Pato rescues Milan against plucky Chievo

Rome, Feb 21 (AFP) AC Milan maintained their grip on topspot in Serie A after Alexandre Pato scored a late winner toearn them a 2-1 success at 10-man Chievo.

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

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

"The lads have given president Berlusconi a lovelypresent," 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 andZlatan Ibrahimovic headed it back into the danger zone whereRobinho controlled it, spun and trickled a shot into thecorner.

However, television replays showed that the Braziliancontrolled the ball with his upper arm despite the refereeappearing to have a clear and unobstructed view of theincident.

"Robinho''s handball was obvious. From the bench I had aperfect view of it and I saw it straight away but even thereferee was perfectly placed," complained Chievo coach StefanoPioli.

Allegri concurred: "From the bench my feeling was thatRobinho controlled it with his arm. But at the end of the day,referees'' decisions balance themselves out and I don''t thinkthere was any bad faith but simply a mistake."

Chievo equalised just after the hour as Frenchman KevinConstant sent a cross to the back post where Fernandes arrivedfrom deep to head home, with Milan midfielder AlexsanderMerkel reacting to his burst just a second too late.

Pato''s winner eight minutes from time was a classy strikeas he ghosted in between two defenders and shot home off thenear post.

Napoli claimed back second place from Inter Milan with alaboured and nervy 1-0 win over Catania, just a week beforetheir crucial trip to Milan. MORE (AFP) PM

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