Milan: AC Milan kept their slender title hopes alive with a 63rd minute Filippo Inzaghi goal that gave them a 1-0 derby win over 10-man Inter Milan in Serie A on Saturday.
The result moves Milan level with Inter in second place but both teams trail leaders Juventus by five points — a margin that could increase to eight if Juventus win at Bologna on Sunday.
With six games left, Milan’s chances of catching defending champions Juventus are still slim but the derby win will give them heart for the run-in as well as maintain their bragging rights in the city.
Inter’s third straight game without a win leaves their aim of claiming their first title in 14 years also requiring a major slip-up from Juventus.
Certainly, Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti indicated that the battle to finish second may be his most realistic target.
“Second place is an important objective and there is also the possibility to close in on Juventus but it really depends what they do tomorrow,” he said.
“We carry on hoping in the same manner, it’s difficult, it’s in the hands of Juventus but you never know in football.
“In the last few years the title has gone down to the wire when few people thought it would. We have to try to get as many points as possible and hope they take a false step.”
Inter boss Hector Cuper added: “We have to continue not to look at other people’s results but we have to keep on working.
“The most important game for Inter is always the next one. We know what we have to do in the Champions League (Inter lead Valencia 1-0) but now it all depends on what Juventus do.”
Milan had much the better of the game but only capitalised on their dominance after the break when Rui Costa threaded a pass into the path of Inzaghi who struck the ball home, first time, on the turn, past Inter keeper Francesco Toldo.
Four minutes later Inter were reduced to 10 men after Colombian defender Ivan Cordoba was red-carded for a late, high challenge on Milan’s Brazilian winger Serginho. A draw was the perfect result for Marcelo Lippi’s Juventus, in their search for the 27th league title, but the Turin side will be content to see their closest rival Inter slip-up.
Once again Milan were unable to produce the flowing football that had given them a lead in Serie A at the midway stage but they were by far the more constructive side.
Milan midfielder Gennaro Gattuso gave early warning of his team’s positive intent with a long-range strike in the sixth minute but Toldo comfortably tipped the ball over the bar.
Then Rui Costa saw a header from a Serginho corner cleared off the line by Inter captain Javier Zanetti as Milan enjoyed the better of the early exchanges.
As so often, Inter’s main threat came from swift breaks. Andriy Shevchenko went close for Milan twice before the break — a long-range shot that flashed just wide and then a toe-poke past the post as he attempted to divert an Alessandro Costacurta shot goalwards.
Milan were forced to reorganise eight minutes after the re-start when captain Paolo Maldini was carried off with a broken nose after being caught by Christian Vieri’s elbow as the two rose for a header.
However, the four-minute spell when Inzaghi pounced to put Milan ahead and then Cordoba took his close marking of Serginho too far turned the match decisively in the direction of Carlo Ancelotti’s side.