but predictable.”
Milan are closing in on third-placed Lazio after their seventh win in eight games, but Ancelotti still had pointers for his men.
“We have been doing well for a while. Thanks to the Winter break, the return of some injured players and Ronaldo’s arrival, we improved a great deal,” commented the Coach.
Il Fenomeno scored a brace in the 3-1 win over Cagliari this evening, but for a while they risked letting the Sardinians back into the game.
“Andrea Pirlo’s free kick to seal the scoreline made me happy because he closed the match after we had opened it again with a bit of arrogance. We have to be more focused and learn to finish teams off.”
This is particularly important just days ahead of the Champions League semi-final at Old Trafford.
“Manchester United are quite predictable. They are an extremely strong side, but looking carefully you do understand how they operate.
“They are formidable counter-attackers and use their pace with Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo. If we don’t make the most of our possession, then that could create some problems for us.”
Nelson Dida and Pippo Inzaghi are injury doubts for Tuesday’s semi-final, but Sir Alex Ferguson also has problems with Rio Ferdinand out for two weeks after suffering a recurring groin injury against Middlesbrough today.
“Ferdinand is an important player for them and his absence – along with Nemanja Vidic – could make it difficult for Ferguson to field an all-new central defensive partnership."
The other Red Devils out of action are Gary Neville, Park Ji-sung, Louis Saha and possibly Kieran Richardson.
“As for Dida, Zeljko Kalac gives us security, as he is an excellent goalkeeper. We will only resolve the Dida issue at the last minute. He has to be 100 per cent fit if he is to play, as a shoulder injury for a ‘keeper is a big problem.”
Ancelotti rested most of his star names for the semi-final, fielding Clarence Seedorf in his preferred Trequartista position.
“It isn’t easy for him, as there is a lot of competition for that role from Kaka and we must try to avoid clutter in that area of the field. Seedorf can play there and he can be crucial at Old Trafford.”
Ricardo Oliveira gave another disappointing performance against Cagliari, highlighting why he has barely stepped on to the field of late.
“A striker needs to be relaxed and confident. Oliveira doesn’t have those elements at the moment, which is why things aren’t going his way. He did have a few good shots on goal and did the work I asked of him today, though.”
Nesta ready for Cristiano Ronaldo
21.4 || webmaster
Alessandro Nesta is not afraid of facing Cristiano Ronaldo and insists Manchester United should be worrying more about Kaka.
The Portuguese starlet wreaked havoc in the 7-1 drubbing of Roma, but Milan hope to avoid the same fate in next week’s Champions League semi-final at Old Trafford.
“I faced him two years ago and at the moment he really is at the top of his game,” noted the experienced defender.
“It will be tough, but you can stop Cristiano Ronaldo with organisation and by closing him down immediately.
“We watched the Roma game and that night everything went United’s way, scoring seven goals with as many attempts. Those are special evenings, but in the first leg you could not see such a vast difference between the sides, so we will go there looking for the win.”
Nesta instead believes that Sir Alex Ferguson is the one who should be concerned at taking on arguably the best player in the world right now – Champions League top scorer Kaka.
“We have many world class players here who are going strong, for example such as Kaka, so we have important factors working in our favour,” he told ‘Sky Italia’.
The first leg will be in Manchester – the same stadium where the Rossoneri last lifted the trophy in 2003, beating Juventus on penalties in the Final.
“It will be difficult to play at Old Trafford, as they have a remarkable crowd that gets fired up easily. This clash is worth a great deal, as our team has been criticised and penalised from all sides, so reaching another Final would be a marvellous feeling.”
Milan had originally been excluded from the Champions League due to the Calciopoli scandal, but an appeal saw them go through the Preliminary Round.
The Italians are the only side who made it to the quarter-finals both last season and in the current campaign.
AC Milan 3:1 Cagliari - match report
21.4 || webmaster
Scorers: Ronaldo 14, 69 (M), Suazo pen 74 (C), Pirlo 80 (M)
Ronaldo bagged a brace as a second-string Milan side disposed of Cagliari 3-1.
Carlo Ancelotti rested almost all the players expected to start in the Champions League semi-final with Manchester United, having created a relatively comfortable four-point cushion in their push for fourth place. Nelson Dida was out injured, making way for Zeljko Kalac. Cagliari lost Leonardo Colucci, Alessandro Conticchio and the suspended Paolo Bianco.
The Sardinians had the first effort, as a free kick was touched on for Daniele Conti and Kalac comfortably smothered the low strike. There were also penalty appeals for a Marcos Cafu handling offence that was considered involuntary, as he had been nudged in the back.
Clarence Seedorf and Ricardo Oliveira failed to get the final touch to the ball from six yards.
Milan broke through in controversial circumstances. Marcos Cafu's sliding tackle on Cristiano Del Grosso angered Cagliari, but the referee waved play on and he rolled across for Ronaldo's simple tap-in.
Cafu's angled drive was flicked on by Ronaldo's heel, but Il Fenomeno was in an offside position.
Diego Lopez performed a desperate tackle to stop Ronaldo tapping in after he had quickly exchanged passes with Gennaro Gattuso.
Cagliari were almost handed an equaliser with a lucky ricochet, but Andrea Capone did not react quickly enough, so Kakhaber Kaladze was able to clear.
Lopez was booked for a cynical tackle to stop Ricardo Oliveira's counter-attack, then D'Agostino volleyed just past the near post in a debatable offside position.
Yoann Gourcuff's powerful free kick was off target and moments later Cagliari lost the ball in midfield for Oliveira to sting Antonio Chimenti's palms.
The visitors also threatened with a quick break, as David Suazo hesitated just long enough for Kalac to rush out and close him down. Oliveira again went close, as his volley from a Gourcuff cross took a deflection to rescue Chimenti.
After the restart Capone split the Milan defence, but fell too easily when going for the ball with Kaladze and was told to get back up by the unimpressed referee.
Chimenti caught a Cristian Brocchi piledriver, then there was a double chance. Giuseppe Favalli's cross found both Oliveira's header and a flick on from Clarence Seedorf, but neither got the ball on target.
Cagliari had an even better chance. Suazo nutmegged Dario Simic and cut back for Capone to balloon over from six yards.
Ronaldo and Seedorf exchanged several paces on the edge of the area for a left-foot shot deflected out for a corner.
Massimo Ambrosini and Andrea Pirlo replaced Gattuso and Seedorf, rested for the Old Trafford match. Within seconds Pirlo had sent Oliveira running with a long pass and the cross missed Ronaldo's foot by inches.
It was only postponed by 30 seconds, as Chimenti flapped at Cafu's cross, so Ronaldo redirected the ball in from six yards with his chest! It was his seventh goal in 12 games for Milan.
Substitute Antonio Langella was sent clear and Kalac sprinted out of his area to kick the ball away - Marchini saw the open goal and attempted an ambitious lob off target.
The Sardinians kept pushing and Kaladze clumsily clattered into Capone as he ran on to Suazo's through ball. The referee pointed to the spot and Suazo sent Kalac the wrong way to make it 2-1 with 16 minutes to go.
Oliveira almost restored the two-goal cushion moments later with his angled drive fingertipped round the far post by Chimenti.
But Cagliari's tails were up and a free kick was whipped in just past Canini's outstretched foot.
Their heads were forced to drop again, though, as Pirlo curled in a magnificent free kick from 25 metres. He swung the ball in to the very top corner at the near post despite Chimenti's attempts to block.
The Rossoneri had to end their game in 10 men, as Kaladze picked up a second yellow card for a shirt-tug on Capone. Nonetheless, Chimenti had to beat away an Oliveira effort in stoppages.
Milan: Kalac; Cafu, Simic, Kaladze, Favalli; Gattuso (Ambrosini 68), Brocchi, Gourcuff (Jankulovski 81); Seedorf (Pirlo 68); Oliveira, Ronaldo
Cagliari: Chimenti; Pisano (Semedo 88), Lopez, Canini, Del Grosso; Marchini (Pepe 77), Budel, Conti, D'Agostino (Langella 68); Capone, Suazo
Sent off: Kaladze 87 (M)
Ancelotti wary of Cagliari threat
20.4 || webmaster
Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti is not underestimating Cagliari ahead of their Serie A meeting on Saturday night.
The Rossoneri are looking good to maintain their fourth place in the standings, but the tactician is not getting carried away – especially as he is also thinking about the Manchester United tie.
“Cagliari are a very well organised side,” stated Ancelotti on Friday afternoon. “They are dangerous on the counter attack.
“We are also facing an outfit which needs points. Parma’s win over Fiorentina has complicated things for many teams in the lower part of the table,” added the former midfielder.
“But winning boosts our confidence and gives us optimism and that is what we need, now we must continue what we have done so far.”
Turning to his starting XI, the former Juventus Coach is set to rest some big name players due to Tuesday’s Champions League commitments.
“[Goalkeeper] Nelson Dida will not be available tomorrow, we will see if he recovers in time for the match in Manchester.
“Kaka will not play against Cagliari, even if we are still deciding if he will sit on the bench or not.
“Andrea Pirlo will also sit out, while the defensive department will change a bit. In any case Paolo Maldini, Serginho and Filippo Inzaghi should be available for Tuesday’s match in England.”
Milan have had a difficult season, but the side have underlined their value over recent times both at home and abroad.
“This campaign started very badly for us, even if it wasn’t our fault, and could have had a bad ending,” added Ancelotti.
“The change was due to the players’ will to be protagonists on the pitch this year as well.
“No matter how things will end, the entire team must be thanked for its hard work. We did a lot and I am sure we can do even better.”
Ancelotti’s future has been a source of speculation recently, with some reports claiming that Silvio Berlusconi wasn’t keen on offering him a contract extension.
“This isn’t true, I speak to Berlusconi often and he never said that he didn’t want to offer me a new deal.
“Sometimes he criticises the team, but what he says to us is exactly what he says to the Press, there are no secrets.”
AC Milan push for Zambrotta
20.4 || webmaster
Reports in Italy are gathering pace that Barcelona full-back Gianluca Zambrotta is a summer target for Milan.
The Italian international was close to joining the Rossoneri after the World Cup Finals, but instead opted for a foreign adventure once Juventus were demoted to Serie B.
The versatile defender – who can play on both flanks – did have his difficulties in adapting to his new surroundings and La Liga, but denied he was set for another move.
However, the Spanish giants don’t consider him untransferable and Milan are looking to boost their full-back options for 2007-08.
The Italian giants could potentially have a shortage at the back given that Marcos Cafu and Serginho are rumoured to be on their way out, while Giuseppe Favalli turned 35 in January.
Now whispers in the peninsula claim that Zambrotta’s agent, Beppe Bonetto, is expected to hold talks with Barca directors in Spain over the weekend to assess his options.
The Camp Nou outfit invested £7m in him last summer and Milan hope that a similar amount of money will be sufficient to bring him back to Italy, seeing that he is already 30.
The former Como and Bari player had recently stated that he wanted to honour his Barcelona contract until it expires in 2010.
Gilardino unconcerned by criticism
20.4 || webmaster
Alberto Gilardino insists the criticism labelled at him this season is a positive. “It means that I am an important player,” said the Milan man.
The striker has struggled for consistency at times this term and although he’s netted 12 goals in Serie A, cheers have been mixed with jeers.
“If a player is criticised then it means that he is important for the team,” said Gilardino after his brace in the 5-2 win over Ascoli on Wednesday.
“That happens when a footballer is always called to prove something, because everybody expects a lot from him.”
With Milan now looking good to finish in the top four, the World Cup winner is eagerly anticipating next week’s Champions League trip to Old Trafford.
“I believe the Manchester United tie has arrived at an important time of the season for us,” explained the former Parma starlet.
“The two-legged game could tell us a lot about the team and our environment. We are eager to do well and we want to give our all to reach the Final.”
Milan are currently fourth in the table with a four-point lead over Palermo and will host Cagliari at the San Siro this weekend.
Milanese giants watch Trez
19.4 || webmaster
Both Milan clubs are in the hunt to sign Juventus striker David Trezeguet at the end of the campaign.
The Frenchman’s future in Turin is in doubt and he is expected to leave unless he signs a new contract which currently expires in June 2008.
Although he has been associated with a move to French champions Lyon in the past, reports in Italy today are claiming that both Inter and Milan are considering a swoop.
The Nerazzurri may require a new hitman if loan striker Hernan Crespo is called back to Chelsea for next season.
Roberto Mancini’s side, who already netted Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Patrick Vieira from Juve last summer, are ready to make the Bianconeri an enticing bid.
It is understood that Inter could offer the Argentine duo of defender Nicolas Burdisso and forward Julio Cruz.
Nevertheless, Milan may also stand a chance of poaching the former Monaco man by handing Juve Alberto Gilardino in return, given his lack of action since Ronaldo’s arrival.
Other clubs linked with Trezeguet in recent months are Spanish giants Barcelona and a Liverpool side who are expected to spend big during the summer.
Trezeguet, who was forced to stay with Juve following demotion last term, has struggled in Serie B and has only netted nine times so far.
Galliani confirms Carletto faith
19.4 || webmaster
Milan Vice-President Adriano Galliani has confirmed that Carlo Ancelotti will stay, dismissing the Coach’s worries.
The Rossoneri increased their lead over Palermo thanks to the 5-2 win at Ascoli, but the tactician warned the club that he wanted a contract extension, stating that he was eager to continue his adventure with the San Siro outfit.
“I think he will stay for a long time, but I don’t believe there is the need to sign a new contract a year and a half before the current one expires,” Galliani told Sky Italia on Wednesday.
“He has a contract until next season [June 2008] and there will be time to renew it,” added the Rossoneri official.
Ancelotti was not completely happy with the team’s performance, despite the impressive win against bottom of the table Ascoli.
Galliani explained that the Coach was probably disappointed because Milan made their life more difficult in the second half.
“I think he was angry because after a good first half, we lost a bit of concentration,” said the former Lega Calcio chief.
“When we were winning 3-0 and then 4-1, the team looked at itself with too much narcissism.
“However I must admit that Milan have been playing well in the past weeks. After we recovered almost all our injured players, our life changed,” concluded the Rossonero.
Milan have consolidated fourth place, as they are four points ahead of Palermo, and are now just three points behind Lazio in third after the Biancocelesti’s goalless draw with Chievo.
Ancelotti calls for new contract
19.4 || webmaster
Milan may be celebrating fourth place and a 5-2 victory, but Carlo Ancelotti warned the club he wants a contract extension sooner rather than later.
“I would like to continue this adventure,” the Coach told journalists. “If it were up to me would I have signed already? I think I have been clear on this issue.”
The last two years have seen endless speculation over his future at San Siro, as it was said he would be sacked if he failed to either achieve fourth place in Serie A or win the Champions League.
The Rossoneri are currently on track for both, but Ancelotti has still not been given job security for next season.
“I did not say I demand a contract extension, but rather that I would like to continue this wonderful adventure,” pointed out Ancelotti.
“There is time for the renewal and I am in no hurry. We should first get through this difficult campaign that is slowly getting better and try to finish it in the best way possible.”
The current deal expires in June 2008, though Ancelotti was more eager to discuss other matters, such as the 5-2 win away to Ascoli.
“We played a good game, especially in the first half. The important thing was to get a victory so we went four points clear of Palermo and can focus on preparing for the Champions League semi-final.”
The Rossoneri are now comfortably in fourth place and closing in on Lazio in third – despite starting the campaign with an eight-point Calciopoli penalty.
“When we were 3-0 up we became a little arrogant, so we made life more difficult for ourselves than it needed to be,” continued the tactician.
“This meant we had to play the second half under a little more tension.”
Ascoli 2:5 AC Milan - match report
18.4 || webmaster
Scorers: Gilardino 3, 27 (M), Kaka pen 25, 34 (M), Di Biagio pen 30 (A), Guberti 41 (A), Seedorf 75 (M)
Milan consolidated fourth place and closed in on Lazio with this five-star performance at the Del Duca.
The Rossoneri were hoping to continue their fine form that had taken them into fourth place, but were forced to reshuffle their squad due to injury worries for Nelson Dida, Marcos Cafu, Paolo Maldini and Cristian Brocchi. Ascoli are propping up the table, but gave Lazio horrible problems at the weekend with a 2-2 draw. Sasa Bjelanovic was suspended.
It took just two and a half minutes to open the scoring at the Stadio Del Duca. Lombardi kept everyone onside as Ronaldo flicked the ball over for Alberto Gilardino's cool finish from nine yards.
Kaka surged forward and smashed a right-foot effort towards the base of the near post, kept out by a one-handed Dimitrios Eleftheropoulos save.
Ronaldo hit the back of the net on 11 minutes, but it was disallowed for a very tight offside position.
Ascoli fought back, as Zeljko Kalac spilled a Lombardi free kick and the Milan defence was able to clear. But the Rossoneri had the better of the play with Eleftheropoulos flying to tip a Massimo Ambrosini header out from under the bar.
Ronaldo and Kaka exchanged quick passes for a blistering counter-attack and Eleftheropoulos brought down Il Fenomeno for a penalty. The younger Brazilian stepped up and rolled it past the goalkeeper to double Milan's lead.
Just 120 seconds it was 3-0. The Ascoli defence was static as Gilardino kneeled down to angle his header from a Marek Jankulovski cross.
Gilardino sprung the offside trap from Kaka's pass and opted to roll across for Ronaldo rather than go for glory himself.
The referee gave Ascoli a lifeline when Guberti ran between defenders and Kalac clumsily brought him down for a penalty. Luigi Di Biagio converted at the near post.
Ronaldo had another goal disallowed for offside, but it didn't matter as Kaka unleashed a rocket from the edge of the area that swung past Eleftheropoulos' outstretched hand at the near post.
Just before the break Ascoli closed the gap once more for 4-2. Guberti's angled drive rolled into the far corner, as Corallo's dummy proved crucial in confusing the Milan back line.
After the restart Paolucci had a goal disallowed for a push on Daniele Bonera as they both entered the box.
Clarence Seedorf's long-range drive stung Eleftheropoulos' palms and the Dutchman scored on 75 minutes. He chested down Andrea Pirlo's chipped pass over the defence and lobbed the goalkeeper.
Milan gave Grimi his official debut in the Rossoneri jersey.
Ascoli: Eleftheropoulos; Melara, Corallo, Lombardi; Foglio, Guberti, Di Biagio (Perrulli 46), Boudianski, Pesce; Soncin (Fini 46), Paolucci (Delvecchio 71)
Milan: Kalac; Oddo, Bonera, Nesta, Jankulovski; Ambrosini, Pirlo, Seedorf; Kakà (Gattuso 46); Ronaldo (Oliveira 67), Gilardino (Grimi 77)
AC Milan prepare Ronaldinho millions
18.4 || webmaster
Milan President Silvio Berlusconi has claimed that he is ready to spend over £70m to bring Barcelona star Ronaldinho to the San Siro.
“I have put aside £72m to sign Ronaldinho,” the former Italian Prime Minister is quoted as saying in the Gazzetta dello Sport.
The Brazilian attacking midfielder is a target for the Rossoneri, who have made absolutely no secret of their intention to make a huge summer offer for him.
After already insisting that they were in pole position to net him should he quit the Nou Camp, Berlusconi’s latest comment has fuelled speculation that a bid is on the horizon.
The former Paris SG ace, whose contract expires in 2010, is currently discussing an extension with the Blaugrana.
The Gazzetta dello Sport reports that Milan will most probably offer the Brazilian a five-year contract worth £6.5m a season.
However, the story has met with scepticism in Spain as the Catalan paper Sport insist there is no chance of a Ronaldo, Kaka and Ronaldinho trident next term.
Ancelotti has Ronaldo doubt
17.4 || webmaster
Carlo Ancelotti has warned that Ronaldo may not be fit to play against Ascoli tomorrow afternoon, but he will not be resting his stars.
“I will rotate the squad a little bit in defence, but Kaka will play from the start and stay on until I see signs of weakening,” noted the Milan tactician.
“Clarence Seedorf and Massimo Ambrosini rested at the weekend, so they can return to midfield, while Andrea Pirlo will also start. Ronaldo has to fully recover before he can play and until now that is not the case.
“We could see Ronaldo and Alberto Gilardino upfront or Ricardo Oliveira and Gilardino. In the current situation, I would not talk about Ronaldo in the initial line-up.”
A certain absence is Nelson Dida, as the goalkeeper has suffered a recurring shoulder injury and is now a major doubt for the Champions League semi-final with Manchester United.
“Unfortunately this shoulder problem is nothing new, but we will do everything we can to get him back for Manchester. In any case, Zeljko Kalac is in good shape.
“Paolo Maldini, Pippo Inzaghi and Cristian Brocchi aren’t fit yet, so we won’t take risks with them. Marcos Cafu and Serginho will stay behind to work on their best form.”
The Rossoneri travel to the Stadio Del Duca against an Ascoli side that is propping up the table and almost mathematically doomed to relegation.
“This team is alive and, just like Messina on Sunday, gambling with their last throw of the dice. This is a great opportunity for us to go four points clear of Palermo and that advantage in fourth place would give us a certain confidence. There is still a long road to go for that Champions League spot though.”
Milan still have a good chance of winning the European trophy this season, despite their difficult start in Serie A.
“That competition is a great satisfaction for anyone who wins it. When a big club starts the season they think of taking everything, not creating a list of preferences.”
Some say that the European result will decide whether Ancelotti remains on his bench next season.
“My contract expires at the end of next term. I hope to extend it, but I haven’t spoken to the club yet.”
AC Milan close in on Alex
17.4 || webmaster
Milan are ready to make a bid for PSV Eindhoven stopper Alex, according to reports in Italy.
The 23-year-old is liked by Coach Carlo Ancelotti and impressed in this season’s Champions League campaign, scoring the decisive goal in the aggregate triumph over Arsenal.
The Rossoneri are looking to enhance their defensive options ahead of next season and Alex is on their wish-list.
However, they do face some competition for the Brazilian whose contractual situation is a little uncertain.
Although he is at PSV, it is claimed that Chelsea actually own his registration and he is on loan with the Dutch giants because of work permit problems.
Alex moved to his present club as the defender didn’t have enough international caps under his belt to secure a Premiership move.
‘The Tank’ shot to prominence as a 20-year-old during his first season with Santos in 2002 where he confirmed his versatility.
He has also enhanced his reputation as a scoring stopper in recent years seeing as he has 21 goals in his career to date.
Alex is valued at £7.8m and may become Paolo Maldini’s heir as the veteran could retire at the end of the current term.
Shevchenko eyes AC Milan final
17.4 || webmaster
Chelsea’s Andriy Shevchenko hopes to meet former club Milan in next month’s Champions League Final.
“As I have already said, in Athens I would like to face Milan,” said Sheva. “However, I don’t like talking about a game that is not yet even in the fixture list.”
While the Italian giants have been drawn against Manchester United, the London club will take on Liverpool in the semi-finals.
The latter is set to be a keenly felt tie for the Ukrainian after the events of the 2005 Final between Liverpool and Milan.
The Reds came back from 3-0 down to win the game on penalties, with the striker missing the decisive effort in the shoot-out.
“There will not be any sporting revenge for me though,” insisted the former Dynamo Kiev star. “Why does everyone speak about the past?
“For me the word is future. I will play against Liverpool without thinking about what happened in that cursed Champions League Final,” said the £30m summer signing.
“It’s going to be difficult as Liverpool are very strong, especially in the Champions League,” he maintained.
Shevchenko also commented on the possibility that Chelsea may meet Manchester United three times in 14 days if both clubs reach the May 23 Final in Greece.
“This season we are fighting against Manchester United on every front,” he continued.
“Apart from the domestic League and the Champions League, we will have to play against them in the FA Cup which is also very important.”
AC Milan have Dida worry
17.4 || webmaster
Milan goalkeeper Nelson Dida may miss the first leg of the Champions League semi-final against Manchester United after picking up a new shoulder injury.
The Brazilian already damaged the same shoulder during the Coppa Italia match with Roma earlier this term, a problem which kept him sidelined for three weeks.
The 33-year-old, who has also missed action this term because of a knee problem, picked up his fresh knock at Messina on Sunday and was absent from training yesterday.
Dida, who was seen by a specialist at Milanello on Monday, will now have to rest for 48 hours and will thus be out of tomorrow night’s Ascoli match.
The international shot-stopper will undergo more examinations this week, but there are fears that he will not be available for the trip to England on April 24.
The No 1, who recently extended his contract with the Rossoneri until 2010, has appeared in only 22 Serie A matches and 10 Champions League ties this season.
Australian international Zeljko Kalac is expected to take the gloves during his absence, even if January arrival Marco Storari is also an option.
Cafu hails united front
17.4 || webmaster
Marcos Cafu was pleased with Milan’s performance against Messina on Sunday. “The entire team is making its contribution,” he said.
The Rossoneri defeated the Sicilian side 3-1 at the Stadio San Filippo, leapfrogging Palermo in fourth place and moving closer to qualification for next season’s Champions League.
“I felt in great shape and we played a good match,” said Cafu, who made his return after recovering from an injury.
“We managed to remain focused throughout, even if it is a pity that we conceded a goal towards the end of the game.
“The defenders are starting to score as well and this is an important signal,” continued Il Pendolino, referring to Giuseppe Favalli’s goal on Sunday.
“It means that the team has the right spirit. Everyone is scoring because everyone feels involved and we are all making a contribution.”
Milan will face Manchester United in the Champions League semi-final on April 24 and May 2, but Cafu does not believe that the Milanese outfit is already focusing on the European clashes.
“I honestly don’t think we are concentrating on Manchester. We must focus on one game at a time and right now our thoughts are only on Ascoli,” added the former Roma man.
“Then we will think about Cagliari on Saturday at the San Siro. Only after that match will we start preparing for the game at Old Trafford.”
Fiori extends AC Milan deal
17.4 || webmaster
Valerio Fiori will continue his Milan career after the fourth-choice goalkeeper extended his contract.
Despite now being behind Nelson Dida, Zeljko Kalac and January arrival Marco Storari in the pecking order, Milan have rewarded the shot-stopper for his commitment with an extension.
Fiori’s previous deal was set to expire in June, but he’s today put pen to paper on a new agreement until June 2008.
The 38-year-old, formerly of Lazio, Cagliari, Cesena and Fiorentina, joined the Rossoneri in 1999 from Piacenza.
However, he’s amazingly made just one Serie A appearance – in 2002-03 – during his eight seasons at the San Siro.
Messina 1:3 AC Milan - match report
15.4 || webmaster
Scorers: Kaka 14 (Mi), Favalli 30 (Mi), Ronaldo 86 (Mi), Masiello 92 (Me)
Milan sunk Messina in the opening half-hour to continue their charge on a top four finish.
The Rossoneri were fresh from their Champions League quarter-final victory in Munich and travelled to Sicily looking for three more precious points in their bid to qualify for the tournament next season. With that in mind, several figures were rested. Messina boss Bruno Giordano's return has not been popular with the fans, so he was given a less than warm welcome in his first home game since replacing Alberto Cavasin. Vincent Candela was suspended.
Nelson Dida turned a Masiello strike out for a corner, but it was Milan who opened the scoring. Kaka unleashed a powerful right-foot effort that glanced over Kakha Kaladze's head to slot into the bottom far corner of the net. The Georgian may have made contact, but the goal was awarded to Kaka.
Soon after Ronaldo set up another Kaka effort that this time was kept out by Gabriele Paoletti.
Kaka also combined with Alberto Gilardino, Paoletti parrying his finish at the near post.
Milan were tearing the Messina defence apart and Yoann Gourcuff's disguised pass sent Giuseppe Favalli clear to fire low at the near post.
There was only one team in it. Marcos Cafu's shot was parried by Paoletti and the rebound fell to Gourcuff, bravely closed down by Lavecchia in front of an open goal.
Gilardino incredibly side-footed straight at Paoletti from the penalty spot from Ronaldo's counter, as it was one-on-one.
De Vezze and a Christian Rigano' header failed to really trouble Dida in the second half, though he did tip an Edgar Alvarez rocket over the bar.
Milan were unlucky not to make it three, as Kaka's shot was saved and Gilardino's follow-up cleared off the line.
There were worrying scenes on 62 minutes, as Marco Zanchi clashed heads with his goalkeeper and lost consciousness. It was particularly a concern, as Zanchi was out for a year with a brain injury and has a plaque in his head, but the defender was able to continue.
Ronaldo had a solo effort - complete with stepovers - pushed away by former Udinese goalkeeper Paoletti, and Kaka stung the shot-stopper's palms.
Ronaldo got his fifth goal of the Serie A season in the final minutes with an absolute missile from distance that rocketed under the bar.
Masiello got a consolation goal for Messina with the last kick of the game, as he exchanged passes with Sergio Floccari to toe-poke past Dida.
Messina: Paoletti; Lavecchia, Zanchi, Iuliano, Giallombardo; Alvarez, Pestrin (Cordova 72), D'Aversa (Floccari 56), De Vezze, Masiello; Riganò
Milan: Dida; Cafu, Bonera, Kaladze, Favalli (Jankulovski 89); Gattuso, Pirlo (Ambrosini 87), Gourcuff; Kakà; Gilardino (Serginho 78), Ronaldo
Ronaldo: I'll be number one again
15.4 || webmaster
Ronaldo pledges to end his career at Milan and become “Number One” again, bring Ronaldinho and break bread with Massimo Moratti.
“I’m not at the top of my form yet. I am training hard and every now and then I feel a few niggles that slow me down,” he told the ‘Gazzetta dello Sport’.
“These are normal, as I am finally getting to grips with some little aspects that are affecting my physique discovered by MilanLab, so I know at the end of this process I will be great again.
“At the start of next season, after the summer training camp, I will be at the top once more. I will be Number One.”
Many questioned Milan’s decision to sign Il Fenomeno from Real Madrid, but he has impressed in Serie A with four goals so far.
“I am sure I can do it and have so much more to give in this sport. I was born the same week as Francesco Totti and Andriy Shevchenko, yet nobody doubts or criticises their stamina. I am not old, nor finished – you will realise that.”
One of the reasons behind his improvement is leaving behind the dreadful rapport he had with Real boss Fabio Capello.
“I have a splendid relationship with Carlo Ancelotti. He is a friend, not a general. I get on well with Carlo as I did with Gigi Simoni and Vincente Del Bosque. It’s not because he is permissive. Ancelotti knows when to say no and deals with the locker room brilliantly.”
He had been a shadow of his former self in recent months in La Liga, but the San Siro air has revitalised Ronaldo.
“I will end my career here. I don’t know for how many years I will play, but I want to do so with this jersey.”
This comment will be a dagger in the heart of some Inter fans, in particular President Massimo Moratti, who did not hide his disappointment at the switch to their great rivals.
“I will invite Moratti to dinner, but not yet. First I want to wait for his bitterness to pass over my move to Milan. Inter are the past and the fact they are about to win the Scudetto leaves me totally indifferent.”
Ronaldo has swelled the group of Brazilians in the Rossoneri camp, but is eager to further increase their number.
“I can do something to help President Silvio Berlusconi get Ronaldinho. It’s pointless talking to him about how wonderful Milan are, though, as he already knows everything,” smiled the Selecao star.
He is cup-tied and cannot play at Old Trafford, but might be in the stands to cheer on his teammates in the semi-final with Manchester United.
“I would certainly like to make it, although it depends on my training schedule. I am awaiting a great gift from my colleagues. Milan have to win the Champions League this year, but also next season when I will be able to play!”
Ancelotti: AC Milan belong in Europe
15.4 || webmaster
Carlo Ancelotti launched an attack on those who doubted Milan’s presence in the Champions League after the new Calciopoli investigation paints them as victims.
Among others, Inter’s Patrick Vieira stated that it was “inexplicable” how the Rossoneri had been allowed to enter the competition after being docked eight points in last summer’s trial.
“Who says these things is really off base,” noted the Coach in his Press conference. “Everybody should be happy that Milan are flying the flag and maintaining Italian football’s honour in the competition.”
They are the only remaining Serie A side in the tournament and will face Manchester United in the semi-finals.
“We are on a par with the English team. Even if Manchester are strong, we must not give them the opportunity to hit us on the break.”
Although their original second place finish in the 2005-06 Serie A campaign was stripped, they were allowed to enter the Champions League through a preliminary round.
“The penalisation disappointed us and we felt the weight of that injustice on our shoulders at the start of the season. We still feel it now,” continued Ancelotti.
There are new developments this week, as the Naples investigation into Calciopoli has alleged irregularities in the Juventus-Milan match from December 2004, painting the San Siro giants as ‘victims’ of Luciano Moggi’s system rather than perpetrators.
“We felt what was done to us at the time was unjust and we will never forget it. As for refereeing errors, a man of sport must always try to believe it was in good faith.”
There are more pressing matters to contend with, as fourth place is still up for grabs and they travel to Messina looking for more crucial points.
“Messina are playing their last chances to stay up and it is never easy to face such motivated opponents, but we are in good shape and can strike when the iron’s hot. The side has grown in confidence over the last few games and we must continue to ride this wave.”
There will be a squad rotation for this match, as Christian Brocchi is out with flu symptoms, while Pippo Inzaghi and Paolo Maldini are left at home after their Bayern Munich efforts.
“We should see Yoann Gourcuff in midfield with Kaka, Alberto Gilardino and Ronaldo upfront,” revealed the tactician.
Milan squad: Dida, Kalac, Storari; Bonera, Cafu, Favalli, Grimi, Jankulovski, Kaladze, Nesta, Oddo; Ambrosini, Gattuso, Gourcuff, Kaka, Pirlo, Serginho; Gilardino, Ricardo Oliveira, Ronaldo.
Ronaldinho agent: AC Milan link 'valid'
14.4 || webmaster
Ronaldinho has been frozen out of the Barcelona squad and his agent has hinted Milan are in the wings. “Let us say it is a valid news story.”
The Brazilian is in the middle of tricky contract renegotiation talks with his club and this week was surprisingly sent on a personal training schedule.
Ronaldinho will sit out the next two games in order to “find his best form” after a bout of tonsillitis. The Spanish Press has been eager to point out this season he has missed 81 training sessions and will be absent for at least Sunday night’s Liga tie with Real Mallorca and the Copa del Rey semi-final against Getafe.
Meanwhile, agent Roberto de Assis spoke to a Brazilian news agency about Milan President Silvio Berlusconi’s repeated assertions that Ronaldinho was destined for San Siro in a £40m deal.
“If President Berlusconi says so, a man who was also Prime Minister of Italy, who am I to disagree?” smiled the representative to ‘Globoesporte’.
“Let us say that it is a valid news story. As for Barcelona, we will try to resolve the situation in the best way possible.”
If the Rossoneri are being used as a bluff to push Barca into giving Ronaldinho a considerable pay rise, then the ‘Gazzetta dello Sport’ sees another alternative on the horizon.
Following Cristiano Ronaldo’s contract extension with Manchester United, both Inter and Milan are now reportedly looking at a summer swoop for Thierry Henry.
The Frenchman could be tempted into a departure by Arsenal’s disappointing season and has long been admired by Nerazzurri patron Massimo Moratti.
Another candidate for both Milan clubs is Ronaldinho’s Barcelona teammate Samuel Eto’o.
Gilardino eager for Manchester United test
14.4 || webmaster
Alberto Gilardino was suspended for the last Champions League game, but cannot wait to play for Milan at Old Trafford.
“I am truly very happy for the qualification and the team’s performance,” he said after the 4-2 aggregate quarter-final victory over Bayern Munich.
The striker sat out a ban at the AllianzArena, but Clarence Seedorf and Pippo Inzaghi secured a 2-0 result and their ticket to face Manchester United.
“I was sure my teammates would have played a great game, they had even promised me on Saturday. We will take on Manchester United and this is an extra motivation for me and the squad to play two fantastic matches and reach the Final.”
This is the Rossoneri’s third consecutive semi-final appearance in the Champions League, although United are on form after their 7-1 drubbing of Roma.
“Manchester are a strong side, but we must not be afraid,” added Gilardino. “Right now, though, we are only focused on Messina.”
Milan travel to Sicily on Sunday afternoon looking for more precious points that could propel them into fourth place in Serie A.
AC Milan sue for 2005 Scudetto
14.4 || webmaster
With the new wave of Calciopoli investigations, Milan vice-President Adriano Galliani announced the club was seeking to legally be awarded the 2005 Scudetto.
The title was stripped from Juventus and left unassigned after the trial that saw the Turin giants demoted in the summer.
However, the latest inquiry has named the 0-0 draw between Juve and Milan at the Stadio Delle Alpi – officiated by referee Paolo Bertini – as one of the games where there were suspicions of wrongdoing.
“I remember that match well. Very well,” said Galliani. “From the summer our fans understood what had really happened. We didn’t need this confirmation.”
That result effectively ended the Rossoneri’s Scudetto hopes and if the Naples investigation finds Juve responsible of influencing it, we could see another drawn-out court battle.
“The 2004-05 Scudetto? Our lawyers are working on it. I don’t know if it is a Utopia to hope for the title, but it does seem a very complicated affair.”
The Delle Alpi encounter took place on December 18, 2004 and was dominated by Milan, who were unable to score as Andriy Shevchenko hit the woodwork.
There was also a strong early penalty shout for Jonathan Zebina hauling back Hernan Crespo from getting on the end of a Shevchenko assist and another complaint for Zebina’s tackle on Kakha Kaladze in the area.
Milan were also furious on 66 minutes when Kaka dispossessed Lilian Thuram and was running at the Juve defence with three against two, but the referee stopped play for a free kick rather than giving the advantage.
You can read the original match report here.
In other matters, Galliani is finding some difficulty in preparing for the Champions League semi-final at Old Trafford on April 23.
“We haven’t found a hotel in Manchester yet, but we’ll figure something out. I never book ahead, unlike Bayern Munich who had to cancel their trip.”
Silvio eyes Liverpool revenge
13.4 || webmaster
Milan chief Silvio Berlusconi has dreams of defeating Liverpool in this year’s Champions League Final. “We owe it to our fans,” he said.
The former Italian Prime Minister has revenge on his mind after that epic Final two years ago, when the Premiership side came from three goals down to net the trophy on penalties against the Rossoneri.
“I would like to meet Liverpool in Athens as we owe it to our supporters after the defeat to them in 2005,” Berlusconi told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“We want to erase that terrible night – this is our objective.
“That would mean that Chelsea would have lost to Liverpool? I don’t think Andriy Shevchenko would be that happy to play against us anyway...”
The San Siro outfit qualified for the semi-finals after winning 2-0 in Munich on Wednesday to ensure a 4-2 aggregate victory over Bayern.
“I knew we had the qualities needed to qualify and I am delighted that we obtained such a result,” he continued.
“We showed our team spirit, just as I always ask of my players. They were all excellent during the match.
“Europe is in our DNA. We have reached our fourth semi-final in the last five campaigns, no other team has done anything like this.”
Nevertheless, Milan will again have to be at their best to defeat Manchester United in the last four after they thrashed Roma 7-1 at Old Trafford this week.
“I’m optimistic, as usual,” he continued. “We respect them but we don’t fear them. Manchester United are not the favourites.
“They had the Midas touch the other night, while Roma seemed unable to do anything right. We are not afraid of that result, especially as the Giallorossi had actually won the first leg.”
AC Milan targeting Euro glory
13.4 || webmaster
Milan Vice-President Adriano Galliani has insisted that winning in Europe remains the club’s primary objective.
The Rossoneri qualified for the Champions League semi-final by defeating Bayern Munich 4-2 on aggregate and the official could not hide his satisfaction after such a result.
“Since Silvio Berlusconi became President and since July 1, 1987, when Milan set their objectives, we have always stated that our mission was to lead the club to be the best in Europe,” explained Galliani.
“After 20 years, just like in any large company, we are proving to be a steady club. Our winning DNA derives from the target given to Milan by President Berlusconi.
“I don’t want to make any comparisons, but it can’t just be a coincidence if we have played in seven Champions League Finals, two semi-finals and a host of quarter-finals in the past 20 years.”
Milan come up against Manchester United in the semi-finals, but new stadium safety regulations in Italy means that the San Siro will only be open to 67,500 fans instead of 80,000.
“There is a part of the ground that can support 60 turnstiles, which would be enough to guarantee the access of 80,000 spectators, but this will not be possible if the National Observatory does not grant us special permission,” he concluded.
Ranieri offers AC Milan support
12.4 || webmaster
Claudio Ranieri has rejected suggestions that he is supporting former club Chelsea in the Champions League. “I will be cheering for Italy,” the Parma tactician told Datasport this evening.
The London club qualified for the semi-finals of the competition this week after defeating another of Ranieri’s ex-clubs in the shape of Valencia, but he’s ready to forget his Stamford Bridge past to spur on Milan.
“I think that Milan can get past Manchester United in the semi-finals,” continued the Coach. “They’ve been one of the favourites since the very start.
“That is why I will say that Milan have what is needed in their squad to even beat this Manchester United team.”
The latter strolled into the last four thanks to a 7-1 thrashing of Roma at Old Trafford on Tuesday night.
“As a Roman myself, it was very disappointing,” Ranieri continued. “All I can say is that it will serve them as experience to the city, the squad and [Coach Luciano] Spalletti.
“Now they must just forget what happened and look ahead.”
The fact that the Premiership has three clubs in the semi-finals hasn’t gone unnoticed by Ranieri, but he’s confident that Italian sides will strike back.
“It’s significant that three English teams are there,” he added. “Their football is full of money, but what goes around comes around.
“I think Italian clubs can return to a certain level and I’m optimistic. A few clubs are picking themselves up and we just need a little time.”
Lippi: AC Milan can win
12.4 || webmaster
World Cup winning Coach Marcello Lippi believes that Milan can triumph against Manchester United in the Champions League semi-final.
The San Siro outfit joined the last four of club football’s premier competition after the 2-0 win over Bayern Munich.
They will now face the Red Devils in a rematch of the last-16 knockout stage tie from two years ago, when the Rossoneri triumphed 1-0 in both legs.
“I have always said that Manchester United are one of the best teams in Europe, maybe the strongest one at the time being, but we saw that they can be defeated,” Lippi told Affaritaliani.it.
“Carlo Ancelotti’s side has great qualities, Milan are experienced and give their best in this tournament,” added the Viareggino.
“The Champions League is the Rossoneri’s natural habitat, their chances are 50/50.”
United humiliated Roma with a 7-1 defeat on Tuesday at Old Trafford, but Lippi doesn’t believe that this result in any way lessens the Giallorossi’s impressive achievements this season.
“These things can happen, the final result does not reflect the real difference between the two clubs.
“Roma’s Coach and the players must have no doubts on the excellent results they have achieved over the past two years,” concluded the former Juve and Inter boss.
Euro win thrills Kaka
12.4 || webmaster
Kaka was glad to prove to the many Milan critics that the pessimism following the first leg match with Bayern was uncalled for.
The Rossoneri qualified for the Champions League semi-final by defeating the German outfit 4-2 on aggregate, despite being held to a 2-2 home draw last week.
“It was difficult before we went on to the pitch because many were pessimistic about our chances of progressing,” said Kaka.
“However, on the field everything changed and we managed to transform this pessimism into great football. Milan’s season has changed a lot,” added the Brazilian.
“On Tuesday, I had said that a lot of hard work was exactly what we needed and that is just the way it went.
“Now, we are two games away from another historic event. I tried to score and I am happy with my game, but the important thing is that Milan won.”
The San Siro outfit will face Manchester United in the semi-final, with the first leg scheduled at Old Trafford on April 25.
“We must focus on the match and not think about the 7-1 score line with which they defeated Roma. We will need another great exploit to reach the Final.
“It won’t be me against Cristiano Ronaldo, but Manchester United versus Milan. They are a strong side and it will be a difficult game for both teams, but I think we can do it,” concluded Kaka.
Milan will be back in action in Serie A on Sunday when they travel to Messina, where they hope to win three precious points as they continue the race for the fourth place in the table.
Galliani pleased with Munich win
12.4 || webmaster
Milan Vice-President Adriano Galliani could not hide his enthusiasm after the 2-0 win over Bayern Munich. “Champions League wins are part of our mentality.”
The Rossoneri claimed an impressive 4-2 aggregate victory over the Bundesliga outfit, qualifying for the semi-final against Manchester United.
“This qualification is something extraordinary, every year we are the best Italian side in the Champions League and this is a great satisfaction for us and our fans,” said Galliani to RAI after the match.
“We always knew we could do it despite the draw in the first leg. We are much stronger than Bayern as we proved this evening,” continued the Rossonero.
“The Champions League is part of our history, it is our competition, our mentality. [FIGC President] Giancarlo Abete called to thank us for carrying the Italian flag forward.
“We have played a last 16 game and a Final at Old Trafford, now we will play a semi-final. Hopefully we will play a good match, it is a stadium we know well.”
Milan had been plagued by injuries up to the Christmas break, but things are finally improving and Galliani is aware that all their men will be important for the final part of the season, as the race for fourth place in Serie A also continues.
“Finally we had everyone available tonight, this is very important if we want to catch Palermo in the League. We are not inferior to anyone, in Italy or Europe.
“I am very happy for our fans and for everyone involved with Milan who came here to Munich. We will all return to Milan with a smile on our face,” concluded Galliani.
Old Trafford will stage the first match of the semi-final on 24 April, while the return leg will be played at the San Siro on May 2.
Hitzfeld hands it to AC Milan
12.4 || webmaster
Bayern Munich boss Ottmar Hitzfeld conceded that Milan were the better team over the two legs of their quarter-final.
“Milan absolutely deserved to go through, as in both legs they were the best team on the field. Bayern did not have the substance to overturn the situation and so rightly went out.”
The Germans were confident of qualifying after their 2-2 draw at San Siro, but the 2-0 defeat at the AllianzArena sealed their exit.
“We played very well in the opening 15 minutes and had a great chance with Lukas Podolski, but there was a 10-minute blackout in which Milan slipped in and scored twice. It all became very difficult from there and the side reacted, but could not find a way through.”
While Milan had Alberto Gilardino suspended, Hitzfeld also had to make adjustments for Bastian Schweinsteiger’s injury.
“I fielded Hasan Salihamidzic in defence because I wanted more experience back there, as Christian Lell is very young and still needed a little more protection down the flank.”
The Rossoneri go through to meet Manchester United in the Champions League semi-final and Hitzfeld is putting his bet on the Italians.
“It will be a very interesting match. Milan have a very good chance, while Manchester United will be charged up after the great 7-1 victory over Roma, but I think the Rossoneri can do it.”
Pippo played through the pain
12.4 || webmaster
Pippo Inzaghi was not sure whether he would even be able to play in Munich, but scored a crucial goal – his sixth against the German side.
“I was undecided on whether to start and Ancelotti had asked me to tell him what condition I was in. But considering the faith I feel in me at Milan and my previous record against Bayern, I found the strength to push through the pain,” said the injury-hit striker after the 2-0 victory.
“The Coach told me that in training last week he could see I wasn’t in great shape, but I assured him I would be honest and sit back if I was not up to it. I felt the faith of the fans and took the gamble that thankfully paid off.”
SuperPippo has only made 20 starts in all competition this season, scoring a total of nine goals in 33 appearances.
“The whole environment at Milan is very special and I received a phone call from the President this morning to encourage me and ask for a goal. I wasn’t on top form, but the Coach kept me back for this match.”
The goal was perhaps slightly offside, but a wonderful finish following Clarence Seedorf’s backheel flick.
“I had agreed with Seedorf to play the ball quickly and so that was a tactic we had prepared. Thankfully I was able to lift my shot over Oliver Kahn!”
With Ronaldo cup-tied and Alberto Gilardino suspended, the role of lone striker fell to Inzaghi, although Carlo Ancelotti has shown he prefers this to the classic 4-3-1-2.
“We have some very good players who come in support at Milan and so we have two very effective systems that we can use at different times.”
If Inzaghi can improve his fitness levels, then he is a contender to face Manchester United in the Champions League semi-final and he is not concerned at the 7-1 result over Roma.
“Clearly having played many games in the Champions League teaches you how to approach these ties. Roma are not a bad side, nor do I think they underestimated Manchester United, but they are a little inexperienced in this competition.”
The same cannot be said of the Rossoneri, who are in their third consecutive semi-final and have reached the Final twice in 2003 and 2005.
“Milan have repeatedly and consistently entered the final four in the Champions League, so there is something to be said for experience and our quality in this tournament.”
Curiously, all four tacticians in the semi-finals this season have won the European Cup, as Ancelotti lifted it in 2003, Sir Alex Ferguson in 1999, Jose Mourinho for Porto in 2004 and Rafa Benitez with Liverpool in 2005.
“I am very confident and can see the team grow with each passing match towards the crucial month of the campaign. It will be tough against Manchester United, but we will certainly go into it with belief,” added Inzaghi.
“The Cristiano Ronaldo we saw against Roma was phenomenal, but Kaka is our secret weapon. In truth, the whole Milan squad wins games and works together, so focusing on individuals is unfair.”
Serginho made his comeback this week after six months out and a potentially career-ending groin injury.
“Serginho is a wonderful crosser of the ball and for a striker it is important to know the timing of the assists, so he is an important buy for us in these final weeks.”
Seedorf enjoys special moment
11.4 || webmaster
Clarence Seedorf admits he’s on sparkling form at the moment after a goal and assist against Bayern Munich.
“I hadn’t felt this good physically in a long time and the Coach gave me the opportunity to just train hard for three or four days last week. It really made the difference, as I had been doing a lot of travelling and hardly any training,” he said after the 2-0 quarter-final victory at the AllianzArena.
“The team played very well and showed excellent mental strength to get the result. When you win, there is no tactic that doesn’t suit me! The side perhaps should have held on to the ball a bit better and scored a third on the counter, but 2-0 in Munich is an excellent outcome.”
The Dutchman has been the subject of criticism in recent months, but played brilliantly in a more advanced role tonight.
“I have nothing to prove to anyone. I know that the hard work I do for the team every single day is with the right attitude. I have struggled to fulfil my potential over the last few weeks and feel the responsibility I hold in this side, but I was happy to be back in shape.”
Seedorf also revealed the real reason Carlo Ancelotti is using a 4-4-1-1 system with Kaka acting as a second striker.
“I have to thank Kaka, as without his ability to change and adapt to a role that is not entirely his, I can take on a Trequartista position I give my best in. This shows how everyone at Milan tries to help the team as a whole and work for each other. I am personally happy and the entire squad played well.”
Bayern were considered the favourites to go through after the 2-2 first leg draw, but this win sends Milan into the Champions League semi-finals 4-2 on aggregate.
“I don’t know if this was the best Milan performance of the season, but we are very tough to beat when we play like this. With this grit, determination, mental strength and quality in attack, we are a match for anyone.”
Some newspaper rumours suggested Seedorf is preparing to leave San Siro this summer, but he shot those down.
“Do you really think a club and player will sign a contract until 2011 just like that, for no reason? I am given responsibility at Milan and try to respond to that by giving my best. We all have a role in this squad and I try to help my teammates both on and off the field.”
The semi-final will be between Milan and Manchester United, while Liverpool and Chelsea face off in the other clash.
“It is a team that has improved. Perhaps without as many star names as a few years ago, but as a whole unit they are better and for a few months I have been saying they are the side to beat in the Champions League.
“Milan are also finding their tempo and Manchester remember they have a poor record against us, so that can give us an extra psychological edge, especially after our away victory in Munich.”
Seedorf saw the 7-1 hammering of Roma last night, but was not frightened by the Red Devils.
“It was a shame for Roma, as it’s never nice to see sides humiliated, but Manchester United had a blistering start and the Giallorossi let their heads drop. It all went wrong from there. Against such an attacking side, it is definitely an advantage for us to play the second leg at San Siro.”
Ancelotti looks forward to Old Trafford
11.4 || webmaster
Carlo Ancelotti rues the fact Milan were unable to beat Bayern by a greater margin than 2-0 and looks forward to facing Manchester United.
“The fact three English teams went through shows they are in good shape,” he said, as Chelsea-Liverpool is the other semi-final.
“Manchester are very strong on the break with real pace and a solid defence. They have different qualities from Bayern, but we beat them twice two years ago and have the small advantage of playing the second leg on home turf.
“They have got some more experience into their best players like Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo. They have the same approach as back then, but with more quality now.”
Ancelotti pointed out that few thought Milan would even reach this phase of the Champions League after the 2-2 first leg draw with Bayern Munich.
“Manchester United are a strong side, but at this stage we are happy to be facing them, as we certainly had less of a chance of going through than Bayern going into the second leg.”
Yet the Serie A giants became the first side to win a European knockout round in Munich since Red Star Belgrade in 1991.
“The game started in an unusual way, considering what I expected, as they put a lot of pressure on us. I moved Clarence Seedorf to the left with the opportunity to cut in and after the goal the match changed radically. We moved the ball around well and it was a good performance.
“At the start Seedorf was meant to be a classic Trequartista, but with the series of crosses coming in from the left after 10 minutes I asked him to move a little to help out both the defence and attack. Kaka and Seedorf exchanged places throughout.”
Pippo Inzaghi was a major doubt going into the game, but Ancelotti took the risk with Alberto Gilardino suspended and Ronaldo cup-tied.
“Inzaghi was not 100 per cent fit and has not been training properly for a while now. He hasn’t got the change of pace he usually possesses, but he trained well yesterday and was ready.”
Some of the Coach’s tactical choices in the final stages were surprising, as he finished the match with no real strikers, leaving Ricardo Oliveira on the bench.
“When winning 2-0 I introduced Serginho for his pace as the counter-attack was wide open. Oliveira will get his chance and everyone should be happy with this result.”
Milan reach the Champions League semi-finals with a 2-0 victory at the AllianzArena, 4-2 on aggregate.
“Had we been a bit more effective on the break in the second half, we would have finished off Bayern a lot earlier. We were trying to score a third right from the first period, but were unable to get it as we weren’t sharp enough on the counter.
“We were under a lot of pressure in the closing stages, but had so many opportunities to score again on the counter and did not take them.”
One of the contenders for Man of the Match status was Alessandro Nesta, who finally seems to have put his injury nightmare behind him.
“Nesta has made a fine comeback and I think with Paolo Maldini they are still the strongest centre-back pairing in the world.”
The triumph takes some of the pressure off Ancelotti’s shoulders, especially as Milan are also in pole position for fourth place in Serie A, but the Coach knows it’s a never-ending game with the Press.
“I have a very clear rapport with the club, but now no doubt the newspapers will say the semi-final is a crossroads and so is the Final,” he smiled.
“This team has had a sea of troubles this season with the Calciopoli penalty, injuries and the shortened summer preparation time, but in recent months they have finally started to prove what they can do.”
Gattuso waves Italian flag
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Gennaro Gattuso says Milan’s confident 2-0 victory in Munich has given Italian football back its dignity after Roma’s debacle.
“After yesterday’s 7-1 people were making fun of us. We are sorry for Roma, but I think Italian football has real value and we are World Champions,” said the midfielder.
The Giallorossi were thrashed 7-1 by Manchester United – who will be Milan’s next opponents in the Champions League semi-final – and Sir Alex Ferguson was in the stands at the AllianzArena.
Many believed the Rossoneri would struggle to qualify after drawing the first leg 2-2, but they maintained their excellent record against Bayern.
“Carlo Ancelotti believed right from the 2-2 at San Siro. He said not to worry, as we would get the result here,” added Gattuso.
“Ottmar Hitzfeld’s pre-match talk really fired us up too, as he said he’d see us cry tonight. As for saying Pippo Inzaghi was not to be feared, he has proved himself so many times at this level.
The result also boosts Milan, who were under pressure following their shaky Serie A campaign.
“We must not forget that in these years with Ancelotti we have had two Finals and this is our fourth semi in five years. This is a great squad and people should not forget that.”
Bayern Munich 0:2 (2:4 on aggregate) AC Milan - match report
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Scorers: Seedorf 27 (M), Inzaghi 32 (M)
Clarence Seedorf and Pippo Inzaghi conquered Munich to send Milan through to face Manchester United in the Champions League semi-finals. Bayern had not lost a knockout round on home turf since losing to Red Star Belgrade in 1991.
The Rossoneri needed a win or to draw while scoring at least three goals in Munich after twice throwing away a lead to draw 2-2 at San Siro. With Alberto Gilardino suspended, Ronaldo and Marco Borriello cup-tied, Pippo Inzaghi fought off injury worries to start against a club he has already put five goals past in his career. Bastian Schweinsteiger and Willy Sagnoli were sidelined, but Mark Van Bommel and Oliver Kahn returned from their bans.
Sir Alex Ferguson was in the stands to view the side his Manchester United would face in the semi-finals.
Bayern almost took the lead after just seven minutes, as Cristian Lell's volley with the inside of his foot at the byline looped over Nelson Dida for a decisive Massimo Oddo goalline clearance.
Moments later Inzaghi sprung the offside trap on Paolo Maldini's ball floated over the defence, but his first touch let him down. It was a very open game and on 12 minutes Dida parried a Lucas Podolski angled drive from eight yards with his legs.
Inzaghi couldn't get enough power on his looping header after good work down the left from Clarence Seedorf and Marek Jankulovski.
Milan took the lead just before the half-hour mark. Andrea Pirlo won the ball back in midfield and Kaka rolled across to Seedorf, as the Dutchman found space with a dummy to thump his right-foot strike beneath Daniel Van Buyten's body into the far bottom corner.
Inzaghi's header looped over, but soon after he made it 2-0. A splendid Seedorf backheel flick sent Pippo clear from the static Bayern central defenders with a very tight onside decision and Inzaghi smashed his shot home into the roof of the net from the edge of the area. It was the sixth time he has scored against Munich.
Milan were now dominating in midfield and Bayern tried to get back into it from a set play, as the free kick fell kindly for Podolski from four yards, but Dida was attentive and blocked. At the other end Kaka spun on the edge of the box, but his pass to Inzaghi was intercepted when he perhaps should have gone for goal.
In stoppages Kaka and Inzaghi wasted a golden opportunity on the counter-attack, as both had their shots charged down.
Bayern boss Ottmar Hitzfeld introduced striker Roque Santa Cruz for Ottl in the second half, but Van Bommel was booked for an elbow on Massimo Ambrosini.
Gennaro Gattuso performed a splendid last-ditch tackle to stop future Juventus man Hasan Salihamidzic inside the box. Oddo prevented Salihamidzic from volleying in a Lell cross, although the ex-Lazio defender's clearance was somewhat scuffed.
Van Bommel drilled wide from 30 metres, although Dida had the angle covered, and Claudio Pizarro replaced Roy Makaay. Van Bommel was more accurate a few minutes later and this time stung Dida's palms.
Alessandro Nesta came racing across to tackle Salihamidzic in the area, but the Bayern man kept going after the ball had been lost and stamped on the Italian's thigh. The referee showed Salihamidzic the yellow card and a scuffle broke out betwee Ambrosini and Lell, Ancelotti dragging his midfielder away to calm the waters.
Kaka was having a terrible game and when Inzaghi sparked the counter-attack, the Brazilian shook off two tackles, but had his effort charged down rather than pass to the totally unmarked Seedorf.
Bayern were desperate and a chaotic move on 67 minutes had several different shots charged down, with Podolski in particular wasting the chance from point-blank range.
Ancelotti's men were under pressure, so he replaced the not 100 per cent fit Inzaghi with Serginho in a more advanced role, going for pace to strike on the counter and no pure strikers.
Van Bommel's effort was deflected over and Serginho's pass to Kaka was intercepted when it was two v two. Salihamidzic's strike on the bounce was well held, as was a Pizarro looping header.
Yoann Gourcuff came on for the tired Seedorf and Van Bommel had another low drive deflected past the near post off Nesta and Pizarro hit the side-netting from six yards.
Gattuso made way for Marcos Cafu in the final moments at the AllianzArena, but the Brazilian was stopped on a classic stoppage-time counter by his fellow countryman Lucio when the Bayern defender was last man.
There was one final scare with Dida's fantastic reaction save on a Van Buyten volley.
Milan: Dida; Oddo, Nesta, Maldini, Jankulovski; Gattuso (Cafu 87), Pirlo, Ambrosini, Seedorf (Gourcuff 80); Kaka; Inzaghi (Serginho 70)
Bayern Munich: Kahn; Salihamidzic, Lucio, Van Buyten, Lahm; Ottl (Santa Cruz 46), Hargreaves, Van Bommel, Lell (Gorlitz 77); Makaay (Pizarro 61), Podolski
Ref: Mejuto Gonzalez (Spa)
Gourcuff reveals Munich mission
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Yoann Gourcuff believes a good start will be vital for Milan in the Champions League match with Bayern Munich.
The Rossoneri face the German giants on Wednesday in the knowledge that they will need to win, after they were held to a 2-2 draw in the first leg of the quarter final at the San Siro last week.
“We know it will be very difficult game and we have to start well. We cannot concede any goals, but with a bit of luck we will score one,” said Gourcuff.
“That will make it easier to control the game, but if it doesn’t happen we have to remain calm and play with patience,” continued the 20-year-old Frenchman.
“We played well in the first leg and we showed we are stronger than Bayern. With the right concentration Milan can beat any team.”
The midfielder, who joined Milan on a five-year deal from Rennes in the summer, has shown glimpses of brilliance even if he admits his Italian adventure has been tough so far.
“When I didn’t play I lost confidence, as I tend to be an anxious person,” explained the player dubbed as the ‘Petit Zidane’.
“Then I injured myself and when I came back I played six games in three weeks and didn’t have the required continuity.
“However, now all is going very well as I am totally fit and ready to give my contribution to the team. I know Milan have many top players and it’s not easy to find a place.
“I want to keep improving. Playing more is an objective, but I am more relaxed and I know I can give my contribution when the chance comes.”
Milan squad: Dida, Kalac, Storari; Bonera, Cafu, Costacurta, Favalli, Jankulovski, Kaladze, Maldini, Nesta, Oddo, Serginho, Simic; Ambrosini, Brocchi, Gattuso, Gourcuff, Kaka, Pirlo, Seedorf; Inzaghi, Oliveira
Banned Gilardino backs AC Milan
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Alberto Gilardino is confident that his Milan teammates won’t miss him when they take on Bayern Munich on Wednesday.
The Rossoneri striker is suspended after picking up a booking in the first leg at the San Siro and hopes the Rossoneri will progress to the semi-finals despite the 2-2 home draw last week.
“I asked my teammates to take me to the next round – I know they will play a great game,” said Gilardino.
“I am sorry I won’t be there. I reviewed the tapes of the game and I think the referee was very naïve in showing me the yellow card.”
The former Parma man, who has struggled to find his best form so far, was recently paired with a summer move, although the club denied that he would be leaving the San Siro.
“I don’t ever think about what is written in the newspapers. I talked to Vice-President Adriano Galliani after what happened recently and he confirmed his trust in me.
“As to Serie A, it was really important for us to win after Palermo’s defeat as now we are closer to them,” explained Gilardino, who netted in the 3-1 win over Empoli on Saturday.
“Scoring is always great, it boosts your morale. My goal, the performance of the team and the victory were all vital. We had many opportunities and put in a great performance.”
Kaka plots Bayern downfall
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Kaka is confident that Milan will beat Bayern Munich to book a place in the semi-finals of the Champions League.
The Rossoneri will play the second leg of the tie on Wednesday and are likely to need a win after a 2-2 draw at the San Siro last week, but the Brazilian star is not overly concerned.
“I don’t think there is any need for desperation,” he told UEFA.com. “As much as Bayern deserve respect, not only because of their history but also because of the quality players they have, Milan can win.
“I have a feeling this game will be one of those historic European nights.”
Milan were unable to win the first leg despite taking the lead twice and they now find themselves requiring a positive result away from home.
“We had victory in our hands against Bayern and the fact we let it slip through our fingers with the last kick of the game meant we didn’t leave the San Siro happy,” explained Kaka.
“We are convinced we can outplay them in front of their supporters. It’s important for us to keep our heads up.”
The 24-year-old found the back of the net against the German outfit last week to secure his place at the top of the Champions League scorers’ chart with seven goals from nine matches.
“Goals are scored for the team and I want to score more to take us further and further,” concluded Kaka.
The winner of the tie will go through to face either Roma or Manchester United in the semi-finals on April 24/25 and May 1/2.
Galliani eyes Euro semi
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Milan Vice-President Adriano Galliani is confident that Milan can beat Bayern Munich in the Champions League, despite being held at home in the first leg.
The Rossoneri travel to Munich on Wednesday for the return match of their quarter-final, with the Bundesliga boys favourites after they forced a 2-2 draw last week.
“I am sure we can qualify as we are stronger than Bayern,” said Galliani to Sky Italia after Saturday night’s win over Empoli.
“The result of the first leg doesn’t correspond to what really happened on the pitch. They scored in injury time and Alberto Gilardino’s goal shouldn’t have been disallowed.
“He also didn’t deserve to be booked and could have been available for the next game. In any case, we have been playing very well lately – only Inter are doing better than us.
“Am I afraid about the referee? All Champions League matches are generally well handled, although mistakes can be made.”
Milan’s 3-1 win over Empoli allowed them to leapfrog the Tuscan side in the race for fourth place and Galliani could not hide his satisfaction.
“Today was a very important day for the championship. We are one point shy of Palermo, who have also played an extra match,” explained the former Lega Calcio chief.
“We leapfrogged Empoli and now we face three matches away from home, one in the Champions League and two in Serie A. We will see what the situation is after April 18.”
Buffon ready to quit Juventus
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Gianluigi Buffon has warned Juventus he could seek a summer move after confessing: “I do miss the Champions League.”
“I haven’t actually made a decision on my future yet,” the goalkeeper told Sky Italia television. “Even if I did decide to stay, it is Juve, hardly Canicatti’ in the amateur League. With all due respect, we are still talking about the most important club in Italy.”
Buffon was one of the first to pledge his help to the Bianconeri following their demotion last summer, but also pointed out that he had been ready to move on and seek new motivation before the Calciopoli scandal.
“Lately I am watching the Champions League with a little more interest. I have to admit I do miss it a little bit and feel the desire to compete at that level again.
“That could influence my decision for the future, but it is not everything. If I were to choose a club just for the city life, then I won’t move from Turin. This is a place that allows you to live like a normal person and there aren’t many of those now.”
The World Cup winner has been a named transfer target for Inter, Milan and Real Madrid, but he is keeping his cards close to his chest.
“Objectively speaking, Inter are the strongest side out there at the moment and could win for the next few years, but a choice of club involves so many issues and rapports. You’d have to evaluate thousands of pro and cons.”
Gattuso wins for Ronaldinho
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Gennaro Gattuso wore the captain’s armband against Empoli and explains just how crucial that victory was for Milan - and Ronaldinho.
“It was tough. We knew that someone had to make a sacrifice for the side and this time it was me,” he said after the 3-1 win.
That result propelled the Rossoneri into fifth place, just one point shy of Palermo, although the Sicilians have played an extra game.
“We are not making calculations. We know full well how important it is for the club and for us to reach the Champions League next season. That is an imperative to bring in some star names and keep hold of the ones we have.”
The reference is most likely aimed at Ronaldinho, who has repeatedly been named as Milan’s main transfer target for this summer.
Carlo Ancelotti rested several players for this Empoli game ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League quarter-final with Bayern Munich.
“It’s tiring to play three matches in one week, but the important thing was to win. Fourth place is everything for us.”
With Paolo Maldini in the stands, Gattuso wore the captain’s armband and he put in a Man of the Match performance.
“I didn’t even feel the armband, because this is the only way I know how to play. My main strength is determination – I always give everything I’ve got.”
Ancelotti rides Empoli wave
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Carlo Ancelotti hopes that the victory over Empoli can boost Milan’s morale for the “very difficult” clash with Bayern Munich.
“We started well and passed the ball around quickly, so the strikers were supported by some good build-up play,” he noted after the 3-1 win at San Siro.
Ronaldo opened the scoring and set up Alberto Gilardino’s goal before Giuseppe Favalli sealed the scoreline. Luca Saudati netted for the visitors.
“If he has space, Ronaldo can disturb any defence. If he has another striker to focus on like Gilardino, then he links in with the overall play even more.”
Yoann Gourcuff was given a rare start in midfield, as Clarence Seedorf is dealing with a slight injury.
“He is a lad Milan are counting on, because he has enormous potential. He has found his own role here and will continue to increase his influence.
“He has to speed up a little in passing the ball, but he has a lot of confidence with the ball at his feet and it’s tough to get it off him. He loves the ball a little too much, a bit like Zinedine Zidane.”
Ancelotti was expected to also rest Andrea Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso for Wednesday’s Champions League quarter-final, but instead they played the whole 90 minutes.
“They are in great shape and also did well against Bayern this week, which is why I wanted them here for this important match.”
The win over Empoli sees the Rossoneri move to fifth place – just one point off Palermo who have played an extra game – but the focus now moves to Munich.
“Bayern are an excellent side and we have a tough task ahead of us,” said Ancelotti after the 2-2 first leg draw at San Siro.
“Our objective is to play the way we did in that first game. If we do, then we have a good chance of reaching the semi-finals.”
However, Ronaldo is cup-tied and Gilardino suspended, so Pippo Inzaghi and Ricardo Oliveira are the only available options upfront.
“Inzaghi is not in good shape, but he will do everything he can to be at his best. This is a player who can be a crucial weapon for us.”
AC Milan 3:1 Empoli - match report
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Scorers: Ronaldo 12 (M), Saudati 43 (E), Gilardino 44 (M), Favalli 78 (M)
Ronaldo, Alberto Gilardino and Giuseppe Favalli gave Milan a 3-1 win that lets them leapfrog Empoli in the race for fourth.
Few would've thought it at the start of the season, but this was a head-to-head play-off for a Champions League place. Empoli were one point in front of their illustrious opponents and could count on Rossoneri youth product Nicola Pozzi. Milan were torn between this fixture and the upcoming Euro quarter-final with Bayern Munich.
Ronaldo wasted an excellent opportunity after 120 seconds, as he ran forward on the counter-attack and turned round Daniele Balli, but lost his footing in front of an open goal and the ball ran away from him.
Yoann Gourcuff got a rare start and had his effort deflected out for a corner, but it was Il Fenomeno who opened the scoring after 12 minutes. Andrea Raggi's slip on a Kaka pass let Ronaldo through and he put two stepovers on Francesco Pratali to fire a left-foot finish under the bar.
There was bad news, though, as Gennaro Gattuso bruised his ribs and needed heavy strapping to continue.
Kaka threaded through for Gourcuff and another chance was charged down by the Empoli defence. Alberto Gilardino did nothing to stop a section of the fans jeering him, as he skipped past Pratali on Ronaldo's pass and thumped the upright with only the goalkeeper to beat.
Nicola Pozzi went very close to an equaliser, as he sprung the offside trap on Vittorio Tosto's pass 30 metres up the field and fired just wide. Moments later Ronaldo rolled across for Gourcuff, but the Frenchman tried something between a pass to Gilardino and a shot, achieving neither.
Kaka combined with Ronaldo to hit the back of the net, but it was disallowed for offside, as all Milan's attacks seemed to come down the left flank. Both Gilardino and Kaka failed to turn in Andrea Pirlo's free kick.
Kaka created an excellent opportunity on 37 minutes with one of his trademark surges and disguised pass to Giuseppe Favalli, but the cutback was a little short and the defence was able to clear.
As has often happened this season, Milan wasted far too many chances and were made to pay, as Empoli equalised before the break. Ighli Vannucchi surprisingly cut his free kick back to the edge of the area for a stunning Luca Saudati volley.
Still smarting from a similar problem against Bayern Munich, Milan hit right back in the space of 10 seconds. Ronaldo intelligently chipped up the ball for Gilardino to chest it down and volley from six yards. Balli got hold of it, but could not keep the shot out.
Dario Simic replaced the not 100 per cent fit Kakha Kaladze. Ronaldo was enjoying his new role as a provider, his fine assist finding Gourcuff clear at the edge of the area, but the strike was off target.
Kaka went on one of his trademark surging runs past four Empoli players, but Balli intercepted the cutback for Gilardino. From the resulting corner, Ronaldo volleyed wide of the near post with his left foot.
Gilardino had another fine chance on the counter-attack, but both the pass to Ronaldo and the shot were charged down by the one defender who stuck with him.
Empoli also wasted an opportunity to equalise soon after. Sergio Almiron burst through the centre of a static defence and only a desperate Marcos Cafu interception put him under enough pressure to balloon over.
Kaka was rested for the final 15 minutes and replaced by Marek Jankulovski, switching Gourcuff to the right. Moments later Milan made it 3-1. Pirlo combined beautifully with Favalli and the former Lazio veteran side-footed in with his right at the near post from eight yards.
San Siro gave a standing ovation to Serginho, who returned after a career-threatening groin injury that kept him out for six months.'Concorde' was visibly moved at the welcome. Balli beat away a Pirlo free kick and stuck out an arm to parry Gilardino's half-volley at the near post.
Milan: Dida; Cafu, Bonera, Kaladze (Simic 46), Favalli; Gattuso, Pirlo, Gourcuff; Kakà (Jankulovski 76); Gilardino, Ronaldo (Serginho 87)
Empoli: Balli; Raggi, Adani, Pratali, Tosto; Buscè, Almiron, Moro; Vannucchi; Pozzi (Marianini 59), Saudati (Matteini 87)
Ancelotti: Forget about Bayern
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Carlo Ancelotti has told Milan that tonight’s clash with Empoli is more important than the Champions League decider in Munich.
“I think it would be easier for us to finish fourth in Serie A than reach the Champions League semi-final,” the Coach told his squad.
“Saturday’s match is a crucial result in the fight for fourth place – a target we have been chasing since the start of the season.
“We will be facing a team that is in front of us in the table, plays good football and has put together a lot of points. We must forget about Bayern.”
Without the eight-point Calciopoli penalty, the Rossoneri would find themselves in joint third place with Lazio – who themselves have a three-point handicap – but as things stand they are one behind minnows Empoli.
Just days after the confidence-hitting 2-2 draw with Bayern at San Siro and leading up to the second leg in Munich, Milan must focus on the task at hand.
“I am looking to field my best formation. A few players have not yet recovered fully, but there will not be a total squad rotation,” explained Ancelotti.
“Paolo Maldini cannot play two games on the trot, while Alessandro Nesta has just returned from a long lay-off and needs rest. Clarence Seedorf has to do some specific training work, so these three probably won’t feature. If the others have recovered, then they will play.”
The after-effects of that Champions League draw are not just physical, as Nelson Dida and Alberto Gilardino were both heavily criticised by the fans.
“Dida did not make any kind of mistake on the first goal. On the second he perhaps should have covered the near post a little netter, but it was a fortunate situation for Bayern and not just a single man’s error,” insisted the Coach.
“I spoke with Gilardino, but only to tell him he played well. He was a good focus point for the team moving forward and his was a positive performance.”
Gilardino will be suspended for the second leg of that quarter-final, while Ronaldo is cup-tied.
AC Milan: Gilardino going nowhere
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Milan have confirmed their trust in Alberto Gilardino by dismissing reports that his future at the club was in doubt.
President Silvio Berlusconi released an interview to the outfit’s website on Thursday where he listed a number of players who he deemed as untransferable.
But the absence of Gilardino’s name fuelled speculation that the World Cup winner may be on his way out after a problematic campaign at the San Siro.
“Since the summer of 2006, many haven’t missed a chance to attack Milan and today is no exception to this rule,” read a statement posted on the club’s website.
“They say that Gilardino wasn’t on the list of confirmed Rossoneri? The reason is very simple and obvious.
“Yesterday in an interview to acmilan.com, President Berlusconi confirmed the players that some newspapers had previously reported as being on a list of possible departures.
“Gilardino was not mentioned by Berlusconi because he was not included in the original list that the newspapers had drawn up.
“In fact, last Tuesday, Berlusconi spoke of his regret about Gila’s suspension and his absence for the Champions League return leg in Munich.”
Don't blame Dida, says agent
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The agent of under-fire goalkeeper Nelson Dida has stood up for his client by attacking the Milan defence. “It’s their fault, not his,” Oscar Damiani argued.
The Brazilian was blasted in the Italian media for his performance in the 2-2 Champions League draw with Bayern Munich on Tuesday where he seemed at fault for both goals.
Those mistakes, coupled with a few more unconvincing displays this term, did raise question marks over the club’s decision to recently hand him a new £2.8m a season deal until 2010.
However, Damiani has today followed in the footsteps of President Silvio Berlusconi by backing the South American.
“The truth is that the Milan defence is inexistent and everyone is simply shifting the blame on to the goalkeeper,” the representative claimed.
“The errors at the back against Bayern, specifically by [Massimo] Oddo and [Alessandro] Nesta, were significant and my client can’t pay the penalty for those.
“Journalists need to take into account this aspect. Milan won’t get anywhere if they don’t put their defence right, no matter what Dida does.”
The World Cup shot-stopper, born in 1973, has been the Rossoneri’s undisputed No 1 since the 2002-03 campaign.
Berlusconi backs Dida form
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Milan President Silvio Berlusconi has defended goalkeeper Nelson Dida despite his poor performance against Bayern Munich.
The Brazilian was criticised after Tuesday evening’s Champions League tie with the Bundesliga outfit and reports in Italy suggested that the Rossoneri chief had lost faith in the No 1.
“There is no truth in this news, instead I told some friends of mine the exact opposite,” Berlusconi told the club’s website.
“I defended Dida and I would never change him with another goalkeeper,” added the former Prime Minister.
“I watched the match carefully and I also saw the replays of the goals we conceded and I defended Dida’s performance. This misinformation is absurd.”
Berlusconi obviously wasn’t pleased with the 2-2 home draw, which makes the match in Munich next Wednesday a difficult challenge.
“What I have always said to my men is that a team like Milan cannot concede those kind of goals in the last 10 minutes of a match,” said the Rossonero.
“When our goalkeeper has the ball, we must avoid making mistakes and dribbling. Our opponents have to be forced to tackle us if they want to get the ball back,” concluded Berlusconi.
Kaka keeps the faith
4.4 || webmaster
Milan star Kaka is remaining optimistic in view of the Champions League quarter-final return match in Munich. “We can still qualify.”
The Rossoneri were held to a 2-2 home draw by Bayern Munich last night which has put the German outfit in pole position to reach the semi-finals.
However, the Brazilian – who netted a late inexistent penalty last night – has great faith in his Milanese teammates.
“It will be an historic challenge, but I believe we can still qualify,” noted the South American.
Kaka became this season’s top scorer in the Champions League last night, but he did have his problems in living up to his potential against Bayern.
“It was a very difficult evening for me as I had to keep swapping wings to find some space,” he explained.
“It is a pity that we conceded two goals, but we are used to this kind of challenge. The return leg will represent a battle to make history, but we can do well.”
Massimo Oddo is also confident after insisting that the San Siro giants deserved to win the game last night.
“It was a cursed match for us as we could have scored four goals,” said the former Lazio man. “We were not lucky, but I am optimistic. I respect Bayern but I believe we can defeat them next week.”
Jankulovski rues fitness levels
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Marek Jankulovski claims Milan’s fitness levels let them down with their late collapse against Bayern Munich.
“We played very well for 75 minutes, but at the end no longer had the stamina and fell away,” explained the fullback.
“Obviously we are disappointed, as 2-2 is not a positive result, but if we go to Munich playing this way then we can certainly win.”
The Rossoneri dominated the match, but fell away badly in the final 15 minutes, allowing Daniel Van Buyten to score twice.
“We could easily have put the victory under lock and key, so clearly there is a great sense of disappointment,” added Jankulovski.
“Above all we were lacking a bit of luck, as we could have been two or three up at half-time. Unfortunately Bayern scored on two hopeful crosses to the back post and we have to make up for that now.”
Michael Rensing had performed two stunning point-blank saves on Massimo Ambrosini and Alberto Gilardino, while the ex-Parma striker had a valid goal disallowed for offside.
Kaka had penalty appeals waved away, although he was granted a spot-kick later on for a clean Lucio challenge.
Bayern fullback Willy Sagnol has damaged ligaments in his right knee, so will not be available for the second leg next Wednesday.
Ancelotti believes in semi chances
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Carlo Ancelotti was disappointed by Milan’s late draw with Bayern, but insists they can win in Munich even without Alberto Gilardino.
“A few things went wrong, but Bayern scored two very fortunate goals and we couldn’t do much about them,” said the Coach of the 2-2 result at San Siro.
“We played a fine game and deserved to win it. We didn’t, but have the opportunity to do so in the second leg.”
The Rossoneri had been leading twice in the Champions League quarter-final first leg, but Daniel Van Buyten pounced on two defensive errors.
Now to reach the final four, Ancelotti’s men must either win in Germany or draw scoring at least three goals.
“We have to repeat the kind of match we played today, a very aggressive fast-paced approach. We put them under serious pressure today and can do the same next Wednesday.”
The Russian referee caused controversy for both sides. He disallowed a valid Gilardino goal for offside and the booking for scoring after the whistle will see him suspended for the next leg.
“I really doubt UEFA will change their minds and take the card off his record, even if he assures he didn’t hear the whistle. This is another insult to injury from this evening, but it’s done now and there’s no point complaining.”
Ancelotti also pointed out an incident in Van Buyten’s second goal deep into stoppages, as Roque Santa Cruz climbed all over Alessandro Nesta to flick on the cross.
“Santa Cruz committed a foul on Nesta and then the ball bounced for Van Buyten. We could’ve stayed a bit higher up the field instead of defending so deep in the final seconds, but what can you do now?”
Of course Bayern also had complaints, as Kaka’s penalty was awarded for a clean Lucio challenge, although the two Brazilians had clashed with a more debatable tackle earlier on.
Gilardino and then Pippo Inzaghi played as the lone striker with support from Kaka, so did President Silvio Berlusconi protest at this tactical decision?
“President Berlusconi was disappointed with the result and said it didn’t reflect the overall performance of the team,” assured the Coach.
Milan dominated the opening 70 minutes, but fell away badly on a fitness level and allowed Bayern back in.
“Hasan Salihamidzic and Bastian Schweinsteiger cut in and leave more space than most for our fullbacks to come forward. Both Massimo Oddo and Marek Jankulovski did well to push forward while they had fuel in the tank.
“I think the midfielders did a great job. It is true towards the end we fell back a little bit, but I replaced Clarence Seedorf as he seemed a little more tired than the others.
“Gennaro Gattuso won back possession dozens of times, Andrea Pirlo was directing the play and we needed Massimo Ambrosini in the air.”
The next week could be decisive for Ancelotti’s future, as he faces Empoli in a head to head battle for fourth place and then travels to Munich.
“We have to shelve this game that left a sour taste in the mouth, but we played a great match and can do even better in Germany,” said the tactician.
“There is another important tie coming up Saturday and I have to field a fresh line-up because Empoli are very dynamic.”
Vieira envies AC Milan spot
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Patrick Vieira has launched an attack on Champions League quarter-finalists Milan, insisting Inter deserved to be in this position instead.
“I cannot understand how Milan can participate in the Champions League after everything that happened,” said the midfielder on RAI television programme ‘Sport Sera’.
The Rossoneri were originally excluded from the competition in the wake of the Calciopoli trial, but won their appeal to enter via the qualifying round.
Vieira was at the centre of the scandal, as he saw the two titles he won with Juventus stripped and the club demoted to Serie B.
“I realise other people might have a different opinion to mine, but I find it difficult to figure out why they have been allowed in to the tournament.”
Despite the circumstances in which the two teams entered, Milan are in the quarter-finals for the sixth year running, while Inter fell on the away goals rule to Valencia in the last round.
“The ticket to the next phase was within our grasp. We were a little unlucky and my absence also had an influence on the result,” said the Frenchman who missed those ties due to an injury.
“Despite the fact we were the stronger team, we were eliminated because we were under too much pressure. We hope it can go better next season.”
Vieira has just returned to the Appiano Gentile training camp after several weeks in France for treatment to his serious knee injury.
“The rehabilitation process is going well. I am improving and hope to be back on the field in around two weeks.”
In other Inter news, assistant manager Sinisa Mihajlovic is celebrating the birth of baby son Nikolas.
AC Milan 2:2 Bayern Munich - match report
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Scorers: Pirlo 40 (M), Van Buyten 78, 93 (B), Kaka pen 84 (M)
Milan twice threw away a lead as Bayern Munich snatched a last-gasp equaliser to draw 2-2 at San Siro. Alberto Gilardino had a good goal disallowed and will be suspended for the second leg.
The Rossoneri welcomed back Alessandro Nesta and Paolo Maldini from injury, but were without the cup-tied Ronaldo, so used Alberto Gilardino as a lone striker with support from Champions League top scorer Kaka. Bayern, who won here 2-0 earlier this season against Inter to end a run of six straight defeats on Italian soil, had Mark Van Bommel and Oliver Kahn suspended. The goalkeeper was banned for "improper conduct" during an anti-doping test.
The Germans lost to Milan 5-2 on aggregate last term, including a 4-1 scoreline at San Siro. The home side had a great chance after two minutes, as Gilardino flicked on a Marek Jankulovski cross with his head and Clarence Seedorf failed to tap in at the back post by a matter of inches. The ex-Parma striker couldn't quite get enough power on an Andrea Pirlo pass over the defence.
A hopeful long-range Bastian Schweinsteiger effort was comfortably smothered, but Milan were in control. On 14 minutes Massimo Ambrosini was allowed a free header on Massimo Oddo's corner and Michael Rensing performed a stunning - and fortunate - point-blank save with the crook of his elbow.
Bayern barely got out of their own half, but on 23 minutes Andreas Ottl unleashed a rocket from 30 metres that Nelson Dida tipped over the bar. Seedorf drilled just wide of the near post from the edge of the area.
Only Ottl had chances for the Germans from distance and future Juventus man Hasan Salihamidzic was booked for a tackle on Jankulovski. Kaka skipped past fellow Brazilian Lucio in the area only to see his progress cut short by Daniel Van Buyten. Nesta prevented Roy Makaay's cross from the right reaching Salihamidzic from eight yards.
Milan had a spectacular opportunity on 36 minutes. Nesta's searching pass sent Oddo running and his cross found Gilardino's diving header from six yards, but Rensing again performed an incredible save to deny him.
The Rossoneri had penalty appeals waved away for a Lucio tackle on Kaka, giving the corner though his studs only scraped the ball. It didn't matter, as from the resulting corner Pirlo sprung the offside trap on Oddo's floated pass and placed a delightful looping header over the stranded goalkeeper.
Van Buyten was dispossessed and Jankulovski smashed his shot just past the near top corner, although he had the space to progress into the area.
Gilardino thought he had made it 2-0 with a lob over Rensing, but the goal was disallwed for an incorrect offside position. To add insult to injury, he was booked for carrying on as he had not heard the whistle and will be suspended for the second leg in Munich.
Moments later Kaka didn't get a strong enough touch on Jankulovski's low cross and the ball dribbled across an open goal. The Brazilian wasted another promising chance when he spun round and had his shot charged down from seven yards.
Lucio intercepted a Seedorf midfield ball and immediately launched it for Roy Makaay, but Maldini stuck to him like glue and with a perfect challenge stopped the Dutchman clear on goal.
Oddo attempted the goal of the season with a spectacular right-foot volley that landed on the roof of the net.
Ottmar Hitzfeld introduced Christian Lell and Claudio Pizarro, while Pippo Inzaghi replaced Gilardino, the veteran greeted by a huge cheer from the crowd that had been jeering Gila.
Bayern had a period of sustained pressure for the first time in the game, but failed to trouble Dida. Inzaghi couldn't quite turn between two defenders inside the area.
Munich were pouring forward and took advantage of a Dida howler. The goalkeeper hesitated when the cross came for Pizarro and as he headed back Dida found himself in no man's land for Van Buyten to smack the easy finish in from five yards.
It was a bitter blow for a team that had dominated for so long and Schweinsteiger nodded over with a deflection off Maldini and Pizarro's header went wide from the corner.
Kaka sprinted into the area and Lucio went in for the tackle, cleanly getting the ball, but the referee pointed to the spot. It was a controversial decision, especially as Lucio's earlier challenge on Kaka was more of a penalty incident, but the Brazilian starlet took the kick and converted to restore Milan's lead. His seventh goal in nine games, Kaka consolidated his position as Champions League top scorer.
Yoann Gourcuff and Kakha Kaladze came on for Seedorf and Jankulovski in the final minutes. Rensing came out to anticipate Inzaghi, but Dida again rushed into no man's land and was fortunate Bayern did not take advantage.
The goalkeeper was again at fault when Bayern Munich scored a barely deserved equaliser in the final seconds of stoppages. The defence failed to clear a long free kick into the box and Van Buyten again was left unmarked to fire inbetween Dida and the near post from five yards.
Milan: Dida; Oddo, Nesta, Maldini, Jankulovski (Kaladze 86); Gattuso, Pirlo, Ambrosini, Seedorf (Gourcuff 85); Kakà, Gilardino (Inzaghi 72)
Bayern Munich: Rensing; Sagnol (Lell 68), Lucio, Van Buyten, Lahm; Salihamidzic, Hargreaves, Ottl, Schweinsteiger; Makaay (Santa Cruz 85), Podolski (Pizarro 68)
Ref: Baskakov (Rus)
Bronzetti expects Ronaldinho switch
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Respected transfer market consultant Ernesto Bronzetti is confident that Ronaldinho will join Milan if Barcelona let their star player leave.
The Rossoneri have made no secret of their intention to make a huge summer bid for the former Golden Ball winner, with Vice-President Adriano Galliani reiterating over the past few weeks that they were “in super pole position” should the Brazilian become available.
And now Bronzetti, an agent who has close links with the Spanish market, has added more fuel to the fire.
“If the Spanish club decides to sell Ronaldinho, then there is a 99.9 per cent chance that he will become a Milan player,” said Bronzetti.
“I don’t see any other alternatives for him, especially as [Milan President] Silvio Berlusconi wants him.”
Berlusconi reiterated on Monday evening that his club are keen on signing the Brazilian star, although it seems that the Nou Camp outfit are in control of the situation.
“I think his affection for Milan cannot be doubted,” said the former Italian Prime Minister to Sky Italia.
“If Ronaldinho leaves Barcelona then I am sure he will join Milan, but first he has to leave, or perhaps I should say that they have to let him go.”
Meanwhile, stories in Spain on Tuesday claim that Barcelona and Ronaldinho have started negotiations over a new contract.
‘Dinho’s current agreement with last season’s Champions League winners will expire in June 2010.
Quagliarella wanted by United
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Manchester United have joined Inter and Milan in the chase to sign Sampdoria revelation Fabio Quagliarella.
The Blucerchiati forward has scored 12 Serie A goals so far this term and his excellent form has seen him win his maiden Italian cap and the interest of several important clubs.
According to the latest reports in Italy, Quagliarella has also been eyed by Manchester United as they are looking for a replacement for 34-year-old Gunnar Solskjaer.
La Gazzetta dello Sport claims that the striker has impressed the Premiership outfit recently and was contacted by Old Trafford representatives last week.
Quagliarella’s agent Stefano Antonelli confirmed on Monday that his client would not leave the club for less than £11m and that both Milan sides are also monitoring the former Torino youngster.
However, the Nerazzurri are waiting to see if Alvaro Recoba will leave the San Siro at the end of the season, while Milan’s primary transfer target this summer is Ronaldinho of Barcelona.
The Sampdoria ace, who scored a 40-metre wonder goal against Chievo this week, is co-owned by Udinese.
Carletto wants Italian semi-final
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Carlo Ancelotti has admitted he would be happy to play Roma in the Champions League semi-final.
Milan host Bayern Munich in the first leg of the quarter-final on Tuesday and the winners of the two-legged clash will go through to face either Roma or Manchester United in the semi-finals.
“Yes, I am dreaming of an Italian semi-final with Roma,” said Ancelotti in Monday’s Press conference.
“Having two clubs in the next phase would mean that an Italian side would play in the Final. That would be wonderful,” added the tactician.
“In any case, we need to play tomorrow’s game with a more competitive spirit and stronger desire than we had against Roma at the weekend.
“We mustn’t think we must win at all costs. We have to do our best and think about increasing our chances of qualifying with a good result, the qualification will be decided in the second leg.”
All four previous home meetings with Bayern have produced victories, most recently the 4-1 win last year, but Ancelotti is aware that Tuesday’s match will be a difficult one.
“They are a strong side and they have improved a lot since December. They are a solid team and have a defensive mentality, it will be a tough game.
“We are very motivated, this is the most important competition and we are still competing for the Final. We still haven’t shown our best football and this is definitely an added stimulus,” concluded the Rossonero.
Maldini expects Bayern repeat
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Paolo Maldini is confident that Milan can mirror last season’s crushing Champions League defeat of Bayern Munich.
The two sides square off against each other at the San Siro on Tuesday, a year after the Rossoneri collected a 4-1 home victory in the same competition.
“Bayern are more or less the same side as they were last year and so are we,” he stated on Monday.
“Last season we were doing well in the League at the time and the same goes for this year with the exception of the derby loss to Inter.
“Because of this, I am expecting a game similar to the one from last March. Playing the first leg at home isn’t an advantage, but it isn’t something to worry about either.
“We still have the same spirit from the days of our Manchester triumph because that is who we are. The spirit of this club remains, even when the players change.”
Although confident in the ability of his Rossoneri companions, the veteran stopper is full of respect for the Bundesliga giants and one man in particular.
“Bayern have a typically German look,” he noted. “They are a side who never give up, are physically good and tough.
“They have lost a bit of quality in respect to last year, but they are still very strong.
“Roy Makaay is their most eye-catching player. He is in excellent shape and has already scored against us while with Deportivo.
“I would say that he is the player to watch and follow with great attention.”
Although well out of the Scudetto race, Maldini has repeated the thoughts of Vice-President Adriano Galliani when it comes to what Milan’s main target is every season.
“The Champions League has been our primary objective for many years now and we have done continuously well in this competition,” he added.
“We could have done better domestically, but at the end of the day we are close to our minimum goal for the season which is fourth place in Serie A.
“However, a normal season could be transformed into an extraordinary one thanks to the Champions League dream.”
Maldini has been named in the squad and he’s ready for action after shaking off a knee complaint which he picked up in the 2-1 loss to Inter.
“I am doing well,” he outlined. “It’s already been 10 days now that I’ve been training with the team. I am ready to play for 90 minutes with maximum effort and fighting spirit.
“Every Champions League game is a new adventure. Appearing in these games is absolutely the top for a player.”
Squad: Dida, Kalac, Storari; Bonera, Cafu, Favalli, Kaladze, Jankulovski, Maldini, Nesta, Oddo, Simic; Ambrosini, Brocchi, Gattuso, Gourcuff, Kaka, Pirlo, Seedorf; Gilardino, Inzaghi, Oliveira.
Nesta relishes return
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Alessandro Nesta made his comeback after four months and thanked Marcello Lippi for helping him during this difficult time.
“I spent three months in Miami for treatment and worked very hard over the past four weeks to get back in shape,” commented the Milan defender who was out with a shoulder injury.
He was voted Man of the Match following last night’s 1-1 draw at Roma and is now likely to start against Bayern Munich in Tuesday’s Champions League clash.
UEFA have assigned Russian referee Iouri Baskakov to that tie at San Siro. He has never before officiated Milan in Europe, but his two Italian matches have resulted in defeats.
Udinese lost 4-3 and had Giampaolo Pinzi sent off at Werder Bremen in a November 2005 Champions League tie and Chievo lost 2-0 to Red Star Belgrade in the 2002-03 UEFA Cup.
“My fitness levels are holding up well, despite what people may say,” added Nesta in a sideswipe at his critics after missing much of the 2006 World Cup.
“The important thing for me was not so much the result as returning to the field after such a long lay-off.
“I have to give a special thanks to Lippi, who called me on the phone when the Azzurri went to the President of the Republic to get their honours for the World Cup victory. I could not be there, but he called at that moment to let me hear the speech and tell me that this was for me as well. It meant a lot.”
The former Lazio captain helped secure the point in his old hunting ground of the Stadio Olimpico.
“I think it was the right result. Roma had plenty of chances, but so did we, especially with Alberto Gilardino. It’s true that in the first half we struggled, but impressed after the break.”
Ancelotti rues Rossoneri start
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Carlo Ancelotti notes he saw the worst and best of Milan this evening in a game of two halves.
“We had a bland start and could not get the right tempo, while the opening goal was conceded because of our lack of concentration,” criticised the Coach.
Philippe Mexes put Roma into the lead after just four minutes at the Stadio Olimpico, although substitute Alberto Gilardino snatched an equaliser in the 1-1 draw.
“To go behind so early on with an error made it difficult and complicated our original plans, but in the second half it was another game and another Milan.
“Usually these matches that begin so badly do not get back on track, and it has happened to us in the past, but we did well to get something positive from it. I was very impressed with the second half performance.”
He opted to start with an all-Brazilian trident attack, but the Rossoneri only kicked into gear when Gilardino replaced Ricardo Oliveira.
“I decided to go with this formation to base our attacks on pace and the counter-attack, but their goal changed our plans. It was not the substitution that made the difference, but rather a total attitude adjustment from the entire squad.”
Ancelotti will be hoping his team has learned something from the experience ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League quarter-final against Bayern Munich.