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Football
Milan strengthen grip on top spot
Italian leaders notch up their seventh league game without defeat with win against Parma as Juve smash Fiorentina.
Last Modified: 17 Mar 2012 22:23
Under pressure: Milan have been paired against Barcelona in the European Champions League and also face title rivals Juventus in the Italian Cup semi-finals [GETTY]

Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored his fifth goal in three matches as Serie A leaders AC Milan looked sharp in a 2-0 win over Parma on Saturday to warm up for their Champions League quarter-final with Barcelona.

Ibrahimovic put Milan ahead in the 17th minute with a penalty at Parma's Tardini Stadium and Dutch midfielder Urby Emanuelson doubled the lead in the 55th after completing an end-to-end sequence.

Milan remained four points clear of Juventus, who routed 10-man Fiorentina 5-0 with goals from Mirko Vucinic, Arturo Vidal, Claudio Marchisio, Andrea Pirlo and Simone Padoin.

Parma remained in a tie for 16th with Cagliari, six points clear of the relegation zone, and Fiorentina are only one point above Parma.

Clash of the titans

In Friday's Champions League draw, Milan were paired with European champions Barcelona. The first leg will be in Milan on March 28, with the second leg in Spain on April 3.

Before then, Milan visit Juventus in the Italian Cup semi-finals on Tuesday, then could face another stiff test against Roma next weekend.

In Parma, Milan president and former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi made a rare appearance at an away match and he was not disappointed.

"When Berlusconi comes it's always a good sign,'' Milan manager Massimiliano Allegri said.

"When he's here we want to do even better than we usually do.''

After Parma threatened early with Sebastian Giovinco and Chilean midfielder Jaime Valdes, Parma defender Cristian Zaccardo was given a yellow card for a hand ball on a shot from Emanuelson.

Ibrahimovic coolly converted the spot kick for his league-leading 20th goal of the season, with five of those goals coming since the Sweden international returned from a three-match ban for slapping Napoli defender Salvatore Aronica in the face.

Milan had another chance in the 20th but Emanuelson somehow could not find the target from two yards following a rebound of a free kick from Ibrahimovic.

Milan defender Thiago Silva headed off the crossbar in the 42nd and Parma goalkeeper Antonio Mirante had to charge forward to disrupt Ibrahimovic seconds later.

Ibrahimovic had another chance blocked by Mirante in the 52nd and Emanuelson scored his second goal of the season three minutes later, dribbling by several defenders and Mirante before finding the empty net.

Milan goalkeeper Christian Abbiati preserved the shutout with a series of tough saves in the closing minutes.

Veteran Milan midfielder Gennaro Gattuso came on for the final minutes for his first action in six months, since being diagnosed with myasthenia, an autoimmune neuromuscular disease that affected his left eye.

Down to business

In Florence, Juve's intentions were clear from the start when Vucinic hit the post in the sixth. The Montenegro striker then found the target in the 15th with a precise shot from within the penalty area.

Fiorentina were reduced to 10 men in the 20th when Alessio Cerci was sent off for kicking Paolo De Ceglie, after De Ceglie had taken a swipe at him.

In the 27th, Vidal took a pass from the in-form Vucinic and scored off his own rebound.

Vucinic also provided the pass for a header from Italy midfielder Marchisio that made it 3-0 in the 54th, and Pirlo scored with a sliding effort in the 67th.

Padoin added a close-range goal in the 72nd. 

Source:
AP
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