Soccer-Late Balotelli penalty gives Seedorf winning Milan start


Jan 19 (Reuters) - Clarence Seedorf made a winning start as AC Milan coach thanks to a late Mario Balotelli penalty which gave his side a 1-0 victory over Hellas Verona on Sunday.

Despite the win, it was another unconvincing performance from Milan who struggled to create chances and always looked vulnerable in defence.

Balotelli side-footed home in the 82nd minute after Verona defender Alejandro Gonzalez had needlessly fouled Kaka, tripping the Brazilian with a clumsy tackle even though the ball was already heading out of play.

Milan remained 11th with 25 points after only their sixth league win in 20 attempts this season.

Dutchman Seedorf was officially appointed on Thursday despite having no previous coaching experience. The 37-year-old, who spent 10 years of his playing career at Milan, had previously been playing for Botafogo in Brazil and cut short his career to take up the challenge.

He replaced Massimiliano Allegri, who was fired last Monday after three-and-a-half years in charge.

The disappointingly small San Siro crowd had to wait 38 minutes for the first real chance when Balotelli cut inside and fired in a powerful low shot which was well saved by Verona goalkeeper Rafael, who denied Balotelli again one minute later when he blocked a free kick.

The first half ended with Riccardo Montolivo's drive flying narrowly wide of Rafael's goal.

The second half followed a similar pattern as Milan struggled to put together moves and produced their chances in quick flurries.

Robinho hit the post with a deflected shot in the 68th minute and in the following minute Balotelli threatened with a shot on the turn which was scooped up by Rafael.

Verona nearly went ahead when Martinho broke down the left and his shot was turned away by Christian Abbiati, who shortly afterwards was nearly caught napping by Romulo's dipping long-range effort from 30 metres. (Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne)

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