Serie A - Udinese claim Champions League spot

Sun, 22 May 21:42:00 2011

Udinese secured the point they needed to qualify for the Champions League after a 0-0 home draw with Italian champions Milan in their final Serie A match of the season.

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Antonio Di Natale saw a penalty saved by the outstanding visiting keeper Marco Amelia in the final 20 minutes, but it was not enough to deny the home side a spot in Europe's premier club competition next term.

Lazio finished level on points with Udinese after a 4-2 win at Lecce, but will have to settle for a Europa League spot after Udinese's superior goal difference saw them get the edge with the teams even on head-to-head.

Milan were already Italian champions before their visit to the Stadio Friuli. They will be joined in the Champions League group stages with city rivals Internazionale and third-placed Napoli.

Udinese must negotiate one qualifying round as the fourth best side in Serie A. They should provide tricky opposition having been more than worthy of their point against Milan.

On another night, Udinese would have won by two or three goals.

Only a sparkling display by Amelia - who had replaced Christian Abbiati moments before kick-off - ensured Milan left Udine with something to show from their final outing of the season.

Di Natale declares on 28 goals for the season, but it was not for lack of effort. He clipped the post with a free-kick from 25 yards on 18 minutes before Alexis Sanchez nodded Pablo Armero's teasing cross wide of the target on 34 minutes.

Milan had a few attempts at goal courtesy of Pato, but the Brazilian forward's night was to end in some discomfort when he was carted off having damaged his shoulder after falling awkwardly.

Amelia proved to be the difference between the sides in the second half as Udinese pushed for a goal to ease the tension knowing that Lazio were on their way to three points at Lecce.

He clawed out a shot by Di Natale on 64 minutes before doing likewise to repel a Sanchez shot moments later. Still the chances came and still Amelia stood firm.

Clarence Seedorf - playing in what could be his last game for Milan - hauled down Sanchez in the box, but Amelia guessed right as he dived to his right to divert Di Natale's effort on to a post.

When Amelia was beaten, the woodwork came to his rescue as a dipping long-range bullet from Gohkan Inler hit the bar then post before bouncing to safety.

Sanchez then lined up a shot from the edge of the area that was saved by the feet of the Milan keeper as he put the seal on a quite brilliant performance. He was replaced by Flavio Roma on 86 minutes as a tribute to the departing MIlan reserve keeper.

While Roma has played his final game for Milan, Amelia would appear to have a bright future with the Italian champions.

With a place secured in the qualifying rounds of the Champions League, the stadium sound-system played UEFA's theme music as the home fans rejoiced.

But Udinese now face a summer challenge to keep hold of their star players, as Europe's top clubs court the likes of Sanchez, Di Natale, Inler and Maurizio Isla.


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