MILAN, April 1 (AFP) -
AC Milan's Zvonimir Boban scored the only goal here at the San Siro Sunday
evening to consign Lazio to a 1-0 defeat and virtually end their title
Croatian midfielder Boban's goal boosted Milan's ailing campaign for a
Champions League place and left Dino Zoff's side, in third, trailing their
city rivals AS Roma by 12 points with just 10 games left.
The early stages were a cat-and-mouse affair and it was 15 minutes before
the first shot of the match when Milan's Ukrainian striker Andriy Shevchenko
worked a one-two with Georgian team-mate Kakha Kaladze before firing wide.
At the other end Czech Pavel Nedved's long-distance shot was an easy save
for Sebastiano Rossi but almost immediately Lazio squandered the first real
opening when Diego Simeone chose to shoot from distance rather than pass to
Argentinian compatriot Hernan Crespo who was unmarked.
Crespo's compatriot Juan Sebastian Veron then tested Rossi from a freekick
harshly awarded for what looked a fair challenge by Boban on Nedved.
Two headers from Milan's German striker Oliver Bierhoff were easy meat for
Lazio keeper Angelo Peruzzi.
After 37 minutes Lazio came close to opening the scoring through the
unlikely figure of defender Paolo Negro, who intercepted a wayward Demetrio
Albertini pass before advancing to the edge of the box and firing just over.
Then Simeone just failed to direct a header from a Veron corner on target.
Milan won a freekick early in the second period but Boban failed to pass the
Alessandro Costacurta earned a yellow card for a challenge on Nedved and
while the Czech was receiving treatment Milan's Brazilian winger Serginho
fired narrowly wide after a solo run.
It was opening up and Bierhoff failed to control the rebound after Peruzzi
had parried a long-range effort from Milan's Danish defender Thomas Helveg,
and at the other end Czech Karel Poborsky fired just over after fine play by
Crespo was then flagged marginally offside after Poborsky returned the
compliment but Lazio were hit when their midfield dynamo Veron departed
injured to be replaced by another Argentine, Claudio Lopez.
After 59 minutes Milan went in front. Kaladze crossed from the left and
Boban headed just inside Peruzzi's right-hand post.
Lopez soon turned a Crespo shot in the net but referee Salvatore Farini had
long since blown for offside.
Lazio almost pulled level, with Nedved's shot deflected into the path of
Poborsky whose shot was brilliantly saved by Rossi.
Then Poborky's cross was headed wide by Lazio substitute Fabrizio Ravanelli,
but that preceded what must be classed as the miss of the season.
Negro played a one-two with Lopez but amazingly failed to score from a yard
with Rossi stranded. It was a cringeworthy moment from the defender whose
decisive own goal in the Roman derby was one of the turning points of the
Shevchenko failed to turn in a Francesco Coco cross in injury time but Milan