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AC Milan Opens Up 4-Point Lead On Juve In Serie A

Rome, Mar 12: AC Milan bounced back from its loss to Arsenal by beating Lecce 2-0 Sunday, as the Rossoneri opened up a four-point lead atop Serie A after Juventus was held to yet another

India TV News Desk [ Updated: March 12, 2012 15:55 IST ]
ac milan opens up 4 point lead on juve in serie a
ac milan opens up 4 point lead on juve in serie a

Rome, Mar 12: AC Milan bounced back from its loss to Arsenal by beating Lecce 2-0 Sunday, as the Rossoneri opened up a four-point lead atop Serie A after Juventus was held to yet another draw, 0-0, by Genoa.

Italy midfielder Antonio Nocerino put Milan ahead seven minutes in at the San Siro and Zlatan Ibrahimovic doubled the lead in the 65th with his league-leading 19th goal of the season.

In Genoa, Juventus hit the woodwork three times in the second half but could not find the target and had to settle for its 14th draw of the season — the most in the league.

"It's another positive day but we haven't won anything yet," said Milan vice president Adriano Galliani. "Let's not trick ourselves, because we're at a disadvantage head-to-head."

Head-to-head records are the first tiebreakers in the Italian league, and Juventus won the first meeting with Milan this season and drew the second.

Milan leads with 57 points, Juventus has 53, Lazio 48, Napoli 46 and Udinese 46.

In the late matches, Lazio and Udinese each lost, giving surging Napoli a boost in its pursuit of third place and the last Champions League berth.

Nine-man Lazio was beaten 3-1 at home by Bologna and Udinese fell 1-0 at Novara, which was playing its first match with Attilio Tesser back at manager.

Napoli defeated Cagliari 6-3 on Friday for its sixth consecutive win in all competitions, which spurred Cagliari to fire manager Davide Ballardini on Sunday.

Also, it was: Atalanta 1, Parma 1; Catania 1, Fiorentina 0; and Cesena 0, Siena 2.

While it still managed to advance in the Champions League, Milan was beaten 3-0 by Arsenal on Tuesday after allowing three first-half goals.

Against Lecce, which remained third from the bottom, Milan immediately took control when Nocerino took a pass from Ibrahimovic and had a shot deflected in off a defender.

It was the ninth goal this season for Nocerino, who Milan acquired from Palermo on the last day of the preseason transfer market for the relatively low fee of €500,000 ($660,000).

"I congratulated Nocerino, he's having a fantastic season," Galliani said. "He really plays in synch with Ibra."

In the 19th, Ibrahimovic just missed a delicate chip shot from a near impossible angle along the end line but the Sweden international then found the target with a powerful shot from beyond the area after taking a pass from Urby Emanuelsson.

Ibrahimovic was highly critical of Milan's performance against Arsenal, telling Swedish media that manager Massimiliano Allegri used him out of position, but he was at the center of all the action Sunday.

Meanwhile, Juventus was missing its three top defenders — with Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli injured and Leonardo Bonucci suspended — and manager Antonio Conte was serving a touchline ban.

It looked like the absences in defense might cause a problem for Juve when Genoa striker Rodrigo Palacio threatened with a lob shot in the opening minute, but Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon leaped up and swiped the ball away.

Genoa goalkeeper Sebastien Frey was also in form and thwarted a couple chances for Juve in the first half, but the Bianconeri had only themselves to blame for failing to score after the break, hitting the goalframe three times in the space of seven minutes.

First, Mirko Vucinic headed off the crossbar in the 53rd, then the Montenegro striker hit the outside of the post with another header five minutes later. On the hour mark, Simone Pepe struck the post to waste a perfect pass from the far left flank from Andrea Pirlo, who was playing his 400th match in the Italian league.

Pirlo placed the ball right at Pepe's foot with only Frey to beat but the winger's shot squarely struck the right post.

Claudio Marchisio threatened again for Juve in the 69th, but Frey blocked his swerving long-range effort, and Pepe had a goal annulled for a debatable offside call in the 71st.

Genoa protested to no avail for a penalty in added time when Pirlo appeared to trip Marco Rossi inside the area.

Juventus remains the only undefeated squad in the league, but it has more draws (14) than wins (13).

Juventus' players and management refused to speak with the media after the match to protest the goal from Pepe that was disallowed, plus other refereeing decisions.

In Rome, Lazio was hoping to build momentum off its derby win last weekend. Bologna rested captain Marco Di Vaio but still took control when Daniele Portanova scored following a corner in the 11th.

Alessandro Diamanti then made it 2-0 for Bologna in the 28th by scoring into an empty net following a failed clearance from goalkeeper Federico Marchetti.

Lazio midfielder Francelino Matuzalem was sent off for putting his hand in Diamanti's face in the 42nd, but Bologna midfielder Matteo Rubin scored an ugly own goal in the 55th to temporarily let Lazio back in the match.

Lazio was then reduced to nine men when Alvaro Gonzalez was sent off in the 58th for a last-man foul on Bologna's dangerous Uruguayan striker, Gaston Ramirez. Two minutes later, Slovenian midfielder Rene Krhin restored Bologna's two-goal lead from a rebound after a free kick.

In Novara, the hosts' Brazilian forward, Jeda, scored with a header following a corner in the 16th. Udinese's Brazilian defender, Danilo, had a goal disallowed for a questionable offside call in the 70th.

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