AC Milan got back to winning ways and gave themselves a boost ahead of Thursday's UEFA Cup last 32 second-leg match against Werder Bremen with a 1-0 home victory against Cagliari. Clarence Seedorf scored the only goal of the game with a simple tap-in midway through the second half of a match in which the visitors were the better side for long periods.
The win allowed third-placed Milan to narrow the gap with table-topping city rivals Inter Milan, who won 2-1 at Bologna yesterday, to 11 points. Juventus are second after beating Palermo 2-0 on Saturday. But more important, perhaps, is the fact that the victory will have restored Milan's confidence ahead of the return leg against Bremen, with the tie delicately poised at 1-1 from the opening match in Germany.
Cagliari came into this game as one of Serie A's most in-form sides and they certainly had the better of the first-half at the San Siro. Their first chance came on 16 minutes when diminutive Brazilian Jeda fed Robert Aquafresca in the box, but the Italian hot-shot was a little slow in turning to shoot from seven yards and his effort lacked power, allowing Christian Abbiati in the Milan goal to kick the ball away.
On 22 minutes, veteran striker Filippo Inzaghi found the net for Milan, but he was narrowly offside from Seedorf's pass. David Beckham was having a largely quiet game on the right flank until one devilish cross almost earned a reward on 34 minutes, but Marek Jankulovski and Inzaghi failed to get a decisive touch on the ball.
Just before half-time Jeda tested Abbiati's reactions with a venomous shot from just outside the area, but the Milan goalkeeper tipped it over the bar. Cagliari were still in the ascendancy early in the second-half as Andrea Cossu hit a howitzer from distance that beat Abbiati with ease, but crashed back off the post with the goalkeeper looking relieved.
But on 65 minutes a horrendous mix-up in Cagliari's box allowed Seedorf to stroke home a simple goal. Running back towards his own goal, Uruguayan Diego Lopez received a shove in the back from Inzaghi and headed the ball against goalkeeper Federico Marchetti before colliding with him for good measure. The ball fell to the Dutch veteran who could not miss from 15 yards.
Fiorentina come from behind to win
Fiorentina moved back up to fourth place and into the final UEFA Champions League qualifying position, as Romania captain Adrian Mutu scored a last-gasp winner in a 2-1 home success against Chievo. The Flying Pigs had taken an early lead through Santiago Morero, but Alberto Gilardino started the La Viola fightback 17 minutes from time and Mutu struck four minutes into injury time to secure the three points.
Genoa moved into fifth above Roma, who beat Siena 1-0 yesterday, with a 1-0 success at Napoli courtesy of Bosko Jankovic's second half strike.