AC Milan put the Kaka transfer saga behind them to earn a vital 1-0 Serie A victory over Fiorentina at the San Siro on Saturday to keep their title hopes alive.
Third-placed Milan began the day nine points behind leaders Inter but closed the gap to just six ahead of their bitter rivals’ trip to Atalanta yesterday. The buildup to Milan’s match had been dominated by Manchester City’s reportedly more than 100 million euro (US$130 million) bid for Kaka.
Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti kept the former world player of the year in the starting side and handed former England skipper David Beckham a home debut.
However, Ronaldinho was dropped to the bench in favor of Massimo Ambrosini as Ancelotti looked for more midfield steel.
Kaka would have dearly loved to score but instead it was his teenage compatriot Pato who snatched the winner to condemn Fiorentina to a second successive defeat. They remain in sixth place in the table.
Fiorentina were enraged when Riccardo Montolivo crumpled in a heap under a robust challenge from Gianluca Zambrotta, but no penalty was given.
Milan gained the lead through a sumptuous strike from Pato on seven minutes. Beckham had tried to cross from the left but hit a defender.
As players rushed to the loose ball, Beckham got there just before two Fiorentina defenders and poked it back to Marek Jankulovski, who played in Pato in the space vacated by the visiting players. There looked to be little danger from his position just inside the box in the left hand corner, but Pato hit a stunning strike off the far post.
Fiorentina were enjoying the better of the game, although with the talent at Milan’s disposal they looked the more dangerous.
Just before the half, Pato played a charging Beckham into the box on the right, but Marco Storari tipped his shot around the post.
In the league’s other match, Siena beat Reggino 1-0.