EUROPEAN FOOTBALL : Sampdoria show brittle side

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Sampdoria, Arsenal's opponents in the Cup-Winners' Cup semi-finals, found it impossible to repeat their midweek European form, writes Rupert Metcalf. They went down 3-0 at home to Milan in Italy's Serie A.

Marco Simone's fifth goal in three games sent Milan on their way, and Demetrio Albertini added two more in the second half. The Sampdoria defender, Moreno Mannini, was sent off for the second successive week.

Parma were held 2-2 at Reggiana, which allowed Juventus to claim a six- point advantage at the top of Serie A after a 1-0 home victory over Cremonese, who had two players sent off. Gianluca Vialli, with an overhead kick from a Roberto Baggio cross, was the match-winner.

In Spain, Real Zaragoza, who face Chelsea in the last four of the Cup- Winners' Cup, drew 0-0 at Celta Vigo. Real Madrid beat Espaol 1-0 thanks to a goal from Ivan Zamorano, and now have a five-point lead in the league. Second-placed Barcelona were held 0-0 at home by Valencia. Johan Cruyff's side missed the flair of Hristo Stoichkov - suspended by the coach last week for publicly insulting his team-mates.

Lacking the injured strikers Karlheinz Riedle and Stephane Chapuisat - who is out for the season with knee ligament damage - the German Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund went down to their first home defeat of the campaign: 3-0 to fellow Uefa Cup semi-finalists Bayer Leverkusen. Dortmund are one point ahead of Werder Bremen, who were beaten 2-0 at third-placed Borussia Mnchengladbach.

A hat-trick from Finland's Jari Litmanen helped Ajax to a 5-1 win over NEC Nijmegen, ensuring the Amsterdam club stay two points clear at the top of the Dutch League.