AC Milan got back to winning ways and gave themselves a boost ahead of Thursday? UEFA Cup last 32 second-leg clash against Werder Bremen with a 1-0 home victory over Cagliari on Sunday.
Clarence Seedorf scored the only goal of the game with a simple tap-in midway through the second half of a match in which the visitors were the better side for long periods.
The win allowed third-placed Milan to narrow the gap between themselves and table-topping city rivals Inter, who won 2-1 at Bologna on Saturday, to 11 points.
But more important, perhaps, is the fact the victory will have restored Milan? confidence ahead of the return leg against Bremen, with the tie delicately poised at 1-1 from the opening match in Germany.
It will also have appeased Milan president and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who said he was horrified to have heard about Werder? late equalizer in Bremen last Thursday.
That statement sparked rumors that Berlusconi wanted to replace Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti at the end of the season.
But Ancelotti insisted that, contrary to newspaper rumors, his head was not being prepared for the chopping block.
?? also disappointed when we?e leading and get pegged back,?Ancelotti said. ?hat the president said was normal, I don? see anything strange about it. His words are always blown out of all proportion. This happens in football as well as in politics. The truth is that the relationship I have with the president is very different from the picture painted in the newspapers.?br />
Cagliari came into the game as one of Serie A? most in-form sides and they certainly had the better of the first half at the San Siro.
Their first chance came on 16 minutes when diminutive Brazilian Jeda fed Robert Aquafresca in the box, but the Italian hot-shot was a little slow in turning to shoot from 7m out and his effort lacked power, allowing Christian Abbiati in the Milan goal to kick the ball away.
On 22 minutes veteran striker Filippo Inzaghi found the net for Milan, but he was narrowly offside from Seedorf? pass.
David Beckham was having a largely quiet game on the right flank, but one devilish cross almost earned a reward on 34 minutes. Marek Jankulovski and Inzaghi just failed to get a decisive touch on the ball.
Just before halftime, Jeda tested Abbiati? reactions with a venomous shot from just outside the area, but the Milan goalkeeper tipped it over the bar.
Cagliari were still in the ascendancy early in the second half as Andrea Cossu hit a howitzer from distance that beat Abbiati with ease, but it crashed back off the post with the goalkeeper looking relieved.
But on 65 minutes a horrendous mix-up in Cagliari? box allowed Seedorf to stroke home a simple goal.
Running back toward his own goal, Uruguayan Diego Lopez received a shove in the back from Inzaghi and headed the ball against goalkeeper Federico Marchetti, before colliding with him for good measure.
The ball fell to the Dutch veteran who couldn? miss from 15m.
Fiorentina moved back up to fourth place and the final Champions League qualifying position, as Romania captain Adrian Mutu scored a last-gasp winner in a 2-1 home success against Chievo.
The Flying Pigs had taken an early lead through Santiago Morero, but Alberto Gilardino started the La Viola fightback 17 minutes from time and then Mutu struck four minutes into injury-time to secure the three points.