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AC Milan struggles in 1-1 draw at Lecce

Posted By: Pti

Rome, Jan 17 (AP) AC Milan conceded a late equaliser in a1-1 draw at Lecce on Sunday, missing a chance to extend itsSerie A lead after second-place Napoli had drawn a dayearlier.

Milan went ahead from a magnificent strike by ZlatanIbrahimovic in the 49th minute, but Uruguayan midfielder RubenOlivera drew Lecce level in the 82nd with a bouncing shot fromthe center of the area after being left unmarked at a corner.

Milan leads with 41 points. Lazio and Napoli are nextwith 37 each, AS Roma has 35, Juventus 34 and Inter Milan 32with two matches to make up.

In an otherwise lackluster performance for Milan,Ibrahimovic''s goal was a work of art. The Sweden internationalshrugged off a defender beyond the area and calmly lobbed aprecise shot inside the far high corner of the goal as ''keeperAntonio Rosati looked on helplessly.

It was the 11th goal this season for Ibrahimovic afterreturning to Italy following an unhappy stint with Barcelona.

Lecce continuously threatened to equalize, with Milangoalkeeper Marco Amelia having to swat away a dangerous effortfrom Guillermo Giacomazzi in the 61st. Lecce forward David DiMichele had a shot that hit the post in the 81st.

Earlier, Lazio joined Napoli in second place with a 1-0win over Sampdoria following a late winner from substituteLibor Kozak.

Similarly, Roma won 1-0 at Cesena when Fabio Simpliciodirected the ball in off defender Max Pellegrino in the 89th;and Alberto Aquilani scored a late winner as Juventus beatlast-place Bari 2-1.

Napoli drew 0-0 with Fiorentina on Saturday and Interbeat Bologna 4-1.

Elsewhere Sunday, Antonio Di Natale scored hisleague-leading 14th goal as Udinese defeated Genoa 4-2 to moveinto eighth; Brescia beat 10-man Parma 2-0 to give coach MarioBeretta a much-needed win following three consecutive losses;and Catania and Chievo Verona drew 1-1.

Also, Cagliari beat Palermo 3-1 to put a dent in theSicilian club''s Champions League hopes.

In Rome, the 21-year-old Czech forward Kozak headed infrom the edge of the box in the 84th to break a deadlock atthe Stadio Olimpico, then ripped his Lazio jersey off tocelebrate, drawing a yellow card.

After a dull first half, Italy forward Giampaolo Pazzinithreatened for Sampdoria in the 51st, wasting a good look witha shot high, and Kozak scored seven minutes after coming on.

"Kozak has good ability and when he has been called onhe''s always responded positively," said Lazio manager EdyReja.

Rejecting speculation that Kozak was on the transfer market, Lazio president Claudio Lotito said he now won''t evenbe offered on loan.

Roma''s score came after Marco Borriello hit the crossbarand Adriano couldn''t pound in the rebound.

We didn''t give up one meter and I like it when thesquad believes until the end,'''' said Roma coach ClaudioRanieri, but still warned, Every time we win away we call itthe game that will mark our turnaround.''''

In Turin, Juventus was without four injured forwards _Vincenzo Iaquinta, Fabio Quagliarella, Amauri and newly signedLuca Toni _ which resulted in 19-year-old Niccolo Giannettistarting alongside Juventus captain Alessandro Del Piero inattack.

Del Piero curved in a free kick over Cesena''s wall to putJuve ahead in the 43rd. After Hungary forward Gergely Rudolfequalized in the 57th, Aquilani restored the lead with apowerful, bouncing shot from the edge of the area in the 79th.

We really interpreted the game well, both technicallyand emotionally,'''' said Juventus coach Luigi Del Neri.

While Juventus beat Catania 2-0 in the Italian Cup onThursday, this was the Turin club''s first win in Serie A sincebeating Lazio 2-1 on Dec. 12. It was also goalkeeper GianluigiBuffon''s first Serie A match since injuring his back at theWorld Cup.

Del Neri had surprisingly said that Buffon would have toearn his starting place back when he returned from surgery,but after this performance and the way Buffon played againstCatania, he indicated that the club''s other goalkeeper, MarcoStorari, will now likely be headed for a transfer.

When Gigi Buffon is healthy I don''t see anyone playingin his place,'''' Del Neri said. (AP) AT

Story first published: Monday, January 17, 2011, 12:16 [IST]
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