Serie A - Milan swat abject Napoli aside
Milan asserted their authority at the top of the Serie A table after swatting aside surprise title challengers Napoli in a 3-0 victory at the San Siro.
A penalty from top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic gave Milan a deserved lead shortly after the half-time break before substitute Kevin Prince Boateng and Alexandre Pato put the gloss on a dominant display from the league leaders.
Without the industrious Ezequiel Lavezzi in attack, Napoli lacked any forward momentum as well as being careless at times in defence and they were comprehensively punished for their failings.
Victory for Napoli would have seen them draw level on points with Milan at the summit but instead they now sit third, six points adrift of top spot having been leapfrogged by Internazionale over the weekend.
A predictably cagey opening to this game was to be expected given the high stakes involved with neither goalkeeper called upon during a tense first half hour.
Milan increasingly looked at their most threatening when on the counter attack with Ibrahimovic leading the line but without the required service from his wasteful Brazilian wingmen Robinho and Pato, the big Swede cut a frustrated figure.
Napoli on the other hand looked to be pinning their hopes on a long ball over the top for Edinson Cavani to chase but without a great deal of success as Alessandro Nesta and Thiago Silva enjoyed a comfortable 45 minutes.
That half chance sparked a period of dominance for the home side that continued for the remainder of the half but ultimately proved fruitless.
The visitors almost played the role of architect in their own downfall on a number of occasions, much to the frustration of the increasingly animated Napoli boss Walter Mazzarri, with a series of lacklustre pieces of defending with the half-time break in sight.
But their carelessness went unpunished leaving Milan to wallow in disappointment during the interval at failing to secure an advantage.
Upon resumption they soon had reason to smile as they were gifted a chance to break the deadlock from the penalty spot after Aronica was penalised for a needless handball.
And Ibrahimovic made no mistake from 12 yards, whipping the ball beyond the dive of Morgan De Sanctis into the bottom left corner.
The lead was no more than Milan deserved after dominating against an uncharacteristically abject Napoli side and they very nearly doubled their advantage within minutes when Pato's curling effort was superbly tipped round the post by De Sanctis.
The Napoli goalkeeper was soon called upon once more to rescue his side, instinctively saving low to his right when Robinho connected well with Pato's near post cross.
With Napoli offering very little in attack, Milan continued in the ascendancy and soon had the goals that their dominance warranted.
Twice Napoli were caught out by Milan's ability to counter attack with pace with Pato heavily involved on both occasions.
First as provider for substitute Boateng who could not miss when teed up three yards from goal, and then as goalscorer courtesy of a beautiful curling effort into the top corner from 20 yards with two defenders hesitantly backing off to leave the Rossoneri riding high at the top of Serie A and on course for their first Scudetto since 2005.
Follow live text commentary on these matches this week: Milan v Napoli (Mon) + Lecce v Roma (Fri) + Juventus v Milan (Sat) + Sampdoria v Cesena (Sun) + Inter v Genoa (Sun) + Lazio v Palermo (Sun)