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AC Milan on top after conquering Inter

Milan: AC Milan went top of Serie A by beating derby rivals Inter Milan 1-0 on Saturday, thanks to an early goal by Serginho.

The Brazilian ran on to a defence-splitting pass from compatriot Rivaldo and rounded Inter ’keeper Francesco Toldo to score in the 13th minute.

The win left AC Milan ahead on goal difference from second-placed Juventus, who were held 1-1 at home earlier on Saturday by Bologna. Inter are in third place. An under-strength Juventus needed an equaliser four minutes from time by Mark Iuliano to draw 1-1 at home to Bologna on Saturday.

Milan were without Portuguese playmaker Rui Costa but opted to replace him with Serginho rather than Ukrainian Andriy Shevchenko, who had to again settle for a place on the bench. That move may well have been inspired by the decision of Inter coach Hector Cuper to leave his captain Javier Zanetti on the bench after his tiring trip to Japan with Argentina.

His compatriot Nelson Vivas was given the right-back slot and Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti was clearly hoping that Serginho’s pace would trouble the former Arsenal defender who has had limited chances this season. The strategy paid off handsomely as Vivas was left exposed by Rivaldo’s pass into Serginho’s path.

But after that promising start, the game became more of a battle than a demonstration of the talent at both coaches’ disposal.

The early goal put the pressure on Inter to attack but they failed to create enough clear chances.

After the break Milan were content to keep possession and neutralise Inter whose only attacking approach was to look to Christian Vieri — who in the absence of another jet-lagged Argentine Hernan Crespo — was partnered by an out-of-sorts Alvaro Recoba.

When Vieri finally did get a chance, after Milan’s defence failed to clear a Recoba free-kick, the burly striker somehow fired over from five metres out with just over 15 minutes left. Then with 10 minutes remaining, Shevchenko was denied a second for Milan when his ‘goal’ was ruled out for pushing.

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