Serie A - Milan win to close in on title
Milan edged closer to a first Serie A title in seven years after Mathieu Flamini’s early goal gave them a scrappy 1-0 win at home to Bologna.
Flamini’s eighth-minute strike gave the Rossoneri a deserved half-time lead but they slumped after the break and Bologna - who saw substitute Francesco Della Rocca harshly sent off with seven minutes left - were unlucky not to level, although Milan spurned some late chances to add a second.
The result means Massmiliano Allegri’s side are eight points clear of second-placed Internazionale with three games left: holding a vastly-superior goal difference over their city rivals, Milan will feel a draw at Roma next week will be enough to claim the Scudetto.
Milan dominated the first half, only prevented from ending the contest before the break by some smart goalkeeping and wasteful finishing.
They took an early lead, expectedly given their pressure but through an unexpected source as Flamini nabbed only his second goal in three Serie A seasons as he latched on to Robinho’s excellent through ball and finished at the second time of asking following Emiliano Viviano’s good save.
Antonio Cassano spurned a gilt-edged chance to double the lead just after the quarter-hour mark, as surprised as anyone when the flag failed to go up as he reached Massimo Ambrosini’s pass in an offside position: Vivano denied him with a point-blank stop.
Kevin-Prince Boateng, lively as ever for the Rossoneri, almost gifted one to Robinho with a vicious delivery across the face of goal but the Brazilian failed to connect, while the Ghana midfielder spurned an opportunity of his own when he headed Robinho’s brilliant cross over.
On the stroke of half-time Viviano again kept Milan at bay as he denied Flamini a second after Robinho slipped him in following a counter launched by Boateng’s excellent tackle: this time the former Arsenal midfielder was not able to reach the rebound.
The Rossoneri seemed to ease off slightly in the second half, sitting back and looking for the break with little of note until a bad miss from Robinho after Cassano played him clean through.
The hosts were content with the counter attack and were almost hurt on a couple of occasions, Marco Di Vaio almost nipping in after some slack defending and Gaston Ramirez heading just wide on two occasions after excellent dead-ball deliveries from fellow substitute Della Rocca.
Then came a moment of controversy as, with the visitors in the ascendancy, the referee was very quick to brandish a red card for a fairly innocuous challenge by the increasingly influential Della Rocca on Alessandro Nesta.
His hand reached for the top pocket as the challenge was being made, the decision apparently rasher than the tackle itself, which was no different to one by Ambrosini seconds earlier: it was a foul but barely even a yellow.
Milan youngster Giacomo Beretta made an entertaining cameo and almost capped a dream debut with a goal, showing great pace and strength to bundle through twice late on but failing with his finishes.
Bologna were chucking the kitchen sink at Milan but, thanks to the calm head of Nesta in particular, the champions-elect held on to move closer to a first title since the Calciopoli scandal.