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Sunday 27th January 2002

AC Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani gave coach Carlo Ancelotti the dreaded vote of confidence after seeing his side let slip a two-goal lead to lose at home to Udinese. "Ancelotti will be Milan coach next season, though if we don't make the Champions' League, a lot of the players will leave," he said.

Andriy Shevchenko and Serginho had put Milan two up before Roberto Muzzi's long-range effort got the visitors back into the game ten minutes before half-time.

Shevchenko then failed from the spot for the second match in a row and he was made to pay as substitute Gennaro Scarlato found the target early in the second period with a diving header and Martin Jorgensen completed a sensational turnaround with a goal 12 minutes from time.

The result left Milan one place off the Champions' League qualification places - but a long way below the board's expectations when Ancelotti was appointed in an eventful season that began with the big-money signings of Rui Costa, Javi Moreno, Cosmin Contra and Filippo Inzaghi.

Galliani gave his backing to Ancelotti after the game – and played down fears that the club will miss out on Europe's top club competition.

"Everything was going well, but then something unforeseeable happened," he said of the Udinese defeat. "Anyway, all the teams behind us lost too, so our objective – fourth place, at least, in the final standings – is still at hand. We had to fight for the first position, and now here we are.

"However, I can confirm that Carlo Ancelotti will be Milan coach even for next season, even if we don't fulfil our aims. As for the players, well, we'll see.

"It's clear that if Milan don't make the Champions' League, a lot of the players will leave. The squad will start training from next Tuesday, not to punish them but because we need to find our concentration."

Ancelotti himself, who last week refused to rule his side out of the race for the title, was more downbeat. "We have no excuses," he said.

"After conceding our first goal, we feared Udinese, and this has been happening for a while. We have a mental problem. I'm not feeling abandoned by the squad. I'm not thinking about a revolution inside the team. It's not necessary. But we seem to lack a leader because we have no personality."

Contra accepted all the criticism on behalf of his team-mates. He said: "We had begun very well, scoring twice and controlling the match. Then we conceded a goal and missed a penalty. We shouldn't have lost a match like this.

"We have no excuses: we are all responsible. When we came back on after the break, we were afraid and psychologically tight. Now we have to look ahead."
 
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