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Milan assured third place
Ronaldinho inspired AC Milan to a 1-0 win over Fiorentina tonight which practically assures them third spot in Serie A and automatic qualification for the Champions League next season.

The Brazilian was in inspirational form, even if he only managed one goal, and that came from the penalty spot late in the game, but it was a crucial goal which takes the Rossoneri seven points clear of fourth-placed Sampdoria.

Fiorentina, meanwhile, see their chances of qualifying for Europe next season ended by a defeat which leaves them seven points adrift of the top seven with just two games left to play.

Milan ended the game with 10 men when Massimo Ambrosini was shown a red card three minutes from time, but that did not spoil a particularly satisfying night for Milan coach Leonardo.

The build-up to the game had been overshadowed by a heated debate between Leonardo and the club's honorary president Silvio Berlusconi.

The outcome is an almost certain parting of ways at the end of the season, but the Brazilian wants to leave with his head held high and he had a compatriot on the field tonight who was willing to fight his corner for him.

Ronaldinho has shown in glimpses that, despite Berlusconi's claim that Milan have never looked creative in attack all season, he is still capable of winning a game all by himself.

Even if he is not providing the finish, he has the invention and creativity to put his team mates into position to score goals and that is what he did for much of the first 45 minutes.

He created a chance for Klaas-Jan Huntelaar as early as the eighth minute before giving Marco Borriello the chance to score in the 18th minute.

Another Brazilian, Thiago Silva, missed a great chance to put the home side ahead in the 16th minute, but his header from Ronaldinho's corner was cleared off the line by Cristiano Zanetti.

Ronaldinho tested Fiorentina goalkeeper Sebastien Frey himself in the 19th minute, but the French custodian pushed the ball away.

The Brazilian forward then diverted a Gianluca Zambrotta shot goalwards and Frey had to make a good reaction save to ensure the Viola went in at the break still level.

Frey denied Ronaldinho in the 62nd minute and, just as it seemed like Milan were not going to find a way through, Per Kroldrup did them a huge favour by fouling Borriello inside the penalty area.

Ronaldinho stepped up to at last get the better of Frey in the 78th minute for what turned out to be the winning goal.

Milan still had to sweat it out to the end to hold off Fiorentina's reaction, and they had to do so with just 10 men for the last three minutes after Massimo Ambrosini was shown a second yellow card.

But they held on to the win - their first since April 3 - to cement third position with two games of the season remaining.
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