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Late strike from Gilardino gives Milan slender lead

ROME, Jan 25 (Reuters) - A late Alberto Gilardino goal gave AC Milan a 1-0 win over Palermo in the first leg of their Italian Cup quarter-final on Wednesday.

Palermo coach Luigi Del Neri - under fire after a poor run of results in Serie A - fielded a full-strength side for the match at Milan's San Siro stadium.

Milan counterpart Carlo Ancelotti relied on mostly second-stringers, though there was nothing second-rate about his strike pairing of Gilardino and new signing Marcio Amoroso who arrived from Brazilian club Sao Paolo earlier this month.

Palermo seemed to be hanging on for a draw, but with four minutes remaining Kaka burst down the left and delivered a low cross into the path of Gilardino, who sidefooted home.

In an earlier quarter-final first leg, Udinese drew 1-1 at home to Sampdoria.

Antonio Di Natale put Udinese ahead in the 23rd minute when he gathered Roberto Baronio's long ball before turning and firing home from the edge of the area.

Aimo Diana grabbed the equaliser 14 minutes from time to give Sampdoria the advantage of an away goal ahead of the return leg of the tie on Feb 1.