Sat, Jan 08, 2005 - Page 19 News List

AC Milan chases the Serie A leader after beating Lecce

AP , ROME

Defending champion AC Milan, which got three goals from Argentina striker Hernan Crespo, thrashed Lecce 5-2 Thursday to move within two points of Serie A leader Juventus, which was held to a 1-1 draw at lowly Parma.

The Milan powerhouse won its 11th match of the season to improve to 38 points as Italy's top league resumed following a three-week winter break.

Juventus forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic headed his team into the lead in the 63rd minute at next-to-last Parma, but the hosts hit back through Marco Marchionni in the 85th at Tardini stadium.

Marchionni's first shot was saved by Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon but the Parma player controlled the rebound and made it 1-1.

Juventus, which drew for the second straight time, has 40 points.

"We still are alive and in first place," Juventus coach Fabio Capello said. "An unlucky episode led to Parma's equalizer. We could have closed the match well before without the great saves of Parma's goalkeeper [Sebastian Frey]."

In a late match at Stadio Olimpico, Lazio stunned AS Roma 3-1 in the Roman Derby to immediately escape the relegation zone.

Veteran Paolo Di Canio scored for Lazio in the 30th minute, but Roma forward Antonio Cassano headed in the equalizer in the 69th. Lazio regained the lead five minutes later with a left-footed volley from Brazilian Cesar.

Quick forward Tommaso Rocchi beat goalkeeper Ivan Pellizoli on a counterattack which caught Roma defense wide open to score into the open goal in the 85th and seal Lazio's unexpected win.

AS Roma, which started as the favorite, was left with 23 points in eighth place, presumably out of contention for the title.

Lazio, apparently spirited by the arrival on newly signed coach Giuseppe Papadopulo, lifted itself to 20 points.

At San Siro stadium, supported by a crowd of 71,000, AC Milan got three goals from Crespo, who is on loan from Chelsea.

Following a difficult start to the season, Crespo has netted six goals in Serie A matches and two in the Champions League.

"I must thank Kaka and [Andriy] Shevchenko for the fine assists ... now I want to stay with Milan," Crespo said.

Shevchenko and Jon Dahl Tomasson added Milan's other goals while Lecce's Valeri Bojinov scored on a free kick.

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