Pirlo saves day for Milan as Ronaldo makes comeback

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The Independent Football

Andrea Pirlo scored a late goal yesterday to help AC Milan rally to a 2-1 win over Cagliari in the Serie A.

Pirlo scored with a long-range free kick in the 86th minute after teammate Alberto Gilardino poked in an equalizer in the 61st. Robert Acquafresca headed in Cagliari's goal in the fourth minute.

"It was an important victory for how it came about," Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti said.

Milan could have won by a larger margin but Cagliari goalkeeper Marco Fortin saved a 44th-minute penalty kick by Kaka after Ronaldo was fouled in the area.

"Kaka was a bit off form today compared to normal, but he kept Cagliari's defense worried constantly," Ancelotti said.

Fabio Quagliarella scored in the 43rd and Antonio Di Natale in the 80th to lead 10-man Udinese to a 2-0 win over Siena, lifting the club into a tie for second place. Udinese defender Felipe was sent off in the 45th for his second yellow card.

Depleted by injuries or suspension to seven first-team regulars and without injured coach Cesare Prandelli, Fiorentina hung on for a 0-0 draw against Reggina.

Marco Zalayeta scored on either side of halftime to help Napoli beat Catania 2-0; Livorno won 3-1 at Sampdoria to climb off the bottom of the table; Fabio Firmani hit a deflected shot in the 90th to help Lazio beat Parma 1-0; and Empoli held Torino to a 0-0 draw.

Later, Juventus hosted Palermo.

On Saturday, Inter Milan beat Atalanta 2-1 to maintain its lead in the Italian league, and AS Roma edged Genoa 1-0 on a late goal by Christian Panucci.

Inter leads the Serie A with 28 points, followed by Roma and Udinese with 25, Fiorentina with 24 and Juventus with 22. Inter, Roma and four other teams have yet to play their matches from the last round. Milan is ninth with 17 points.

Milan fans were unable to celebrate only their team's fourth victory of the season at Cagliari's Sant'Elia stadium. The soccer league banned Rossoneri supporters and those of another 12 teams in Italy's top three divisions from traveling to this weekend's games following riots sparked by the fatal shooting of Lazio fan Gabriele Sandri by police two weeks ago.

The other Serie A teams to play without their supporters were Atalanta, Catania, Roma, Sampdoria and Torino.

Ronaldo was unlucky not to score on his first appearance in the league in six months following a thigh injury, hitting the post in the 53rd.

"Ronaldo did what we were expecting, in the sense that he has been out for such a long time," Ancelotti said. "He was involved in all the decisive play."

Acquafresca might have had another goal in the 63rd only to be denied by Milan defender Daniele Bonera, who cleared the forward's shot off the line.

Lazio and Parma players laid bouquets of flowers on the field before their match at Stadio Olimpico and fans in the north stand delayed their entry into the stadium by 20 minutes in memory of Sandri.

A minute's silence was held before all games over the weekend for an Italian soldier killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan on Saturday.