Rome, Jan 20 (AFP) Mark van Bommel was sent off on his ACMilan league debut but the Serie A leaders still claimed thethree points in a 2-0 win at Catania.
Despite playing most of the second half with 10 men,goals from Robinho and Zlatan Ibrahimovic sent Milan sevenpoints clear at the top ahead of today''s matches.
Goalscorer Robinho claimed the rossoneri are closing inon the scudetto crown.
"I''m happy with the win against a team that defendsreally well," he told SkySport.
"We''re still top and there are 15 or 20 games left so wehave to keep playing this way.
"It''s tough to play with 10 men but I don''t think VanBommel deserved his second yellow."
Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri said Van Bommel willhave to learn to adapt to Italian football while praisingIbrahimovic''s contribution.
"Van Bommel needs to be more cunning but it''s only hissecond game (following his debut in the Italian Cup inmidweek)," he said.
"You don''t get booked for fouls like that in Germany buthe''s inclined to go in hard.
"(Ibrahimovic) is having the best season of his career interms of the intensity of his play.
"He''s very enthusiastic, he feels he''s a leader and he''seven defending. That''s the most important thing he does, if hedoes it then everyone gets behind him."
Milan were quick to state their intent as they carved outan opportunity in the first minute yesterday.
An exchange between Antonio Cassano and Ibrahimovic brokedown but the Sweden forward managed to prod the ball to theunmarked Robinho, whose curling shot from 20 yards lacked thepower to beat Mariano Andujar in the Catania goal.
In a bright opening, the hosts were next to threaten asMaxi Lopez teed up Pablo Ledesma but his shot was well offtarget.
The game then settled down into cagey probing and it wasalmost half-time when Ibrahimovic''s brilliant pass picked outCassano who couldn''t quite wrap his foot around the ball.
Ibrahimovic had two shots from distance well off targetat the start of the second period before Van Bommel, whosigned from Bayern Munich in midweek, received his marchingorders on 54 minutes after a second booking. (More) AFP SHN
Just four minutes later the visitors were in front as Andujar failed to hold Ibrahimovic''s fierce free-kick andRobinho was quickest to react to the rebound.
When Milan captain Massimo Ambrosini had to go off with athigh injury, Catania started to pressure the league leaders.
Adrian Ricchiuti volleyed over and then fellow substituteSimone Pesce headed too high.
Milan remained dangerous on the counter and Andujar hadto make saves from both Ibrahimovic and another leaguedebutant, Urby Emanuelson.
And then five minutes from time they hit the Sicilianswith the killer second as Robinho crossed for Ibrahimovic topoke home.
Earlier, Czech forward Libor Kozak grabbed both goals asLazio beat Fiorentina 2-0 to keep their slim title hopesalive.
They trail Milan by seven points and provisionally movedup to third ahead of Sunday''s matches.
Kozak was offered a first league start of the season bycoach Edy Reja as Mauro Zarate sat out the game amid growingtransfer speculation surrounding the Argentine.
And the 21-year-old grasped his rare opportunity withboth hands, scoring the game winner for the third time thisseason.
He opened the scoring from the spot before heading homethe second just four minutes later to put Lazio third in thetable, above city rivals Roma who play today.
Despite their lofty standing, Reja still insists the clubhave more modest ambitions having reached the 40-point mark,the theoretical number of points needed to avoid relegation.
"Today we reached 40 points so we''re safe," he said. "Ouraim hasn''t changed, we want to get into the Europa League."(AFP) SHN