Football: Platt plays a watching game

OVERSEAS ROUND-UP
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The Independent Online
AFTER ALL the controversy surrounding his appointment, David Platt was probably glad to be able to watch a football match yesterday.

The former England international, who was asked to take on the challenge of resurrecting the fortunes of Sampdoria last week, looked on from the stands at a rain-lashed Stadio Luigi Ferraris as the club he used to play for held Milan to a 2-2 draw.

Sampdoria have been unable to call Platt their coach as he does not hold an Italian coaching certificate, so he has the title of team supervisor and his assistant, Giorgio Veneri, is officially the team's coach. This subterfuge was not enough to satisfy the Italian Football Federation, hence Platt's banishment from the bench yesterday.

Platt, who will have been impressed by his team's fighting spirit, was in radio contact with Veneri. "We had prepared this match so well that there was little to say about it," the 59-year-old veteran coach said. "I only spoke to him [Platt] twice."

For much of the first half, Milan threatened to run riot, but the German striker Oliver Bierhoff's failure to convert a series of chances meant the visitors only had a Leonardo goal to show for their domination.

Francesco Palmieri levelled the scores early in the second half before Bierhoff finally found the target with a powerful long-range header from Bruno N'Gotty's cross in the 72nd minute. The Argentinian playmaker, Ariel Ortega, secured a vital point for Sampdoria with a curling free-kick in his first match back since suspension following a drunken driving incident in Genoa.

The Japanese midfielder, Hidetoshi Nakata, kept his nerve to convert a penalty five minutes into stoppage time as Perugia held the Serie A leaders, Fiorentina, to a 2-2 draw. Milan Rapajic put the home team ahead after just 20 seconds, but Anselmo Robbiati's 10th-minute free-kick and Gabriel Batistuta's 14th goal in 14 matches put the leaders 2-1 up going into injury time.

Nakata's spot-kick, following a handball by Guillermo Amor, was his seventh goal in his first season in Serie A. It allowed Parma to cut Fiorentina's lead to three points with a thrilling 5-3 victory at Empoli.

Internazionale's introduction of the veteran striker Roberto Baggio 10 minuites into the second half turned their match against Roma. He came on with Inter trailing to Paulo Sergio's goal and quickly started a move that led to Bernard Cauet's equaliser. Then he drew the foul that resulted in Roma's Fabio Petruzzi being sent off, and Inter took command.

Baggio had already hit a post with a free-kick by that stage and after the Chilean Ivan Zamorano had put Inter in front he added their third. The Argentina international Javier Zanetti wrapped up the 4-1 victory just before the final whistle.

In France, Bordeaux ended the year with a 6-0 thrashing of Metz on Saturday but Marseilles stayed top, three points clear of Bordeaux, with a 2-0 defeat of Le Havre.

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