AC Milan vs. Hellas Verona: Final score 1-0, late penalty gives Seedorf perfect start

Claudio Villa

A Mario Balotelli penalty ten minutes from time gave Milan three points that their efforts barely deserved as Verona put up a strong fight and should've come away with something.

New boss Clarence Seedorf made just two changes to Max Allegri's final AC Milan lineup, swapping Antonio Nocerino and Bryan Cristante for Riccardo Montolivo and Keisuke Honda. There were also two changes to Andrea Mandorlini's Hellas side that lost 3-0 to Napoli last week, the departed Jorginho replaced in midfield by Ezequiel Cirigliano and Luca Toni missed out due to flu, replaced in attack by Daniele Cacia.

Milan began positively and some flowing passing managed to carve out an opportunity within two minutes but Robinho's turn-and-shot was weak and Rafael easily gathered.

Milan continued to pressure and had another good opportunity when Urby Emanuelson had a shot from the right hand side which looped up off a defender, Rafael scrambling back to claw the ball off the line.

A minute later and Milan had another good opportunity, Kaká meekly heading Keisuke Honda's cross wide from close range.

Hellas occasionally threatened on the counter but there were very few clear chances, the best of which was when Juan Manuel Iturbe sent a 25-yard free kick harmlessly over Christian Abbiati's crossbar.

Towards the end of the half, Mario Balotelli managed to carve out a good chance, his angled effort requiring a save from Rafael and moments later, a Balotelli free kick struck the Brazilian goalkeeper in the chest.

The final action of the first half saw a rocket from distance from Riccardo Montolivo whistle just inches past Rafael's post as Milan inched closer and closer to scoring.

In the second half, the introduction of Raphael Martinho for the visitors offered another dimension, and his tireless running have the Milan defence headaches for the entire half, nearly scoring with his first meaningful touch as he exchanged passes with Alessandro Agostini before poking the ball goalwards, Abbiati needing to be alert to palm it round the post.

Robinho, who's shooting all evening was weak and almost always straight at the goalkeeper, nearly ended up giving Milan the lead in the 67th minute as another lacklustre effort took a huge deflection however despite sending Rafael the wrong way, it came back off the post, fortunately for the Hellas defence.

Balotelli got in on the act of shooting straight at Rafael, as he cleverly made space for a shot in the area but it was again weak and straight in the direction of the Verona keeper.

It was a similar story to the first half as Hellas were dangerous in their probing on the counter attack, but lacking in clear chances although Abbiati had to be alert to beat away a ferocious swerving effort from the always lively Iturbe.

With ten minutes to go, Milan were gifted the chance to take three points their lacklustre finishing barely deserved. Kaká broke into the box but his run was going nowhere and the ball was clearly going out of play when Alejandro González inexplicably dove in and cut the Brazilian down, the referee left with no choice but to award a penalty for the Uruguayan defender's moment of madness. Mario Balotelli made no mistake and Milan were able to pretty comfortably see out the final ten minutes to give Clarence Seedorf a perfect start to his reign on the touchline.

Milan: Abbiati; De Sciglio, Zapata, Bonera (Silvestre 52), Emanuelson; Montolivo, De Jong; Honda (Birsa 62), Kaká, Robinho (Petagna 78); Balotelli

Goals: Balotelli pen 82

Verona: Rafael; Gonzalez (Janković 85), Moras, Maietta, Agostini; Rômulo, Hallfredsson, Cirigliano (Donadel 90); Cacia (Raphael Martinho 81), Gómez Taleb, Iturbe.

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