Japanese international Keisuke Honda scored a late free kick to help seal the points for AC Milan in a 2-0 win over Chievo at the San Siro on Saturday, as the Rossoneri ended their three-game winless run.
Milan hosted the Verona-based side looking to return to winning ways after two draws, against Cesena and Empoli, and a 1-0 home defeat to Juventus last month.
A mishit volley from Sulley Muntari gave Milan the lead 10 minutes after the restart.
As Chievo pressed for a late equalizer, Honda settled nerves with a well-struck curler that beat Chievo goalkeeper Francesco Bardi at his near post in the 78th minute.
Milan’s third win of the season moved them up to provisional fifth place, four points behind leaders Juventus, who hosted second-placed Roma in a top-of-the-table clash in Turin yesterday.
Rossoneri coach Filippo Inzaghi gave Fernando Torres his full debut at the San Siro, but it was a frustrating night for the former Chelsea striker, who was replaced by Stephan El Sharaawy with about 15 minutes remaining.
Torres saw an early chance go wide when his first-timer from Honda’s lay-off came off the foot of Giacomo Bonaventura to sail just wide, but chances were few and far between for the Spaniard.
Milan finally found their rhythm after the opening quarter hour and Honda came close when he curled a left-foot shot wide of Bardi’s near post.
Chievo pressed for the remainder of the half, but Eugenio Corini’s men ultimately failed to threaten Christian Abbiati in the Milan net.
Milan resumed in positive fashion after the interval and Bardi had to react quickly to Jeremy Menez’s drive from a tight angle to the left of Chievo’s goal.
Two minutes later, the ‘keeper was left clutching at thin air when Honda set up Muntari for Milan’s opener. The 28-year-old’s cross from the right of the area was headed out into the path of the Ghanaian international, whose mishit shot bounced up and over Bardi and into the back of the net.
Menez found space on 67 minutes to test Bardi with an angled drive that came off the ‘keeper’s face, and two minutes later a low-angled drive from the Frenchman was blocked by Ervin Zukanovic and bounced into the path of Torres, who missed the target.
Chievo were given brief hope when Muntari was dispossessed in midfield, but Dejan Lazarevic failed to capitalize, despite having options to his right with striker Maxi Lopez lurking close to goal.
Torres’ frustrating night ended 15 minutes from the end, when he made way for El Shaarawy, who made an almost immediate impact.
The Milan striker was brought down by Isaac Cofie while on a winding run down the left, and Honda stepped up to send a precise free kick over the defensive wall and past Bardi to seal the points for the hosts.
Earlier, Greek international Panagiotis Tachtsidis struck late to secure a 1-0 win over visitors Cagliari and hand Verona their third win of the season.
At the tail end of what was a highly entertaining encounter at the Bentegodi Stadium, Tachtsidis met a cross from the right with a left-footed half-volley that beat Alessio Cragno in the Cagliari goal in the 89th minute.
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