AC Milan takes confidence from European exit

AP, Thursday 10 Mar 2011

AC Milan's Champions League exit appears to have given the squad more confidence as it chases its first Serie A title in seven years

AC Milan
AC Milan's Thiago Silva, left, and Robinho, second left, look on as Tottenham Hotspur's players, right (Photo: AP)

Milan was eliminated from Europe by Tottenham following a 0-0 draw Wednesday in which the Italian team controlled nearly from start to finish. The London club advanced courtesy of its 1-0 win at the San Siro last month.

"It's not always the best team that wins," Milan forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic said. "The only thing missing tonight was a goal. In two matches Tottenham had one shot on goal and that was the difference. But Milan is in very good form." While Milan failed to find the net over 180 minutes, club vice president Adriano Galliani also didn't appear very upset.

"I wouldn't know what to criticize," Galliani said. "We have to have the maturity to accept the (elimination), which comes after a great game." Milan hosts Bari in Serie A on Sunday hoping to protect, or add to, its five-point lead over five-time defending champion Inter Milan.

"Our focus shifts to the league starting (Thursday). This performance gives us a lot of strength," Milan manager Massimiliano Allegri said.

Inter visits Brescia on Friday to warm up for its Champions League trip to Bayern Munich next week. Inter also lost the opening leg 1-0, and will face pressure to avoid the elimination of all three Italian clubs following Roma's 3-0 loss to Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday.

With no Italian clubs remaining in the Europa League, it's been a tough season for Serie A internationally.

"Let's not forget that in 10 years Italian clubs have won the Champions League three times," Galliani said. "This year isn't going well but we do have a club that is world champion (Inter)." Milan won the Champions League in 2003 and 2007 and Inter won last year.

Still, Italy is set to lose its fourth Champions League entrant to Germany beginning in 2012-13.

"I think the Champions League and the Europa League should have two separate rankings, because it's not fair that if you do poorly in one competition you should suffer the consequences in another competition," Galliani said.

Roma's confidence took a sharp hit after the loss in Ukraine, and the club has little time to recover with a derby against Lazio on Sunday.

Vincenzo Montella replaced Claudio Ranieri as Roma coach last month but the squad is still struggling to find continuity. Forward Marco Borriello had a penalty blocked that would have leveled the match with Shakhtar at 1-1.

"I take full responsibility for missing the penalty," said Borriello, who does not usually take the spot kicks for Roma. "I wanted to kick it and it could have altered the match." Roma forward Adriano terminated his contract Tuesday by mutual consent with the club, and midfielder Daniele De Rossi is facing a multi-game ban and-or a heavy fine for pushing a forearm into the face of Shakhtar captain Dario Srna, a gesture that could also prevent De Rossi from being called up for upcoming matches with Italy's national team, according to new rules imposed by coach Cesare Prandelli.

Lazio, meanwhile, is hoping to hold onto fourth place and the final Champions League berth.

"There's only one result we're after: a win. A victory would give us a lot more breathing room in the race for the Champions League," Lazio forward Mauro Zarate said. "We don't want to lose fourth place, and actually we're hoping to finish third." Roma has won the last four derbies.

Also this weekend, Juventus will look to snap a three-match losing streak against Cesena and save coach Luigi Del Neri's job.

In other matches, it's: Cagliari vs. Udinese; Catania vs.

Sampdoria; Chievo Verona vs. Fiorentina; Genoa vs. Palermo; Lecce vs. Bologna; and Parma vs. Napoli.

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