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AC Milan run riot in Roma’s backyard

Rome: AC Milan take a commanding 4-1 lead into the second leg of their Italian Cup final against AS Roma after enjoying a second-half goal spree at the Olympic Stadium on Tuesday.

Two goals by Brazilian midfielder Serginho and further efforts by Massimo Ambrosini and Ukrainian striker Andriy Shevchenko put the Champions League finalists into a virtually unassailable position for the return match in Milan on May 31.

The home side looked secure having grabbed the lead in the 28th minute when Francesco Totti curled a free kick past keeper Christian Abbiati.

But after right back Cafu wasted a chance to extend Roma’s advantage in the 60th minute, the home side’s defence suffered a disastrous 10-minute period, conceding three goals that effectively ended the contest.

While Roma fielded a full-strength side as they aim to make up for a disappointing Serie A season with victory in the Cup, AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti left several first-team regulars out of his squad in preparation for next week’s Champions League final against Juventus.

Captain Paolo Maldini, goalkeeper Dida, defender Alessandro Nesta, midfielder Rui Costa and striker Filippo Inzaghi were the most notable omissions. The players left, however, were not without incentive. Ancelotti’s starting line-up featured Brazilians Rivaldo and midfielder Serginho — both making last-minute bids to justify a call-up against Juve.

Roma captain Totti broke the deadlock just before the half hour mark. He was brought down by Milan defender Roque Junior and from the resulting free-kick, 25 metres out, fired a shot round the wall and into the net.

The home side could have gone two up on the hour when Cassano slipped a pass to right back Cafu, unmarked on the right of the area, but Abbiati easily parried the Brazilian’s shot. That miss proved costly. A minute later the scores were level. As Jon Dahl Tomasson tussled with Christian Panucci in the Roma area, the Italian international defender appeared to brush the ball aside with his hand. The referee pointed to the penalty spot and Serginho calmly converted. That proved the cue for Roma’s defences to unravel.

In the 69th minute Rivaldo curled a free kick into the Roma area from wide on the left. Ambrosini’s marker, defender Jonathan Zebina, was nowhere to be seen, and the Milan midfielder headed past Roma keeper Ivan Pelizzoli to give his side the lead.

Zebina was again missing when Serginho picked up a long pass before beating Pelizzoli with the outside of his boot three minutes later to make it 3-1. Milan then weathered a period of late Roma pressure before completing the rout a minute from the end of normal time. With Roma pushing every man forward, Milan striker Andriy Shevchenko latched on to a long ball, slipped round Panucci and lobbed the keeper to leave Roma’s hopes in ruins and give his side a psychological boost for next week’s all-Italian Champions League showdown.

Afterwards, Ancelotti said he was delighted with the result. “Up to 1-1 they were the better side. After that we took advantage on the counter attack and with (midfielder) Serginho’s speed,” he said.

“I don’t know whether the result was an accurate reflection of the game, but we put on a great show here in Rome.

“Obviously today we wanted to rest some of the players who are going to be playing in Manchester,” Ancelotti said.

“But I also wanted to get to know the (physical) state of some the ones who are less certain, and from that point of view, I’m very happy.

“(Striker Jon Dahl) Tomasson has hurt his shoulder slightly, but the rest are OK.”

Serginho, in particular, has advanced his claim for a place in the line-up against Juventus. The other player hoping to make an impression, Brazilian World Cup winner Rivaldo, had a quieter game.

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