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Football: Balotelli, Kaka strike as Milan beat Chievo

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

An early Mario Balotelli strike and a brace from Kaka in a 3-0 victory over Chievo, who missed a late penalty, kept ailing Milan's Serie A revival on track Saturday.

A week after a morale-boosting 2-0 win away to Fiorentina, the smiles were firmly back on Milan faces after a one-sided display which moved the hosts up to eighth ahead of the rest of the weekend fixtures.

Chievo, who sit fifth from bottom, three points above the drop zone, appeared intent on marking Balotelli out of the game at the San Siro.

But the visitors made the mistake of leaving the striker unmarked in front of goal in the fourth minute and Balotelli rose to volley Adil Rami's delivery from the right past 'keeper Michael Agazzi to claim his 13th goal of the campaign.

Agazzi was forced into action moments later to parry Adel Taarabt's drive from the edge of the area while at the other end Alberto Paloschi saw an ambitious volley go high after a delivery from the right.

Just before the half hour Kaka was sent through by Taarabt's smart pass on the left of goal but the Brazilian's cutback for Balotelli met traffic.

Moments later Kaka doubled Milan's lead when he ran in to chest down Keisuke Honda's inch-perfect delivery from outside the area and sweep it past Agazzi from less than a metre out.

Milan forged a great chance for a third before the interval when Balotelli broke down the left wing and squared for the unmarked Honda on the right.

But the Japanese international spurned the chance for his maiden Serie A goal when he fired Balotelli's bobbling pass over the onrushing Agazzi and well over the crossbar.

Honda came close again shortly after the restart when Agazzi reacted late to the forward's header from Kaka's probing freekick, but Milan were soon 3-0 up.

The ball immediately found its way back out to the Brazilian and he had time to curl a superb strike past Agazzi and in off the keeper's far post.

Milan lost central midfielder Sulley Muntari to injury minutes before the break, the Ghanaian appearing to hurt his ankle to be replaced by compatriot Michael Essien.

Essien was quick to react early in the second half when Victor Obinna let the ball run through his legs from a corner, prompting Christian Abbiati into a panic at his near post. Although the ball broke clear, Essien pounced to clear.

On yet another Milan offensive Robinho set up Balotelli on the right but the striker's shot was blocked.

Minutes later Honda broke through the Chievo defence but his shot, too, came off a defender's boot and out of play.

Chievo were given a chance for a late consolation when Cristian Zaccardo fouled Cyril Thereau in the area as both tussled for possession.

Thereau, however, saw his spot kick shake the crossbar and bounce in front of Abbiati before it was cleared.

Earlier, Atalanta continued their impressive run towards the Europa League places with a sixth consecutive win away to relegation-haunted Bologna.

Giuseppe De Luca opened the visitors' account in the 22nd minute and four minutes later Marcelo Estigarribia added Atalanta's second to seal the points and move the Bergamo side up to seventh, only two points behind fifth-placed Inter.

Leaders Juventus hold a 14-point lead on Roma ahead of their visit to third-placed Napoli on Sunday. Roma, who have a six-point lead on Napoli but still have a game in hand, are away to Sassuolo.

jd/dj

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140329/football-balotelli-kaka-strike-milan-beat-chievo