Milan's hopes buried


ARRIGO SACCHI saw AC Milan's slim hopes of retaining their Italian league title all but disappear yesterday - on the same ground where he has already lost one Serie A championship. In an infamous match with Verona in 1990, Sacchi, then in his first spell as Milan manager, was shown the red card together with Dutchmen Marco Van Basten and Frank Rijkaard, as his side went down to a 3-1 defeat which handed the league title to Diego Maradona's Napoli.

On Sacchi's return to Verona yesterday Milan crashed to another humiliating 3-1 defeat that leaves them in 10th place.

Goals from Nicola Zanini, Roberto Bacci and Pierluigi Orlandini clinched Verona's third victory of the season and left Milan 11 points adrift of Juventus, who destroyed bottom of the table Reggiana 3-1 with the contempt struggling clubs used to expect from Milan.

Michele Padovano, in particular, showed no mercy for his old club, scoring a fifth minute opener and setting up Vladimir Jugovic's 28th minute second with a defence splitting pass. Alessio Tacchinardi added an 89th minute third before Pietro Parente claimed a late goal for the visitors.

The result keeps Juve four points clear at the top with 36 points from 18 matches, four ahead of Sampdoria, 5-2 winners at home to Perugia.

The prolific frontline partnership of Roberto Mancini and Vincenzo Montella helped Sampdoria recover from 2-1 down to keep Juve within their sights.

Both strikers scored twice to take veteran Mancini's career total to 138 goals - the highest among current serie A strikers - and give Montella 13 goals from 12 matches.

Atalanta's Filippo Inzaghi was on target again yesterday as his side stretched their unbeaten run to eight with a home win over Cagliari.

Vicenza moved into third on 30 points after completing the season's double over Fiorentina with a 3-2 home win.

The win lifted Vicenza ahead of Inter Milan, who looked like falling to their second successive defeat at the San Siro after Paolo Poggi put Udinese one up in the 13th minute.

Inter's day was saved by a 63rd minute penalty, converted by French international Youri Djorkaeff.

Bologna are a point behind Inter after a 2-1 win at Lazio. Brazilian striker Ronaldo celebrated his FIFA World Player of the Year award with a first half hat trick as Barcelona thrashed Rayo Vallecano 6-0 in the Spanish League.

The win kept Barcelona second in the championship three points behind Real Madrid, who were led to a 4-0 victory over Celta Vigo by another Brazilian, defender, Roberto Carlos.