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The Malaysian Insider :: Sports

Van Bommel sent off but Milan march on with win

Posted: 29 Jan 2011 06:10 PM PST

AC Milan's Zlatan Ibrahimovic (11) is congratulated by his teammates after scoring against Catania during their Italian Serie A soccer match at the Massimino stadium in Catania. - Reuters pic

MILAN, Jan 30 — Resurgent AC Milan overcame the dismissal of Serie A debutant Mark van Bommel to seal a 2-0 win at Catania this morning and power seven points clear at the top.

The combative Dutch midfielder, signed from Bayern Munich in midweek, was sent off for his second booking nine minutes into the second half but four minutes later Robinho had the ball in the net after Zlatan Ibrahimovic's fierce freekick was parried.

The hosts pushed hard for an equaliser with their one man advantage but Milan grabbed a second goal when Ibrahimovic tucked away Robinho's cross after 85 minutes to show that the Rossoneri's lacklustre January form is behind them.

The win put Milan on 47 points ahead of Napoli, who host Sampdoria on Sunday, and an overachieving Lazio side also on 40 points after a 2-0 win over mid-table visitors Fiorentina.

Milan's battling victory could prove crucial in the scudetto run-in as Catania are always tough to beat in Sicily and demanding new coach Diego Simeone was making his home debut.

"We did really well, it's difficult to play here. This three points is very important for us," Robinho told Sky.

"It was tough to play 10 against 11 but this is a team that sticks together. We're playing better now than a few weeks ago."

Milan, whose resilience was all the more impressive given they had five midfielders injured, next host Lazio on Tuesday with both sides on a high.

Czech striker Libor Kozak bagged two second-half goals to give the Romans victory over Fiorentina.

Kozak, who at one point looked set to leave in the transfer window, opened the scoring from the penalty spot in a niggly encounter after being fouled by Per Kroldrup in the 69th minute.

Soon after, the gangly forward netted a close-range header to continue the fairytale for a modest team who narrowly avoided relegation last term and suffered a recent wobble.

Fiorentina handed a debut to former Lazio midfielder Valon Behrami but again lacked any bite and fans will hope top striker Adrian Mutu's apology last week for walking out on training will lead to his reintegration to the squad.

Injury and suspension-ravaged champions Inter Milan, now 12 points adrift of Milan in fifth place, host Palermo today. — Reuters

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Messi double puts Barca seven clear at the top

Posted: 29 Jan 2011 04:39 PM PST

* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.

MADRID, Jan 30 — Lionel Messi scored two late goals this morning as leaders Barcelona won 3-0 away to Hercules, their 15th consecutive victory matching the La Liga record set by Real Madrid in the 1960-61 season.

Promoted Hercules stunned the champions with a 2-0 win at the Nou Camp back in September, the only defeat Barca have suffered in the league this season, and they made life tough for the visitors until Pedro struck just before the break.

World player of the year Messi scored twice in as many minutes at the end after the hosts were reduced to 10 men following a second yellow card for Francisco Farinos in the 85th.

Barca moved on to 58 points from 21 games, pulling seven clear of second-placed Real Madrid who visit lowly Osasuna today.

"Scoring just before the break helped us a lot but 1-0 is always a dangerous scoreline, any lost ball can put you in danger. The red card for Farinos helped us a lot," Barca coach Pep Guardiola told reporters.

It could have been a different story at the Rico Perez if David Trezeguet had been able to put away a good chance in the 20th minute, as Hercules unsettled the visiting defence.

Barca were knocked out of their stride until Xavi picked out Pedro in the area and the Spain forward thumped a shot inside the near post, scoring for a sixth consecutive league game.

They took the sting out of the encounter after the break but were unable to settle the match until Farinos was sent off and Messi, who had had a poor game by his standards, skipped through to score in the 87th.

Two minutes later, Dani Alves crossed for the Argentine to tap in Barca's third goal, taking his league tally for the season to 21 behind Real's Cristiano Ronaldo on 22.

In the late game, Deportivo Coruna's Laure grabbed a hotly-disputed late equaliser in a 3-3 draw at home to 10-man Sevilla.

The linesman's flag was up when the fullback broke into the area to score but the referee overruled him prompting heated and lengthy complaints from the visitors. Television replays showed Laure to be onside when he received the ball.

Lassad had put Depor ahead with a spectacular strike early in the first half and, after Sevilla goalkeeper Andres Palop had been sent off for handball outside the area in the 57th minute, he doubled the lead just past the hour.

Sevilla, who have a King's Cup semi-final second leg at Real Madrid on Wednesday, stormed back to take the lead with a double from Alvaro Negredo either side of Julien Escude's opportunist effort, but were denied the three points in the 88th.

Earlier, struggling Sporting Gijon and Real Zaragoza notched their first wins on the road this season to climb away from the foot of the standings.

Sporting's steady improvement was confirmed with a third consecutive victory, beating Real Mallorca 4-0.

They climbed to 12th with 22 points from 21 games ahead of Hercules, Deportivo and 15th-placed Zaragoza on goal difference.

Javier Aguirre's Zaragoza also claimed their third consecutive victory, Florent Sinama Pongolle completing a 2-1 comeback win at Malaga who are now bottom.

Levante, who started the weekend at the foot of the table, won 2-0 at home to Getafe while Real Sociedad sank Almeria 2-0. Levante now have 18 points with Almeria and Malaga on 17. — Reuters

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