Monday, November 29, 1999

Milan beat Juventus in coaches` last hurrah

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AC Milan coach Leonardo and Juventus counterpart Alberto Zaccheroni bid farewell in contrasting fashions on Saturday when the Brazilian's side eased to a 3-0 win in their final league game of the season.Rookie Leonardo, who announced on Friday he was leaving Milan after just one season in charge but 13 years at the club, was given a rousing reception by players and fans in the San Siro despite his team only finishing third this season."Leonardo, you will always stay in our hearts," read one fan banner while others criticised club president Silvio Berlusconi for not backing his coach publicly and financially this term."For me it's not been work. I've had been here for too long to make extra observations about people," Leonardo told Sky after a rare Milan-Juve match which meant nothing on the field."It's been an extraordinary relationship. I don't know what I will do now."Left back Luca Antonini, a regular under the Brazilian having previously been a fringe player, ran over and hugged his coach after netting Milan's first goal on 14 minutes.Ronaldinho, not picked in Brazil's initial World Cup squad, had embraced his countryman with a tear in his eye before kickoff and rewarded the coach with the second and third goals.Another limp performance by Juve, who will finish a lowly seventh, summed up Zaccheroni's interim spell in charge since Ciro Ferrara was sacked in January."It was a match in line with recent performances. We didn't play," the former Milan coach said. "When I came in as caretaker, it was a situation I accepted and I can't complain."THROWING FIRECRACKERSMinor trouble with rival fans throwing firecrackers almost led to the match being suspended and was another indication of the huge frustration enveloping Juve supporters.Zaccheroni might not be the only face leaving Juve in the close season with under pressure sporting director Alessio Secco poised to go and the futures of several players including Gianluigi Buffon, who went off injured, up in the air.Departing Milan goalkeeper Dida and defender Giuseppe Favalli waved goodbye to the club with emotional substitutions.Neither side have announced a new coach for next season with several names being linked to Milan and Sampdoria boss Luigi Del Neri installed as bookmaker's favourite to move to Juve after reports Liverpool coach Rafael Benitez was not interested.Lazio were 3-1 winners at home to Udinese, whose striker Antonio Di Natale netted his 29th goal this term to almost certainly finish Serie A top scorer.Inter Milan will win their fifth straight Serie A title if they win at Siena on Sunday on the final day of the season but AS Roma are poised for any slip-ups at Chievo.(Reporting by Mark Meadows; Editing by Pritha Sarkar; To query or comment on this story email
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