Serie A - Pato the hero for Milan

Sun, 20 Feb 16:15:00 2011

Milan bounced back from their Champions League defeat at the hands of Tottenham with a 2-1 away victory over Chievo Verona in Serie A.

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Gelson Fernandes looked to have earned his side a point after his headed equaliser cancelled out Robinho’s opener, though Brazilian striker Alexandre Pato came off the bench to strike a superb winner with just eight minutes remaining.

The result restores the rossoneri’s five point lead over arch-rivals Internazionale at the top of Serie A with just 12 games remaining, while Chievo remain 13th.

The hosts had acquitted themselves well in a hard-fought first half, in which Sergio Pellissier passed up the first real chance, slicing a shot wide following a neat through ball from strike partner Cyril Thereau.

Robinho then went close from a tight angle, before grabbing the opener that Chievo protested strongly should have been disallowed as Zlatan Ibrahimovic headed back ‘s cross from right on the touchline before the Brazilian spun well and toe-poked the ball home from close range.

Ibrahimovic then drew a fine save from Stefano Sorrentino with a long-range effort, though Milan had Luca Antonini to thank soon afterwards for making a superb block to deny Fernandes after the Swiss connected sweetly with Kevin Constant’s deep cross at the back post.

Sergio Pellissier blazed over just before half-time from close range, though frustration turned to joy for Chievo 15 minutes into the second half after another Constant cross was met by Fernandes at the far post, and this time the former Manchester City man planted a firm header past Christian Abbiati.

Milan went in search of an instant reply, and Abate’s pace began to create problems for the Chievo defence as he beat his marker well on 77 minutes and fired in a dangerous low cross that Sorrentino spilled into the centre of the area, and was fortunate to the ball fall to team-mate Bostjan Cesar, rather than Ibrahimovic, who was also lurking.

There was nothing the ‘keeper could do about Milan’s winner, however, which came five minutes later. Substitute Pato, who had replaced Antonio Cassano at half-time, picked up the ball outside the area, danced through the challenges of Luca Rigoni and Santiago Morero, and fired a low shot that cannoned in off the near post.

Any hopes Chievo had of an unlikely late equaliser were effectively dashed when centre-back Cesar was shown his second yellow card for a blatant handball, and Milan saw the game out comfortably to claim a win that keeps them in pole position to claim their first scudetto since 2004.

Michael FitzGerald / Eurosport

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