Vol. 5 Num 263 Tue. February 22, 2005  

Serie A
Milan smile as Juve stutter

Ten-man AC Milan replaced Juventus at the top of Serie A after a stoppage-time goal by Brazilian winger Serginho gave them a 1-0 win over Cagliari on Saturday.

The result gave Milan 54 points from 25 matches, level on points but with a better goal difference than Juventus, who drew 0-0 at Messina in an earlier match.

Third-placed Inter Milan remain 11 points adrift of the leaders after conceding a late goal to draw 1-1 with Udinese. At the San Siro, a bright start by Milan against Cagliari was marred when Andriy Shevchenko was forced to make an early exit after clashing heads with defender Massimo Brambilla.

Even without their top striker, however, the Serie A champions pressed forward.

Clarence Seedorf curled a low centre across the face of goal and striker Jon Dahl Tomasson narrowly failed to connect while Shevchenko's replacement, Hernan Crespo, fired just over.

Milan continued to dominate after the interval but as the minutes ticked by their attack grew increasingly impatient.

Rui Costa blasted over the bar, despite having time and space to spare, and defender Giuseppe Pancaro was sent off for a second bookable offence.

Cagliari's defensive tactics seemed likely to be rewarded with a point but in the first minute of stoppage time Cafu curled a cross to an unmarked Serginho in the area and the winger rifled a shot into the roof of the net.

Juve's goalless draw was the latest in a series of recent slips. Having started February with an eight-point cushion, the Turin-based club lost two of their previous three matches to let Milan back into the title race.

Messina's position in the bottom half of the division belied a tricky away test for the 27-time Italian champions.

The Sicilian side had lost only twice at their Stadio San Filippo this season and easily matched Juve in the first half.

While Alessandro Del Piero forced Messina goalkeeper Marco Storari into a diving save at one end, Riccardo Zampagna went even closer at the other with a header that smacked the post.

Juventus played with more spirit after the break, but a combination of imprecise passing and aggressive marking by the home side meant they struggled to create any scoring chances.

Nine minutes from time Juve striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic broke the offside trap to go clear on goal, but the Swedish international lashed his shot straight at Storari.

Milan's joy at their late victory was not shared by city rivals Inter, who were instead on the receiving end of a last-minute goal by Udinese forward Henok Goitom that cancelled out a Juan Sebastian Veron strike.