Ronaldo and Alberto Gilardino scored first-half
goals and AC Milan beat Empoli 3-1 in the Serie A on Saturday to keep alive its
hopes of a berth in next season's European Champions League.
Ronaldo's goal in the 12th minute and Gilardino's in 44th gave Milan a 2-1
halftime lead. Giuseppe Favalli added an insurance goal in the 78th.
The victory moved Milan into fifth place in the Serie A with 47 points,
including an eight-point penalty for its involvement in the Italian match-fixing
"It was hard," Milan midfielder Gennaro Gattuso said. "Fourth place is very
important for us. We haven't made calculations. The Champions League is
fundamental for the club and for us."
The top two teams earn guaranteed berths in the Champions League, while the next
two receive berths in the qualifying phase. Milan climbed within one point of
fourth-place Palermo, which lost 3-1 at home to Cagliari.
Earlier Saturday, AS Roma beat Catania 2-0 to close the gap on Serie A leader
Inter was held to a 0-0 draw at Reggina -- only the second team after Udinese to
keep the defending champion without a goal this season.
Inter leads Italy's top division with 80 points, 18 more than Roma. Lazio is
third with 55 points after beating 10-man Messina 1-0 for its eighth straight
Also Saturday, it was: Atalanta 1, Chievo Verona 0; Fiorentina 4, Ascoli 0;
Parma 1, Livorno 0; Sampdoria 1, Torino 0; and Siena 2, Udinese 2.
At San Siro, Ronaldo gave Milan the lead, befuddling Empoli's defense with some
trademark stepovers and scoring into the roof of the net for his fourth goal in
seven games. He also had a second goal disallowed in the 25th for offside.
Luca Saudati equalized with a scissors kick from the edge of the area in the
43rd, but Gilardino restored the lead a minute later by controlling a ball from
Ronaldo with his head and volleying into the bottom left corner.
Favalli scored his first goal for the Rossoneri off a pass by midfielder Andrea
Pirlo inside the penalty box.
Neither Ronaldo, who is cup-tied, nor Gilardino, who is suspended, will be
available for Milan's second-leg of the Champions League quarterfinals at Bayern
Munich on Wednesday. Milan drew with the German team 2-2 on Tuesday.
"The task in Munich is difficult," Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti said. "But our
objective is to play as we did at home."
Earlier Saturday, Francesco Tavano scored for Roma in the 37th and Mirko Vucinic
added the second six minutes from time. The result capped an excellent week for
the Giallorossi, who beat Manchester United 2-1 in the first leg of the
Champions League quarterfinals on Wednesday.
"It's a very important victory," Roma coach Luciano Spalletti said. "It's been a
long time since we won away from home."
Roma last won on the road on Dec. 20, when it beat Torino 2-1.
Tavano scored his second goal of the season from inside the area following a
deflection by Vucinic. Vucinic scored thanks to some quick thinking from Italy
midfielder Simone Perrotta, who, at a free kick, passed the ball to the striker,
while Catania's defense was organizing its wall.
The match was behind closed doors at Lecce's Via del Mare stadium, following a
government assessment that the match carried a high level of risk to the public
due to the recent history of violence by supporters of both teams.
Catania has played its home games at neutral, empty grounds since the Feb. 2
killing of a police officer in rioting by fans at a match with Palermo. Violence
also erupted between Roma and Manchester United fans on Wednesday, leaving three
English supporters with stab wounds.
Reggina was unlucky not to hand Inter its first domestic loss of the season.
Inter goalkeeper Julio Cesar made a string of saves to keep the 17th-place team
at bay -- his best in the 63rd off defender Palmiro Di Dio's point-blank volley.
"We played well against Reggina, which is a difficult team to face," Inter coach
Roberto Mancini said. "We were a bit imprecise on a few occasions but I saw a
good Inter and I am pleased."
Inter was missing the injured Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Dejan Stankovic, Patrick
Vieira and Maxwell, and the suspended Marco Materazzi.
Lazio defender Guglielmo Stendardo scored with a header in the 45th and
Messina's Vincent Candela was sent off for his second yellow card in the 54th.
Palermo's loss to Cagliari was its ninth straight match without a victory.
Australia midfielder Mark Bresciano scored after just three minutes to hand
Palermo an early lead but the Sicilian team collapsed after defender Giuseppe
Biava was sent off in the 36th for a foul inside the area.
Cagliari captain David Suazo converted the ensuing penalty and added his team's
third goal in the 86th. Simone Pepe got Cagliari's second in the 82nd.