Serie A - Pato the hero in Milan derby

Sat, 02 Apr 20:40:00 2011

Milan moved five points clear at the top of Serie A with a dominant 3-0 win over city rivals Internazionale at the San Siro.

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Alexandre Pato was the hero for the Rossoneri in the 154th league instalment of the Derby della Madonnina, scoring a brace which sealed a first double over their local rivals since 2004, the last time they won the title.

Substitute Antonio Cassano put the gloss on the victory with a late penalty, before being sent off for picking up two bookings in as many minutes.

Pato's first came after just 44 seconds and, soon after Inter defender Cristian Chivu was sent off for fouling him, the Brazilian scored his second just after the hour mark.

After Inter appeared to have all the momentum going into this fixture following their remarkable resurgence under coach Leonardo, this victory puts Milan very much in the driving seat, five points clear with just seven games remaining.

Both sides were missing key men through suspension. Milan were without star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, whose penalty when the reverse fixture back in November, while Inter were denied the services of centre-back Lucio.

While Inter had to field left-back Chivu in the heart of their defence alongside Andrea Ranocchia, Milan were still able to field an attack comprising Pato and Robinho, supported by the outstanding Clarence Seedorf.

The match got off to a dream start for Milan when Pato pounced to score his 12th league goal of the season after Gennaro Gattuso played a through ball into the box for Robinho. Inter goalkeeper Julio Cesar slid in to block the shot, but the ball broke loose and Pato was on hand to fire into the unguarded net.

Despite their run of form since the turn of the year which has seen them rocket up the table and into the last eight of the Champions League, Inter struggled to recover from that early goal and took time to work their way into the game.

Milan continued to dominate and had a penalty claim turned down when Seedorf's volley struck the hand of Maicon, but the referee Nicola Rizzoli ruled that the Brazilian right-back could have done little about it. Rizzoli then turned down another appeal when Robinho went down inside the box, but the Milan forward saw the official show him a yellow card for simulation rather than point to the spot.

Inter began to work their way into the match, with Wesley Sneijder instrumental. The Dutch playmaker fired a free-kick over the bar after having a laser pen shone in his eyes.

Giampaolo Pazzini then went close after bundling his way past Gianluca Zambrotta, but his rushed effort was smothered by goalkeeper Christian Abbiati.

Milan's Mark van Bommel had a strike from range deflect off Chivu's boot and rattle the crossbar before Abbiati made a stunning reflex save from Thiago Motta's header.

Inter should have drawn themselves level just before the break when Esteban Cambiasso's flick-on found Samuel Eto'o unmarked at the far post, but the Cameroon striker somehow contrived to put his shot wide from just eight yards out.

Milan lost their captain Gattuso just five minutes into the second half, but before Inter had the chance to fully exploit the absence of the combative midfielder they were a man down when Chivu clipped Pato's heels as the striker raced past him. The Romanian walked, and forward Goran Pandev was sacrificed in order to bring on defender Ivan Cordoba.

Inter were unable to stop Milan making the extra man count, and they were soon two goals down when Seedorf picked out Ignazio Abate with a sumptuous flick, and Pato headed in the right-back's wayward shot.

Julio Cesar did his best to keep the score down as Milan cut through Inter time and again, with the keeper denying compatriot Robinho on several occasions.

Pato left the field to a standing ovation when he was replaced by Cassano 10 minutes from time, but his removal from play denied him the opportunity to become the first player to score a Milan derby hat-trick since 1960.

The enigmatic Cassano made the most of his cameo, winning a penalty after being fouled by Javier Zanetti and coolly dispatching it himself.

The former Sampdoria forward removed his shirt in jubilant celebration, which earned him his first booking, and then just two minutes got a second for a foul on Cordoba. It was a 10-minute spell which perfectly encapsulates the maverick striker's career: from the sublime to the ridiculous in the blink of an eye.

Cassano's sending off could not, however, tarnish a huge landmark result for Milan, who now look odds on to end their six-year wait for another title.

Tony Mabert / Eurosport

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