Balotelli sees yellow, but stays in Mourinho's good books [GALLO/GETTY]
Mario Balotelli scored an early goal to give Italy's Serie A leaders Inter Milan a 1-0 win over Chievo Verona in the first game after their winter break.

The young striker linked up with new signing Goran Pandev and midfielder Wesley Sneijder in the 12th minute to score past Chievo goalkeeper Stefano Sorrentino.

The victory gives Inter 42 points, nine more than Juventus, who beat Parma 2-1.

"I'm delighted with today's performance,'' Inter coach Jose Mourinho said.

"This is the sort of team that can cause you problems, but after this performance I shall be smiling a lot.''

David Beckham marked his return to AC Milan with 76 effective minutes in a 5-2 rout of Genoa, helping the club rise to second.

Loaned backed to Milan for a second straight year to stay fit for the
World Cup, Beckham made up the right side of an attacking trio with Marco Borriello and Ronaldinho, and went close to scoring in the first half, but his long-range strike hit the side netting.

Penalties from Ronaldinho and Klaas Jan Huntelaar, a brace by Borriello and an opportunist strike by Thiago Silva gave Milan the win, while Giuseppe Sculli and David Suazo scored for Genoa.

Counter attack

Chievo striker Sergio Pellissier thought he should have been awarded a penalty after being brought down in the area by defender Ivan Cordoba, but while he was protesting Inter attacked.

Pandev slipped the ball to Sneijder, who put Balotelli clear. Sorrentino stopped the first shot but Balotelli struck home the rebound.

"Today was fantastic,'' Mourinho said.

"We had players who showed their personality and character. Across the pitch we had players who did a fantastic job.''

In the 20th, fullback Maicon forced Sorrentino into a save with a powerful drive and only last-ditch tackles stopped Sneijder and Christian Chivu from shooting after they had broken through Chievo's defence.

Chivu surgery

Chivu was carried off in the second half following a clash of heads with Pellissier. The Romanian was rushed to the hospital with a fractured skull and will undergo an operation.

After half-time, Chievo had the best chance but Elvis Abruscato sent his shot wide after Luciano had picked him out at the near post.

Juventus finished their match with 10 men after defender Martin Caceres was sent off for a second yellow card.

Liga fixtures

Wednesday January 6

 AC Milan 5-2 Genoa
 Atalanta 0-2 Napoli
 Bari 2-0 Udinese
 Cagliari 2-2 Roma
 Catania 1-0 Bologna
 Chievo 0-1 Inter Milan
 Lazio 4-1 Livorno
 Parma 1-2 Juventus
 Sampdoria 1-1 Palermo
 Siena 1-5 Fiorentina

Hasan Salihamidzic scored for Juventus in the third minute, heading in Giorgio Chiellini's flick on from a corner. But Nicola Amoruso equalised in the 25th when he rose above defender Nicola Legrottaglie to head past Juventus goalkeeper Alex Manninger.

In the 39th, Paolo Castellini scored an own-goal to give Juventus the win.

"It was an important win for us,'' Juventus coach Ciro Ferrara said.

"I just wanted to help overcome the problems we were having. We can't think
about Inter or Milan, we have to think about ourselves.''

Luca Toni made his return to Italian football after 2½ years in Germany, but he played only the last 10 minutes in AS Roma's 2-2 draw with Cagliari.

David Pizarro and Simone Perrotta scored goals for Roma in the second half, but Sergio Lopez and Daniele Conti scored in injury time to earn the point.

"It is a shame because we controlled Cagliari for the entire match, except for the last eight minutes,'' Roma coach Claudio Ranieri said.

"We needed to concentrate right until the end.''

Source: AP