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Milan give Maldini perfect send-off

AC Milan booked their place in the Champions League group stages and gave Paolo Maldini a winning send-off as they beat Fiorentina 2-0 on Sunday.

The seven-time European champions risked missing out on a top three finish and having to negotiate two qualifying rounds in Europe next season if they lost but goals from Kaka and Pato were enough to secure a win and third place in Serie A.

Fiorentina finished fourth following the defeat and will play those two qualifying rounds next season while Juventus claimed second spot with a 2-0 home win over Lazio.

But while Maldini was afforded a great reception from both sets of fans in Florence to celebrate his 24 years as a Milan player, coach Carlo Ancelotti made what will likely be a more discreet departure.

He too is likely to leave Milan to join Chelsea next season, despite Milan’s fans chanting for him to stay throughout the game.

Fiorentina, who had to win to take a top three finish, started brightly and former Milan forward Alberto Gilardino got on the end of a left-wing cross on 22-minutes but headed wide under pressure.

Just two minutes later former Arsenal star Mathieu Flamini grazed the bar with a vicious shot from 22 yards as Milan demonstrated their potency.

Fiorentina had a good shout for a penalty on 42 minutes when Giuseppe Favalli appeared to haul down Gilardino but the referee gave a foul the other way.

On 48 minutes the striker went close again as he curled a shot just past the post with the outside of his right boot.

But on 55 minutes Milan took the lead with a simple move as Andrea Pirlo released Gianluca Zambrotta down the right and although his cross was blocked by Alessandro Gamberini, Kaka followed up to slide home the ball.

Filippo Inzaghi should have finished things on 62 minutes but he blazed over the bar with only French goalkeeper Sebastien Frey to beat.

However substitute Pato did seal the victory on 76 minutes as he beat the offside trap and then chipped Frey as the Frenchman went to ground.

Champions Inter Milan came back from 3-2 down to beat Atalanta 4-3 at the San Siro as Portugal veteran Luis Figo also bowed out from the game.

Sweden forward Zlatan Ibrahimvoic also took the golden boot award after his two goals took his tally to 25 this season.

Czech veteran Pavel Nedved was another player departing as he played his final game for Juventus, with two Vincenzo Iaquinta goals securing their victory.

Torino joined Reggina and Lecce in being relegated to Serie B after they lost 3-2 at AS Roma and Bologna won 3-1 at home to Catania.

Sun 31 May, 2009
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