Ronaldinho treble pressures Inter
Ronaldinho netted a hat-trick as AC Milan eased to victory over Serie A bottom club Siena at the San Siro, as Leonardo's side cut the deficit to six points after Inter's 2-2 draw at Bari. Ronaldinho struck a first-half penalty, a second-half header and a long- range shot late on after Marco Borriello had hit the Rossoneri's second. Siena's efforts to kick-start a dismal season were undermined by the tenth-minute dismissal of goalkeeper Gianluca Curci, which led to Ronaldinho's opening spot-kick.
Only one week ago Curci and his team-mates performed heroics in the same stadium until Siena were undone by two late goals as Inter grabbed victory from the jaws of defeat. Siena were threatening to inflict Inter's first home league loss for 30 matches before Wesley Sneijder equalised two minutes from time and Walter Samuel struck a stoppage-time winner. Inter's city and Serie A title rivals AC Milan had no such trouble.
But the efforts of Leonardo's side were severely boosted by the dismissal of Curci with 80 minutes still to play. There was a warning shot to the visitors after three minutes as Alessandro Nesta's right-wing cross found Ronaldinho, who, with his back to goal, controlled the ball with his chest before acrobatically firing over.
Milan were firmly in control when Borriello won a penalty, capitalising on poor communication from Goncalo Brandao to race through one-on-one with Curci, who chopped down the Milan striker. Ronaldinho sent substitute goalkeeper Gianluca Pegolo the wrong way from the resulting spot-kick.
The two-time FIFA World Player of the Year was in supreme form and soon after crossed the ball for Borriello, who could only head weakly at Pegolo. But Borriello made amends after 28 minutes, meeting Andrea Pirlo's cross with a left-foot acrobatic effort which found the back of the net.
Ronaldinho dribbled at the Siena defence early in the second period before an attempted lob which Pegolo saved. Pegolo was again in action, denying Borriello after more fine work from Ronaldinho, who called the Siena goalkeeper into action soon after. But Milan netted their third after 72 minutes when Ronaldinho met a corner and headed past Pegolo.
A pin-point cross from David Beckham was well controlled by Ronaldinho, who attempted a shot from a fine angle and missed the target by millimetres. Siena had an opportunity to score nine minutes from time when Massimo Maccarone crossed for Emanuele Calaio, who was denied by Dida. The rebound dropped for Albin Ekdal, but Dida again saved.
There was still time for Ronaldinho to complete his hat-trick and the forward did so in emphatic fashion. Ronaldinho drilled a powerful left-foot shot into the top corner, leaving Pegolo with no chance.
Milan coach Leonardo paid tribute to his Brazilian compatriot and looked forward to the upcoming Milan derby.
"It's normal when someone feels the love, he responds. He's entertaining everyone. He's a great player," said Leonardo of Ronaldinho. "He's having a great season. He's rediscovered his taste for playing well and scoring goals.
"It's a great time in a great title race (for the derby) and it will create interest because we are closer (to Inter). There will be a lot of expectation and attention and I'm delighted to be a part of that."