Serie A - Milan beat Cagliari to go top

Tue, 20 Dec 22:14:00 2011

Milan returned to the top of Serie A thanks to a 2-0 win over Cagliari at the Stadio Sant’Ella Stadium.

2011-12 FOOTBALL Serie A AC Milan Zlatan Ibrahimovic - 0

An own goal from Francesco Pisano and a sharp finish from Zlatan Ibrahimovic proved the difference between the sides, though manager Massimiliano Allegri will be equally as grateful to centre-half Thiago Silva, who dealt brilliantly with the Cagliari front three.

Cagliari's Andrea Cossu returned from suspension, behind that front three of Thiago Ribeiro, Victor Ibarbo and Joaquin Larrivey.

Milan goalkeeper Christian Abbiati returned after a month out with a shoulder injury. Philippe Mexes and Taye Taiwo started in defence, whilst Robinho began up front with Ibrahimovic and Alberto Aquilani replaced Clarence Seedorf in midfield.

The match was the rearranged fixture from the first week of the season, where the whole schedule was postponed because of a players' strike.

It was a far from fluent performance from the Rossoneri in the Sardinian rain, even though they scored early in the game through a fourth-minute own goal.

Ibrahimovic put in Robinho down the right-hand side of the box, and the Brazilian rounded goalkeeper Michael Agazzi and defender Michele Canini, before crossing for the waiting Antonio Nocerino. It seemed as if the former Palermo midfielder would tap in his seventh goal in 14 games from point-blank range, but Pisano ended up putting the ball into his own net as he attempted to clear.

Cagliari had almost taken a shock early lead. Cossu played in Thiago Ribeiro down the right side of the penalty area in the third minute, but the Brazilian's low shot hit the outside of the post.

Abbiati in the Milan goal had to be sharp to save from Albin Ekdal in the 13th minute, as the home side looked for an equaliser, although the Swede was in truth gifted the ball by a poor clearance from Mexes.

The Milan goalkeeper then saved with his feet from Larrivey, as the Argentinian tried to deflect a Cossu shot goalwards, though a late flag eventually went up from the assistant referee.

Robinho wasted a good chance on 57 minutes, but his header on the hour set up Ibrahimovic’s 11th Serie A goal of the season.

It dropped perfectly into the path of the Swede, who controlled the ball superbly to take it away from Canini, then chipped it over Agazzi from a tight angle.

Cagliari enjoyed decent amounts of possession from then on, but the Sardinians have only scored 12 times in the league this season, and that impotence in front of goal showed.

Although Larrivey and Ibarbo did occasionally make half-chances, they were quickly crowded out by the brilliant defending of Taiwo and Thiago Silva.

And on the rare occasions they did threaten the Milan goal with long-distance efforts from Radja Nainggolan and Alessandro Agostini, Abbiati made important blocks to ensure a clean sheet for the Italian champions.

Milan lead the table with 34 points from 16 games, though it could be a short stay on the summit, as Juventus will return to the top if they win at Udinese on Wednesday. Cagliari drop to 14th place, with 18 points from 16 games.

Nick Royle / Eurosport

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