MILAN (AFP) – Japan international Keisuke Honda struck a brace in a 3-1 win at Verona to go joint top of the Serie A scoring charts on Sunday as AC Milan moved up to fourth.
Milan travelled to the Bentegodi stadium looking for their second successive win having accounted for another Verona-based side, Chievo, two weeks ago.
The visitors were missing injured French forward Jeremy Menez, but Honda was in scintillating form, taking his league tally to six to sit level with Juventus striker Carlos Tevez and Napoli’s Jose Callejon.
Milan were given a helping hand in the 21st minute when Brazilian Rafael Marques, one half of a centre-back pairing which also included Mexican international Rafa Marquez, skewed a volley into his own net from Ignazio Abate’s cross from the right. Milan were 2-0 up six minutes later when Stephan El Shaarawy, given a rare start on the left of a three-man forward line spearheaded by Spaniard Fernando Torres, found Honda in space on the right with a long ball from midfield.
Honda had time to run unmarked towards goal before curling a first-time shot past Verona ‘keeper Rafael. Verona striker Luca Toni and Bosko Jankovic saw efforts pushed to safety by Milan ‘keeper Christian Abbiati. If Verona’s defence had been conspicuously absent at Honda’s first goal, they were even more so 10 minutes after the restart when the Japan international was left in acres of space.
French defender Adil Rami fired a low pass from just over the halfway line and Honda ran in practically unhindered to dink another left-footed shot over Rafael.
Verona grabbed a late consolation when Nico Lopez powered past Sulley Muntari before cutting in to beat Abbiati.
Milan are now only five points behind leaders Juventus, held 1-1 at Sassuolo on Saturday, while Roma put three unanswered goals past Chievo to reinforce their grip on second spot and reduce their deficit to a point.