Pato rescues Milan against plucky Chievo

Rome: AC Milan maintained their grip on top spot in Serie A after Alexandre Pato scored a late winner to earn them a 2-1 success at 10-man Chievo.

Robinho had given them a controversial first-half lead yesterday before Gelson Fernandes equalised in the second period, but Pato came off the bench to score the winner before Bostjan Cesar was dismissed for a second booking late on.

Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri described the victory as a gift to club president Silvio Berlusconi, who was celebrating 25 years as club owner.

"The lads have given president Berlusconi a lovely present," said Allegri.

"I haven`t spoken to him yet but he`ll surely be pleased, as we all are."

Milan went in front in contentious fashion on 25 minutes.

Antonio Cassano stood the ball up to the back post and Zlatan Ibrahimovic headed it back into the danger zone where Robinho controlled it, spun and trickled a shot into the corner.

However, television replays showed that the Brazilian controlled the ball with his upper arm despite the referee appearing to have a clear and unobstructed view of the incident.

"Robinho`s handball was obvious. From the bench I had a perfect view of it and I saw it straight away but even the referee was perfectly placed," complained Chievo coach Stefano Pioli.

Allegri concurred: "From the bench my feeling was that Robinho controlled it with his arm. But at the end of the day, referees` decisions balance themselves out and I don`t think there was any bad faith but simply a mistake."

Chievo equalised just after the hour as Frenchman Kevin Constant sent a cross to the back post where Fernandes arrived from deep to head home, with Milan midfielder Alexsander Merkel reacting to his burst just a second too late.

Pato`s winner eight minutes from time was a classy strike as he ghosted in between two defenders and shot home off the near post.

Napoli claimed back second place from Inter Milan with a laboured and nervy 1-0 win over Catania, just a week before their crucial trip to Milan.

Bureau Report

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