AC Milan opens up 4-point lead on unbeaten Juventus in Serie A

Ibrahimovic jumps in celebration after scoring against Lecce.

ROME: AC Milan bounced back from its loss to Arsenal by beating Lecce 2-0 Sunday, as the Rossoneri opened up a four-point lead atop Serie A after Juventus was held to yet another draw, 0-0, by Genoa.

Italy midfielder Antonio Nocerino put Milan ahead 7 minutes in at the San Siro and Zlatan Ibrahimovic doubled the lead in the 65th with his league-leading 19th goal of the season.

In Genoa, Juventus hit the woodwork three times in the second half but could not find the target and had to settle for its 14th draw of the season – the most in the league.

Third-place Lazio, which is nine points back, was hosting Bologna later, while fourth-place Udinese visited Novara. Also, it was: Atalanta 1, Parma 1; Catania 1, Fiorentina 0; and Cesena 0, Siena 2.

While it still managed to advance in the Champions League, Milan was beaten 3-0 by Arsenal Tuesday after allowing three first-half goals.

Against Lecce, which remained third from the bottom, Milan immediately took control when Nocerino took a pass from Ibrahimovic and had a shot deflected in off a defender.

It was the ninth goal this season for Nocerino, who Milan acquired from Palermo on the last day of the preseason transfer market for the relatively low fee of $660,000.

In the 19th, Ibrahimovic just missed a delicate chip shot from a near impossible angle along the end line but the Sweden international then found the target with a powerful shot from beyond the area after taking a pass from Urby Emanuelsson.

Ibrahimovic was highly critical of Milan’s performance against Arsenal, telling Swedish media that manager Massimiliano Allegri used him out of position, but he was at the center of all the action Sunday.

Meanwhile, Juventus was missing its three top defenders – with Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli injured and Leonardo Bonucci suspended – and it looked like that might cause a problem for the Turin club when Rodrigo Palacio threatened with a lob shot in the opening minute, but Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon leaped up and swiped the ball away.

Genoa goalkeeper Sebastien Frey was also in form and thwarted a couple chances for Juve in the first half, but the Bianconeri had only themselves to blame for failing to score after the break, hitting the goalframe three times in the space of seven minutes.

First, Mirko Vucinic headed off the crossbar in the 53rd, then the Montenegro striker hit the outside of the post with another header five minutes later. On the hour mark, Simone Pepe struck the post to waste a perfect pass from the far left flank from Andrea Pirlo, who was playing his 400th match in the Italian league. Pirlo placed the ball right at Pepe’s foot with only Frey to beat but the winger’s shot squarely struck the right post.

Claudio Marchisio threatened again for Juve in the 69th, but Frey blocked his swerving long-range effort, and Pepe had a goal annulled for a debatable offside call in the 71st.

Genoa protested to no avail for a penalty in added time when Pirlo appeared to trip Marco Rossi inside the area.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 12, 2012, on page 15.




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