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Beckham helps AC Milan beat Lazio and close on Inter Milan

DAVID Beckham set up two goals as AC Milan beat Lazio 3-0 in Rome to go second in Serie A yesterday.

The result at the Stadio Olimpico left Milan with 44 points, six points behind leader and city rival Inter Milan, which drew 1-1 with Torino earlier in the day. Juventus slipped to third with 43, following its 3-2 loss to Cagliari on Saturday.

Beckham completed his first full 90 minutes for Carlo Ancelotti's team and created Milan's first two goals and helped him secure his place in Milan's squad for the UEFA Cup.

Milan's next UEFA Cup match is away to Werder Bremen on Feb. 18 and Beckham will also still be available for the second leg on Feb. 26.

"(Andrea) Pirlo is in great condition and with Beckham alongside him, it is a good balance. They are great players and help control the game," said Ancelotti.

"We held onto the ball and passed it well. We're in a good run of form, we're playing well and looking to the future with optimism," Ancelotti continued.

Beckham's low cross in the 42nd minute found Pato unmarked in the Lazio box and the young Brazilian fired in his 10th goal of the season.

The England midfielder sent in a trademark free kick just after halftime and Massimo Ambrosini rose above the Lazio defence to put Milan into a 2-0 lead.

Kaka put the result beyond doubt seven minutes from time. He exchanged passes with Clarence Seedorf and ran on to slot the ball under Lazio goalkeeper Fernando Muslera.

"The problem is psychological. We were playing well, but then to let in two goals _ one of which could have been offside," Lazio coach Delio Rossi said. "It is a shame because they were playing well."

Inter struggled to create many scoring opportunities against Torino at San Siro and striker Rolando Bianchi gave the visitors a surprise lead on 47 minutes when he headed in Ignazio Abate's cross.

Defender Nicolas Burdisso brought Jose Mourinho's team level in the 58th minute and the goal inspired Inter to produce their best football of the match.

Winger Ricardo Quaresma was introduced to add more pace, but it was Argentine defender Burdisso who came close to scoring with a header that brought a save from Torino keeper Matteo Sereni.

Inter striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic almost scored a late winner but hit the post with a header before the Torino defense scrambled the ball to safety.

"I understand the frustration of my players at not winning at home. But we are now seven points from Juventus and that is the most it has been. We should have played like we did in the last 30 minutes, for the first 30 minutes," Mourinho said.

"We created lots of chances, but Toro defended with everything. The team had a good reaction and in the last 15 minutes gave everything to win the game."

Fourth-placed Genoa needed plenty of patience to beat Palermo 1-0 at home, coming up against visiting goalkeeper Amelia in inspired form.

In the first half Salvatore Bocchetti failed to react quickly enough when the ball dropped at his feet in front of goal and Domenico Criscito hit the post after a surging run into the penalty area.

Giuseppe Sculli and Bosko Jankovic both had good chances to break the deadlock, but Amelia was equal to their efforts.

However, there was little he could do when Jankovic squared the ball across the face of the goal for defender Criscito to tap into the unguarded net with just two minutes remaining.

AS Roma lost ground in its pursuit of Genoa with a 2-2 draw at last-place Reggina.

Luciano Spalletti's team began slowly and lacked leadership with captain Francesco Totti, Julio Baptista and Mirko Vucinic all absent.

Spalletti's men also struggled to play their normal passing game on a water-logged pitch, though Stefano Okaka had an early chance following a strong run at goal.

"We played well in difficult conditions and against very aggressive opponents, but we tried to keep the ball on the ground," said Spalletti, whose team is fifth, three points behind Genoa. "I think the team played well, maybe we were unlucky, but I'll accept that."

Bernardo Corradi gave Reggina the lead with a penalty just before halftime, but David Pizzaro equalized almost immediately with a long-range drive. The Chilean then gave Roma the lead on 57 minutes, scoring from the rebound after Andrea Campagnolo had saved his penalty.

Francesco Cozza earned Reggina a valuable point with an equalizer in the 81st minute.

Also yesterday, it was: Atalanta 1, Catania 0; Chievo Verona 1, Sampdoria 1; Genoa 1, Palermo 0 and Siena 1, Lecce 2.


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