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Rediff.com  » Sports » Late penalty gives Milan vital win

Late penalty gives Milan vital win

April 11, 2004 16:03 IST

Serie A leaders AC Milan needed a debatable 86th minute penalty from Andrea Pirlo to beat lowly Empoli 1-0 on Saturday and maintain their nine point lead over AS Roma.

Roma beat Chievo 3-1 with goals from John Carew and Antonio Cassano and an own goal from Chievo defender Andrea Barzagli.

Third placed Juventus also left it late -- an 88th minute header from French striker David Trezeguet giving them a 1-0 win over Lazio.

Milan, who had drawn their previous two league games and were knocked out of the Champions League in mid-week, lead on 72 points with five games remaining.

Roma have 63 points but have a game in hand on their rivals as last month's abandoned Rome derby has yet to be replayed, while Juve are a further point behind.

After the 4-0 defeat by Deportivo Coruna on Wednesday ended their ambitions in Europe, Milan knew they could not afford another slip-up in Serie A if they were to keep on track for their 17th 'scudetto'.

It was a nervy affair with Milan still looking far from the confident and composed side of a few weeks ago and Carlo Ancelotti's side could have gone behind in the 76th minute when Tommaso Rocchi blasted a volley over the bar from close range.

CONTROVERSIAL DECISION

The game was decided by a controversial decision from referee Gianluca Paparesta, who awarded a penalty to Milan when he ruled Danish striker Jon Dahl Tomasson had been brought down by Empoli keeper Daniele Balli.

Balli was shown the red card but television replays showed he had made little contact and, after protests ended, Pirlo strode up and confidently struck home the spot kick.

Ancelotti admitted the contact between Balli and Tomasson may have been light but felt the decision was just.

"There was a contact and an empty goal and in a situation like that I think it is right to give a penalty," he said.

"It was a very tricky game for us and it was hard to forget Wednesday but we were able to give everything we could and these are three very important points."

Roma's home match was played in Palermo due to a two-match ban from their Olympic stadium after crowd trouble in the derby.

Despite being without suspended captain Francesco Totti, Roma took the lead on the half hour through Norwegian Carew.

Two minutes later Federico Cossato pulled Chievo level but Roma restored their lead with a close range Cassano header before Barzagli ended the game, turning a D'Agostino cross.

There was little to choose between Juventus and Lazio for much of their encounter at the Delle Alpi stadium with Simone Inzaghi wasting a good chance in the first half for Roberto Mancini's side and Gianluca Zambrotta going close for Juve.

A draw looked a fair result but two minutes from the end the Lazio defence left Trezeguet unmarked and the French striker rose to head home a cross to give Juve the points.

The defeat means Lazio drop down to fifth place.

Alberto Gilardino scored twice for Parma to lift his season tally to 17 goals and help his team take over from Lazio in the fourth Champions League qualification spot with a 3-1 win over Lecce.

Already relegated Ancona finally got their first victory of the season with two goals from Croatian Milan Rapaic giving them a 3-2 win over Bologna after 28 games without a victory.

Sixth placed Inter Milan are away to Perugia on Sunday.

Simon Evans
Source:
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