Milan have closed the gap on Serie A leaders Inter to one point after a comfortable 1-0 win over Chievo at San Siro, a victory clinched by a controversial Kaka penalty
Milan 1-0 Chievo
Team News & Build-Up
Milan had lost their spot at the top of Serie A last week when they conceded a last-gasp equaliser at Lecce and, with new leaders Inter beating Palermo last night, they knew a win against Chievo at San Siro today was vital to close the gap on their city rivals to one point.
The Rossoneri still had injury problems as Pirlo, Nesta, Maldini, Borriello, Ambrosini, and Antonini were all out. Kaka and Ronaldinho supported lone frontman Pippo Inzaghi, while Gianluca Zambrotta was only fit enough to start on the bench.
Chievo were second from bottom in the table and, following last week's defeat against Juventus, were not expecting too many miracles this afternoon either. The Flying Donkeys were minus the services of forwards Kerlon and Erjon Bogdani, and were looking towards star man Sergio Pellissier who led the line.
Chievo had the first attempt of the game as Simone Bentivoglio sliced the ball wide following good work by Luciano. Christian Abbiati also had to be alert in coming off his line to clear a through ball ball as Pellissier threatened.
Ronaldinho had penalty appeals turned down for handball, but on 14 minutes Milan were awarded a spot-kick when Kaka was tripped by Bentivoglio as he charged into the box. It was a controversial decision by the referee as replays showed that contact was made outside the area. Kaka stepped up himself and made no mistake, firing the ball straight down the middle, as Stefano Sorrentino dived to his right.
Milan now came out looking for a second, and Clarence Seedorf's near-post cross was almost turned in by Kakha Kaladze, but Sorrentino was alert. Kaka also threaded Inzaghi through on goal, but the veteran hitman was flagged offside.
Ronaldinho and Kaka were excelling, and some outstanding play from the former allowed Inzaghi to nod the ball down to the ex-Sao Paulo man, but he curled the ball over from a promising position.
Chievo had a rare effort on goal on 32 minutes as Luciano flicked on a header from Bentivoglio's free kick, but it was easy for Abbiati. The Brazilian had another headed attempt soon after but he was penalised for pushing Marek Jankulovski.
The tempo noticeably dropped for the remainder of the first half, and there was almost no more action to report as Milan went in at half time 1-0 to the good.
Into the second half and the impressive Ronaldinho was not too far away from doubling Milan's lead as he curled the ball towads the far corner, but Sorrentino made a smart stop. Jankulovski then also forced the Chievo goalkeeper into action with a cross-shot.
Inzaghi and Kaka both had more penalty appeals turned down, but just short of the hour mark Chievo threatened an equaliser when Bentivoglio let fly with a powerful 25-yard shot, but Abbiati made an excellent save low to his right to turn the ball around the post.
Milan were living dangerously, and Davide Mandelli was left completely unmarked at the far post, but he volleyed the ball wide. Carlo Ancelotti knew he had to spice things up, and introduced Pato for the tiring Inzaghi.
Pato immediately got into the action, and he first saw an effort deflected over the bar, before he couldn't grow enough to head home Jankulovski's cross. The Czech left back then shot off target himself, as did Kaka.
The European and World Footballer of the Year seemed desperate to grab a second goal for himself, and on 75 minutes he headed wide from a corner. Compatriot Kaka tested Sorrentino with a low shot.
With 10 minutes remaining Milan created their best opportunity since the goal as Ronaldinho released Pato with a superb pass, but the teenager was denied by Sorrentino once again.
Sorrentino was in inspired form, and he produced a simply world class save moments later, fingertipping over the bar a rocket of a free kick from Jankulovski.
Sorrentino saved again from the same player in injury time as Milan comfortably held on to win 1-0, thus closing the gap on Serie A leaders Inter to one point.
Milan: Abbiati, Bonera, Kaladze, Favalli, Jankulovski, Flamini, Seedorf, Gattuso, Kaka, Ronaldinho, Inzaghi (Pato 61)
Chievo: Sorrentino, Malago, Yepes, Mandelli, Mantovani, Bentivoglio, Pinzi (Iunco 70), Marcolini (Italiano 78), Langella (Esposito 63), Luciano, Pellissier
Kaka pen 14 (M)