MILAN, Italy, April 3, 2011 (AFP) - AC Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri said he was delighted his side have put their recent blip behind them as they romped to a convincing 3-0 win over main rivals Inter Milan.
Brazilian Pato scored a brace before Antonio Cassano added a late penalty as Milan moved five points clear of the champions.
|AFP - AC Milan's players celebrate a goal during the serie A football match AC Milan vs Inter on April 2, 2011|
Napoli could close that gap back to three points were they to beat Lazio on Sunday but more importantly for Allegri his side bounced back from their shoddy performances against Bari and Palermo, from which they picked up only a solitary point out of six.
"It's too soon to say that this is the game that landed the title but we showed serenity and we played well. We more than deserved to win," he said.
"The lads played well showing that the games against Bari (1-1) and Palermo (0-1) were just a blip."
Milan were helped when Inter's Cristian Chivu was harshly dismissed nine minutes into the second period for a supposed foul on Pato, although the contact appeared negligible and the Brazilian seemed to have no need to go down with only Inter goalkeeper Julio Cesar to beat.
However, Pato insisted that he had not dived to get the Romanian defender sent off.
"I wanted to continue but he gave me a kick, I fell and the referee did well because it was a goalscoring chance," he said.
The only down side for Milan was a red card shown to Cassano for two bookings within a minute.
First he was shown yellow for removing his shirt while celebrating his goal and he got a second moments later for a silly trip on Ivan Cordoba.
"After Chivu's dismissal we controlled the game well," said Allegri.
"I'm disappointed about Cassano's sending off, but unfortunately this taking off the shirt is a vice that needs to be avoided."
Although the Chivu red card seemed incredibly harsh, and indeed a booking for Pato for diving would have appeared fairer, Inter coach Leonardo wasn't complaining.
"The interpretation of fouls and what consistutes a red card changes from one country to another," he said.
"I don't talk about these things when we win or lose, I don't talk about the referees because they're not what determines the final result so there's nothing to talk about."
Inter now sit five points back with Napoli six and Udinese nine behind, although the latter two both have a game in hand on Sunday.
But Allegri said he couldn't chose between the three as to which will be Milan's closest challengers.
"All three, Inter have the advantage although Napoli still to have to play their game in hand," he said.
"There are seven games left, there are points to win, we can't make the mistakes of the past, we must take every game as it comes until we're mathematically champions.
"Now we'll think about Fiorentina and then Sampdoria, it doesn't make sense to speculate about whether we'll win, lose or draw, all we must do is concentrate our energies."
Pato gave Milan the lead inside the first minute when he followed up to slot home the loose ball after Julio Cesar had blocked Robinho's shot.
Pato then went down when clean through on goal to get Chivu sent off before heading home Ignazio Abate's cross to double the hosts' advantage.
Cassano's penalty a minute from time was the icing on the cake but Leonardo felt it was the early goal which had made the difference.
"It was a very difficult game, we had an uphill battle after conceding a goal just 45 seconds in," he said.
"We had several opportunities but we didn't manage to create chances like we normally do.
"The sending off nine minutes into the second half made things more difficult but we have to look forwards because we're still in this competition and we can still win it, but everything is more open now."