Brazilians Pato and Ronaldinho proved there is life after Kaka as they inspired AC Milan to a 2-1 victory at Siena in coach Leonardo’s opening Serie A match in charge of the Italian giants on Saturday.
Pato scored a brace, but it was his Brazilian compatriot Ronaldinho who created both goals to help countryman Leonardo begin his reign with a win and instantly ease the pain felt by Kaka’s switch to Real Madrid.
The teenage Pato paid tribute to his strike partner.
“Everyone’s talking about Ronaldinho, but he’s brilliant, he’s No. 1,” he said. “He creates many chances for the other forwards. We’re really happy with him, he’s on his way back and it’s easy playing with him.”
It was a marked turnaround for AC Milan, who had lost eight out of 11 pre-season friendlies and although this success against relative minnows will not be decisive in the race for the scudetto, Ronaldinho’s performance inspired some hope.
He may not have his explosive burst of pace of old, but he was incisive and creative, and almost scored with an ingenious second-half bicycle-kick.
Coach Leonardo praised his team for turning around their poor pre-season form.
“I’ve just seen a very positive response and most of all great pride following a pre-season that wasn’t great,” the coach said. “Ronaldinho can play any role in attack and he makes others score, that’s one of his best traits.”
Pato had the first clear chance of the game, but his long-range volley on 10 minutes was deflected behind for a corner.
Ronaldinho was impressive playing in the hole behind Pato and Marco Borriello, orchestrating the play from the position where Kaka used to roam.
On 19 minutes, leftback Marek Jankulovski played a one-two with the Brazilian, who played him in on goal, but the Czech could not beat Gianluca Curci from a tight angle.
Minutes later, Pato steered home a Ronaldinho free-kick, but it was ruled out as he had strayed marginally offside.
A goal was coming, though, and it arrived on 29 minutes as Ronaldinho slipped in Pato, thanks in no small part to some inattentive defending and the teenager fired across Curci into the bottom corner.
The lead only lasted five minutes, though, as Siena scored with worrying ease for Leonardo.
Michele Fini’s cross into the box landed at Lukas Jarolim’s feet and the Czech was afforded time to shoot.
Marco Storari kept out that effort, but Algeria forward Abdelkader Ghezzal was on hand to fire the rebound into the roof of the net.
Milan were quick out of the blocks in the second half and Ronaldinho was again the architect, playing Mathieu Flamini in behind the defense before the France midfielder squared to Pato for an easy tap-in.
After Curci had tipped over Ronaldinho’s acrobatic effort, Siena pushed forward and looked most likely to score, but Storari kept out Daniele Ficagna’s header.
In the day’s other game, Pablo Osvaldo gained revenge on his former employers as plucky Bologna held Fiorentina to a 1-1 draw.
The Argentine forward, who has represented Italy at under-21 level, scored 24 minutes into the match with a close-range header from a corner to give hosts Bologna the lead after losing marker Gianluca Comotto.
The 23-year-old, who had an unsuccessful 18-month spell in Florence before being sold to Bologna in January, twice almost doubled the hosts’ lead, but French goalkeeper Sebastien Frey denied him.