Hellas Verona vs. AC Milan: Final score 2-1, Millan stunned

Dino Panato

After the 1-1 draw against PSV Eindhoven in midweek, AC Milan looked for a better result to start off their domestic season, only to be undone by Luca Toni

Theoretically, AC Milan couldn't have asked for a better team to start off the domestic season than the recently promoted Hellas Verona, a club that had been out of the top flight for 11 years. Though Verona were coming off a win against Palermo in the Coppa Italia, they still faced a daunting task against a Milan team that hoped to avoid the same type of start to the season as last year.

Due to tiredness from midweek matches, there were changes from both squads: Hellas Verona brought in Romulo, Bosko Jankovic and Fabrizio Cacciatore in exchange for Alessandro Agostini, Daniele Cacia and Jacopo Sala. Allegri made four changes of his own, bringing in Kevin Constant, Antonio Nocerino, M'Baye Niang and Andrea Poli and in return, sacrificing Kevin Prince-Boateng, Nigel De Jong, Urby Emanuelson and Sulley Muntari.

AC Milan started the game in dominant fashion, as expected, with Riccardo Montolivo firing a warning shot from 30 yards out that was off-target, though it did seem to worry the Verona keeper. While Milan looked the better team in the opening stages, Verona were pressing very well and seemed to especially target Christian Zapata, who gave away the first corner of the game, luckily for the player, the corner came to nothing.

Mario Balotelli -- the newly crowned most interesting man in the world -- showed his ambition early, mirroring Montolivo by taking a shot from 25 yards out to test the Verona keeper, Rafael, who parried the seemingly goalbound effort. His striker partner, Stephen El Shaarawy, also looked dangerous, almost capitalizing on a loose ball after an Abate cross, but his effort was too high.

It didn't take too long for Milan to reap the rewards for their dominance as Andrea Poli, the unheralded signing of the summer, made his mark by controlling a pass from Balotelli with one touch, and under pressure from two defenders, slotted the ball into the bottom corner.

Both teams would exchange a series of free kicks afterwards. Balotelli's was the best; he threatened from 35 yards out with a vicious strike after being fouled by Jorginho. Martinho also had an effort but hit his shot right at Abbiati who had no trouble claiming the ball and returning possession to Milan.

Verona eventually managed to claw their way back into the game, however, Jorginho especially as he manages to catch Montolivo in possession and initiate a counterattack that almost resulted in a Romulo shot at goal, were it not blocked. The pressure from the newly promoted team would pay off as Luca Toni, the former Bayern Munich and Juventus man, would take advantage of lax defending by Milan defenders to head past Abbiati after Mexes conceded a corner.

The goal gave the minnows confidence as they began to test the Milan defense more often. Toni was especially difficult, managing to trouble Abbiati again from the top of the box. While the goalkeeper was unable to hold the ball, Abate came in to clear before any real danger was done. Before half-time, Luca Toni again managed another header at goal. This time, however, it was comfortable for the keeper to catch.

After half-time Verona were rampant against the red and black, Jankovic almost scored from a Martinho delivery after Zapata, who was having a bad game by now, gave away a foul after being out-paced. Abbiati saved his blushes though by tipping the fine effort over the bar.

The relief would not last long though. Toni grabbed a brace via another header, this one from a brilliant counterattack started by Romulo, who passed the ball to Jankovic, who then effortlessly bent the ball into the path of Toni with the outside of his boot. Toni made no mistake this time as he superbly headed past the mystified keeper.

Milan desperately tried to get back in the game, with Balotelli and Poli both contriving to miss a Constant cross by inches, further adding to the frustration of a team trying to avoid another slow start to the season. There were a few penalty shouts, one from Balotelli after being blocked by two defenders, and another by Toni after bamboozling the ineffective Zapata and also being blocked.

Balotelli was a man on a mission towards the end of the game as he tried to bring his team back into the match, having close efforts from 30 yards out, as well as a second penalty claim after having his ankles clipped inside the area by a Verona defender. The referee remained unmoved. While the penalties were not awarded, other efforts by Milan to start a comeback were stopped by the amazing Rafael, who managed to make a few stunning saves to deny Montolivo and Balotelli.

In the end, the game ended 2-1 in Hellas Verona's favor after Luca Toni showed that he could still play at the highest level at his advanced age, breathing life into a team returning to Serie A, and damaging whatever hopes that Milan had to a good start to the season.

Hellas Verona: Rafael, Maietta, Cacciatore, Moras, Albertazzi, Jorginho, Donati (Hallfredsson 84'), Martinho (Taleb 78'), Romulo, Jankovic, Toni (Cacia 85')

A.C Milan: Abbiati, Mexes, Zapata, Abate, Constant (Robinho 77'), Poli, Montolivo, Nocerino,Balotelli, Niang (Emanuelson 64'), El Shaarawy (Petagna 64')

Goals: Toni 30', 53'

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