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Beckham helps AC Milan to draw

DAVID Beckham made his competitive debut in Serie A, playing 89 minutes in AC Milan's 2-2 draw with AS Roma yesterday, and Juventus closed the gap on leader Inter Milan to four points with a 1-0 victory over Siena.

Beckham failed to score in his first match on loan from the Los Angeles Galaxy, but Alexander Pato managed to get two at Stadio Olimpico to help Milan into third place with 34 points -- five behind Juventus and nine behind Inter.

Mirko Vucinic put Roma in the lead with a goal in the 22nd minute. John Arne Riise crossed from the left, none of the Milan defense reacted and the Montenegrin rounded Marek Jankulovski to lift the ball over goalkeeper Christian Abbiati.

Roma held the lead until halftime, but Milan came out and hit back immediately. Kaka found some space on the left of the penalty area and played the ball across the face of the goal for Pato to score his seventh league goal of the season.

Five minutes later, Pato added another when he burst past Philippe Mexes on the left, cut into the penalty area and placed the ball over Roma goalkeeper Doni.

"Carlo Ancelotti said that we had to move the ball quicker from defense and if we did this we could have a great game," Pato said. "We are after the championship. We worked hard in Dubai and we have come back and got ready to go after the title."

As the match continued, Roma took control and started to have the better of the exchanges. Eventually they were rewarded with an equalizer when Vucinic headed in Matteo Brighi's cross.

"We are a good squad and we came back as I wanted us to," Roma coach Luciano Spaletti said. "We needed to hold onto the ball more, because if you are chasing the ball, you become more tired.

"Vucinic is a player who is good at attacking the crossed ball. He likes to drift out to the left and when he does this he scores goals."

Juventus created few chances and needed a free kick by Alessandro Del Piero in the 33rd minute. However, with Inter slipping up on Saturday by drawing 1-1 with Cagliari, the result was more important than the performance.

"Siena didn't deserve to lose," Juventus coach Claudio Ranieri said. "We had the good fortune that our captain Alessandro Del Piero scored a great free kick. But we have to work hard. We aren't like we were in 2008."

Inter Milan leads the league with 43 points, followed by Juventus with 39, Milan with 34 points and Napoli with 33.

Juventus played without injured goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, defender Giorgio Chiellini and midfielder Mauro Camoranesi.

In attack, Amauri seemed unlikely to add to the 11 goals he has scored so far this season, though with reserve striker Vincenzo Iaquinta out through injury, Ranieri had few alternatives on the bench.

"The championship still has a long way to go and we have to show we deserve to be in this position," Del Piero said. "Today we won with a stubbornness on an otherwise not brilliant day."

Napoli was another team which made a sluggish return after the winter break, but eventually moved into the Champions League qualification places by beating Catania 1-0.

Midfielder Cristian Maggio scored the winner in the 80th minute, tapping in Ezequiel Lavezzi's cross from short range, but Marek Hamsik had earlier passed up a great chance to score his eighth goal of the season by hitting a weak penalty that Catania goalkeeper Albano Bizzarri saved easily.

Earlier in the match, the Argentine strike pair of Lavezzi and German Denis was unable to find much room in and around the penalty area. However, the hosts picked up as Catania faded.

The Sicilian team made little impression in attack and looked to Giuseppe Mascara, but the best he could do was send a free kick in the 36th minute off the wall for a corner.

With a trip to Chievo Verona up next, Napoli coach Edy Reja said he hoped his team can continue its form on the road.

"I would like the team to have away the same efficiency that they have at home," Reja said. "In that case we could aim for a higher finish."

Napoli's win put it ahead of Fiorentina, which lost to Lecce 2-1. Fiorentina was twice exposed by balls played through the defense, first with Guillermo Giacomazzi and then Jose Castillo taking advantage and beating goalkeeper Sebastien Frey.

Between the two Lecce goals, Felipe Melo scored from Mario Santana's cross and Franco Semioli had an effort ruled out for a foul, but overall Fiorentina was another team that showed its rustiness and finished the match with 10 men after Pablo Osvaldo was sent off while captain Adrian Mutu was taken off the field on a stretcher holding his knee.

Lazio returned from the break in good form, beating Reggina 3-2 with Goran Pandev scoring a hat trick. There was an early scare for the Romans after Reggina striker Bernardo Corradi scored a fourth-minute penalty, but two goals in quick succession by Pandev put them back in control. The Macedonian completed his hat trick in the 76th.

Also yesterday, it was; Bologna 1, Chievo Verona 1; Palermo 3, Atalanta 2; and Udinese 1, Sampdoria 1.


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