Three crucial points for chasers AC Milan

AC Milan close the gap on Juventus at top of Serie A after a brace from Zlatan Ibrahimovic helps champions on their way.

    Ibrahimovic once again helped AC Milan to an important win that keeps title chase alive [GALLO/GETTY] 

    Strike pair Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Robinho scored the goals as AC Milan emerged with a 3-0 victory from their trip to
    Novara on Sunday and remain hot on the heels of league leaders' Juventus.

    Juve won 2-0 at Atalanta on Saturday night and had briefly put daylight between themselves and the rest but Milan's success closes the gap to a single point.

    Udinese are also hanging on in third, three points behind Juve, after their comfortable 2-1 win over Catania, whose consolation came five minutes into time added on.

    Ibrahimovic scored a brace and is now level with Udinese captain Antonio Di Natale at the top of the goalscoring charts.

    Italian Results

    Sunday January 22

     Bologna 0-0 Parma 
     Cagliari 0-0 Fiorentina
     Lecce 2-2 Chievo
     Novara  0-3 AC Milan  
     Palermo 5-3 Genoa
     Siena 1-1 Napoli 
     Udinese 2-1 Catania
     Inter Milan v Lazio

    Unlike the Italian Cup meeting between the pair on Wednesday - which Milan squeaked through 2-1 after extra-time - Novara couldn't make life particularly difficult for the champions.

    Almost all the pressure in the first half was put on the Novara goal but the hosts managed to hold firm.

    Ibrahimovic hit a vicious free-kick that Samir Ujkani couldn't hold but Robinho fired the follow-up from a tight angle across the face of the goal.

    The big Swede had another free-kick from a good position that he hit with venom and again it was too hot for Ujkani to handle but the ball spooned up and over the bar.

    From the resulting corner Philippe Mexes teed up Thiago Silva but his close range header was miraculously cleared off the line by Andrea Caracciolo.

    Milan kept pushing and Ujkani twice denied Ibrahimovic while Antonio Nocerino fired a shot narrowly past the upright.

    Successful reshuffle

    Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri wasted little time in trying to inspire his team, throwing on young forward Stephan El Shaarawy at half-time in place of full-back Luca Antonini.

    And the hosts cracked just 12 minutes after the re-start as Milan captain Massimo Ambrosini picked out Ibrahimovic at the back post with a short, dinked cross.

    The Sweden forward had lost his marker and had time to control the ball on his thigh before volleying past Ujkani.

    El Shaarawy should have sealed the points 20 minutes from time when played in by Robinho but having skipped around Ujkani he sliced his finish wide.

      Udinese players applaud the fans after the win over Catania [GALLO/GETTY] 

    But moments later Robinho slid in at the back post to divert in El Shaarawy's shot that appeared to be going wide.

    And the coup de grace came from Ibrahimovic in the final minute with a clever flick that fooled Ujkani and three defenders before trickling over the line.

    Udinese were comfortable in dismissing Catania to contain their stunning campaign in which they have now proved they are no flash in the pan.

    Colombia wing-back Pablo Armero opened the scoring on 20 minutes and enigmatic striker Di Natale added the killer second eight minutes into the second period.

    They did concede with virtually the last kick of the game but it was too little too late.

    Napoli, however, appear definitely out of the title running and probably also Champions League contention as they drew 1-1 at Siena.

    Emanuele Calaio opened the scoring for the hosts midway through the second period before Goran Pandev rescued a point four minutes from time for Walter Mazzarri's men.

    The game of the day was in Sicily where Palermo trumped Genoa, who have now conceded 16 goals in their last four games, in a 5-3 thriller.

    Inter Milan will look for their seventh straight win as they host Lazio, one point and one place above them in fourth, in the late game.



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