Ibra, Pato spark Milan surge
© AFP

A brilliant performance by Brazilian striker Pato saw AC Milan inflict what could prove to be a fatal blow to Napoli's Serie A title hopes on Monday as the leaders cruised to a 3-0 win at the San Siro.

The 21-year-old - a somewhat controversial omission from last year's FIFA World Cup™ squad - set up Ghanaian Kevin-Prince Boateng for Milan's second goal and then added a glorious third two minutes later to give them a five point lead over champions Inter Milan while Napoli are six points adrift of the leaders.

The driving force behind Milan's win, Pato was thrilled with the result. "We have taken a great victory," he said. "We have taken three very important points. We played a great second half and we got the win we wanted. "I really enjoy playing in this team that is full of great champions. For me, they are not only team-mates but brothers."

Swedish international striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic had opened the scoring for Milan early in the second-half from the penalty spot - what looked a harsh call by referee Gianluca Rocchi for handball on Napoli defender Salvatore Aronica, who while the ball clearly hit his arm it did not seem to be deliberate on his part.

I really enjoy playing in this team that is full of great champions. For me, they are not only team-mates but brothers.
AC Milan's Pato

Napoli - who exited the UEFA Europa League last week - gave few problems to Milan and the game went beyond them in the 77th minute when Pato found an onrushing Boateng and the South Africa 2010 star slotted the ball home to spark wild celebrations with the former Portsmouth player tearing off his shirt.

The 77,000 spectators then were driven delirious with joy in the 79th minute. Pato advanced with the ball, saw the Napoli keeper off his line and chipped into the far corner prompting once again huge celebrations with captain Gennaro Gattuso even mimicking his infamous headbutt on Spurs assistant coach Joe Jordan as he embraced Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri.

Napoli found little in the final ten minutes to raise their spirits as their two standout players this season - Uruguayan striker and scorer of 20 goals Edinson Cavani and Slovakian playmaker Marek Hamsik - failed to sparkle when it mattered most.

Milan travel to out of form Juventus, who have lost four of their last six matches, next Saturday.