Chievo vs. AC Milan: Final score 0-1, Rossoneri go second with Verona victory

Giuseppe Bellini

AC Milan went second in the Serie A table with a victory over Chievo at a soaking Bentegodi, leapfrogging Napoli who play in the day's late kick-off.

Eugenio Corini made just one change from the side that beat Pescara prior to the international break, Dario Dainelli replacing Perparim Hetemaj to restore Chievo to a familiar 5-3-2 formation. Max Allegri made three changes from the side that dispatched with Palermo last time, Philippe Mexes, Massimo Ambrosini and Robinho taking the places of Cristian Zapata, Mathieu Flamini and Kevin-Prince Boateng.

The pitch at the Bentegodi was near-waterlogged at kick-off rolled around, meaning that any attempts at an up-tempo passing game would be thwarted by the swampy conditions.

As expected, Milan easily dominated possession early on, with their efforts to get an early goal thwarted only by the offside flag, as Mario Balotelli and Robinho were caught, and by Chievo's typically staunch five-man defence.

The first clear-cut chance came in the 20th minute to Chievo, who had previously offered little. Boukary Drame's accidental dummy deceived Ignazio Abate and Drame was able to get the ball to Cyril Thereau in the box, however his shot was weak and straight at Christian Abbiati.

Five minutes later and Milan's pressure finally told. A free kick was awarded 25 yards out and Mario Balotelli's powerful effort skimmed off the wet surface. Christian Puggioni could only parry it back out in front of goal and Riccardo Montolivo was quickest to react to poke home from inside the six-yard area.

Milan continued to dominate with only a mazy run from Cyril Thereau threatening at the other end, Riccardo Montolivo getting back to shepherd the ball out for a corner in this instance.

The Chievo defenders clearly didn't learn from the goal and kept on fouling just outside the area, giving Balotelli plenty of opportunities to test Puggioni. His second effort was spilled again but the goalkeeper managed to smother the ball at the second attempt, his third was unable to be held but the Chievo defence cleared whilst his fourth was punched clear.

The match was quickly becoming a personal battle between Balotelli and Puggioni, and this continued into the second half, with yet another free kick being given away, this time nearly 40 yards out. Balotelli's effort was on target again but this time Puggioni was able to push it round the post.

Chievo briefly threatened, with Thereau's teasing free kick nearly getting to Marco Andreolli who had evaded the entire Milan defence however he didn't manage to make contact with the ball and Abbiati easily gathered.

At the other end, Balotelli continued his battle with Puggioni, his sixth free kick of the match but again, the besieged 'keeper was able to get down and make the save to deny the Milan striker.

Chievo were beginning to get into the match a little more however they were struggling to create opportunities and the more they pushed forward, the more Milan threatened on the break, Robinho finishing off a quick counter with a drive that Puggioni got down well to save from.

Veteran substitute Luciano unleashed a powerful effort from 20 yards that Abbiati pushed over with his fingertips however the match was effectively ended when Dario Dainelli needlessly brought down Balotelli when another player was covering, being awarded his second yellow with 12 minutes remaining.

Thereafter, the ten men rarely threatened and Milan were able to go second in the table with Napoli playing in the day's late kick-off against Torino.

Chievo: Puggioni; Frey (Luciano 63), Andreolli, Dainelli, Cesar; Drame, Guana (Stoian 46), Rigoni, Cofie; Thereau, Paloschi (Pelissier 73)

Milan: Abbiati; Abate, Bonera, Mexes, De Sciglio; Montolivo, Ambrosini, Muntari; Robinho (Niang 84), Balotelli, El Shaarawy

Goals: Montolivo 25 (M)

Sent off: Dainelli 78 (C)

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