Tue, May 24, 2011 - Page 20 News List

‘Bianconeri’ hold on to take fourth place

Reuters, ROME

Udinese players celebrate after they qualified for the Champions League for only the second time in their history after a 0-0 draw with AC Milan at the Stadio Friuli in Udine, Italy, ensured they took fourth place in Serie A.

Photo: AFP

Udinese sealed a Champions League place as a nervy 0-0 draw against champions AC Milan proved enough to secure fourth spot in Serie A, while AS Roma claimed the final Europa League place.

Serie A’s top scorer Antonio Di Natale made sure the Bianconeri had to sweat until the last after missing a penalty with 15 minutes to go, but in a game of few chances the point was all Udinese needed to finish above SS Lazio.

Lazio, who won 4-2 in Lecce, finished level with Udinese on 66 points, four behind Napoli, with Milan ending up six clear of Inter.

Udinese will now play in the qualifying round of Europe’s top competition for only the second time following their first foray into the Champions League in 2005.

Roma joined fifth-placed Lazio and Coppa Italia finalists Palermo in the Europa League.

Despite needing just a draw to finish fourth, Francesco Guidolin’s attractive side began cautiously against a full-strength Milan determined to shackle the threat of flying winger Alexis Sanchez and Di Natale.

Looking for his 29th goal of the campaign, Di Natale struck the outside of the post with a 30m free-kick after Kevin-Prince Boateng had become the third Rossoneri within the first 20 minutes to be booked.

As the home side pressed for the crucial goal, strike partner Sanchez headed over on 35 minutes after a fine run and cross from leftback Pablo Armero, but as the tension began to rise with news of Lazio winning, the champions dominated possession and created chances of their own.

Boateng volleyed just over after a cross from Antonio Cassano, before the former Sampdoria forward shot a meter wide after a neat turn just outside the box five minutes before the break.

Milan continued to pose the greater threat early in the second half, but with more Lazio goals being scored in Lecce, Udinese upped the tempo, creating four outstanding chances in as many minutes.

After Sanchez was brought down by Clarence Seedorf’s lunge in the box, Di Natale could only hold his head in his hands when Marco Amelia turned his penalty on to the post.

Swiss midfielder Gokhan Inler had a header saved by Amelia, before he watched in agony as his swerving 30m shot crashed back off the bar with Amelia beaten.

A minute later, Sanchez wriggled into the box again, but this time it was Amelia’s feet that came to Milan’s rescue.

Udinese were not to pay for those misses, though, as the Rossoneri showed far less ambition toward the end, allowing the Stadio Friuli to celebrate with wild abandon at the final whistle.

In Lecce, Lazio, who had crucially lost 2-1 at Udinese two weeks ago, were twice ahead in the first half, before being pegged back by a Lecce side that had guaranteed their Serie A survival the previous weekend.

Manuel Coppola and Ignazio Piatti canceled out Tomasso Rocchi and Mauro Zarate’s strikes, before a counterattacking Lazio made sure of the win with a Zarate penalty and a Giuseppe Vives own-goal.

Relegated Sampdoria gave Roma an early shock at the Stadio Olimpico through Daniele Mannini’s goal, but skipper Francesco Totti equalized with a low drive and second-half goals from Mirko Vucinic and Marco Borriello secured the three points and a place in next season’s Europa League while the club decides whether to keep Vincenzo Montella on as coach.

Juventus will take no part in Europe in their new stadium after ending a sorry campaign in seventh position after a 2-2 draw at home to a second-string Napoli side in what was Luigi Delneri’s final match in charge.

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