Sulley Muntari scored on his AC Milan debut in a 3-1 victory at struggling Cesena on Sunday, taking his new team back to the top of Serie A.
Muntari opened the scoring in the 29th minute and Urby Emanuelson doubled Milan’s lead two minutes later. Robinho added a third 10 minutes into the second half.
Daniel Pudil grabbed a consolation for Cesena, who remain seven points adrift of safety after AC Siena lost 4-1 to Lecce in a relegation battle.
Milan are a point above Juventus, who have a game in hand. The two teams meet in a mouthwatering clash at the weekend.
“Up until 3-0 today, the boys played a great game,” Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri said. “Then we gave Cesena too much initiative and we sat back too much. We didn’t push forward any more. I hope we have everyone available for Juventus, but whoever plays will do well in any case. Now we have a week to prepare for that test, it will certainly be a fascinating game.”
Elsewhere, AS Roma captain Francesco Totti played his 700th game for the club to help them edge Parma 1-0, with Fabio Borini scoring the only goal. SS Lazio were routed 5-1 at Palermo.
Milan were in control throughout and the defending champions went in front when Thiago Silva whipped in a free-kick that Francesco Antonioli failed to hold, allowing Muntari — who signed on loan from bitter rivals Inter last month — the easiest of tap-ins.
The visitors doubled their lead two minutes later when Emanuelson dribbled toward the Cesena goal, before unleashing a wicked effort that flew into the back of the net from the edge of the area.
It could have been more for Milan when Maxi Lopez hit the post, but instead Cesena almost got back into the game seconds after the break when Adrian Mutu headed over the bar from close range with only the goalkeeper to beat.
Milan extended their advantage when Robinho latched onto Ignazio Abate’s pass, raced into the area and slotted the ball into the far corner.
Cesena scored in the 65th minute when Pudil drilled an effort into the bottom-right corner from just outside the area.
Cesena slipped to the bottom of Serie A after Novara Calcio, who started the day last, drew 0-0 with Atalanta BC in an entertaining match full of chances for both sides.
Novara midfielder Simone Pesce was sent off in stoppage-time for a second yellow card.
Lecce boosted their hopes of survival after coming back from a goal down. Cristiano Del Grosso put Siena in front when he lashed in Angelo’s cross from close range, but the lead lasted just seven minutes. Gianluca Pegolo did well to parry David Di Michele’s fierce strike, but he could do nothing to prevent Luis Muriel’s effort from flying into the bottom-right corner.
Lecce were awarded a penalty midway through the second half after Muriel had eluded four men as he raced toward goal, before he was brought down in the area by Alessandro Gazzi. Di Michele converted the penalty, drilling the ball into the bottom-left corner.
Juan Cuadrado sealed the result with a solo effort eight minutes from time. He raced more than half the length of the pitch and beat several defenders, before lofting the ball over Pegolo.
Davide Brivio added a fourth deep into stoppage-time, curling a free-kick in under the crossbar, three minutes after Manuele Blasi had been sent off for kicking out at Siena striker Mattia Destro.