Chievo 0-1 Inter: Huge Penalty Controversy As Mario Balotelli Downs Flying Donkeys

Business as usual after the winter break, but there was big controversy...

Inter continued their march towards another Serie A title with a hugely controversial 1-0 win over Chievo at the Stadio Bentegodi.

Mario Balotelli scored the only goal of the game on 11 minutes, stroking the ball home on the counter attack seconds after Chievo had what they felt was a clear penalty not given by the referee. In injury time, the referee also failed to award a penalty when substitute Ricardo Quaresma blatantly stuck his hand in the air at the ball in the area.

Already eight points clear, the Nerazzurri had the chance to extend their lead at the top of the table with Milan and Juventus playing later in the day.

Jose Mourinho handed a debut to new signing Goran Pandev, but was without the suspended Dejan Stankovic and Thiago Motta, injured Davide Santon, Esteban Cambiasso and Sulley Muntari, as well as Samuel Eto'o who was away at the African Cup of Nations. Chievo were minus the injured Francesco Scardina and Fabio Moro.

Chievo had an immediate chance as Sergio Pellissier raced away from Lucio and fired into the side netting. Michele Marcolini curled over the bar from a 25-yard free kick.

On 11 minutes there was huge controversy as the referee turned down what Chievo believed to be a clear penalty when Ivan Cordoba connected with Pellissier in the area as he ran through on goal. Replays showed there was definite contact.

Inter launched an immediate counter attack, which culminated in Mario Balotelli stroking the ball home at the second attempt. A huge melee followed as Chievo players surrounded the referee, who then dished out the yellow card to protesters.

Chievo's heads dropped, but they kept coming forward and Pellissier twice threatened an equaliser. Meanwhile, Maicon forced Stefano Sorrentino into a parry.

Wesley Sneijder teased a second on 35 minutes, playing a sweet one-two with Pandev before slipping when confronted by Sorrentino.

Christian Chivu embarked on a solo run and hit a deflected shot wide as Inter took a 1-0 lead into half time.

Balotelli scored a controversial winner

Inter received a blow early in the second half as Christian Chivu was forced off with a head injury, to be replaced by Marco Materazzi.

Pellissier continued to cause Inter problems and he really should have equalised on 53 minutes as he evaded Lucio, but Julio Cesar saved the one-on-one.

It was all Chievo and the outstandingly named Elvis Abbruscato, on as a substitute, missed a sitter from six yards as he prodded wide.

As the game moved into the final third, the home crowd began to become increasingly frustrated as a number of incorrect offside calls went against them. Two of these when Pellissier and Abbruscato were bearing down on goal.

Marko Arnautovic finally made his Serie A debut as a late substitute for Balotelli, while Mourinho reacted furiously on the touchline in injury time when Maicon wasted a counter-attacking opportunity by volleying over.

In the sixth minute of stoppage time there was even more controversy as substitute Ricardo Quaresma blatantly stuck his hand up in the air in the area to punch the ball away, but the referee again didn't award a penalty. The final whistle blew soon after, with Chievo players angrily hounding the referee.

Anthony Sormani,