Substitute Giampaolo Pazzini scored twice in three minutes to help AC Milan come from 2-1 down to beat Catania 4-2 in their Serie A match at the San Siro.
The win means that Milan regain third spot in the table and are now in the driving seat for the final Champions League spot.
Former Milan defender Nicola Legrottaglie, who made one appearance for the Rossoneri, nodded the Sicilian side ahead against the run of play before Mathieu Flamini equalised just before the half time whistle.
Catania again took the lead after soaking up some serious Milan pressure as Gonzalo Rubén Bergessio scored with little under half an hour to go.
Massimiliano Allegri opted for a change and introduced Pazzini, who scored two goals in three minutes, putting his side ahead.
Mario Balotelli then won and scored a penalty in injury time to secure a much-needed win in what was a very entertaining game at the San Siro.
Fiorentina’s 3-0 win over Sampdoria earlier in the afternoon had seen the Viola leapfrog Milan into the final Champions League qualifying spot, so it was not surprising to see the hosts look to assert their dominance from kick-off as they retained possession very well.
Balotelli was at his very best and seemed to be at the heart of every Milan attack. The former Manchester City striker displayed his trademark confidence early on when collecting the ball 30 yards from goal. He had options either side but chose to ride a number of challenges and go it alone; drilling his effort narrowly wide of the left-hand post.
Just moments later he linked up well with Kevin Prince Boateng before failing – by inches – to get on the end of the Ghanaian’s clever cross, which rolled through the six yard box and out for a throw-in.
The relentless pressure continued with Catania’s defence holding out – Legrottaglie and Alexis Rolin pivotal in keeping the score level.
The hosts had another chance to go ahead with Stephan El Shaarawy and Balotelli getting in each other’s way yards from the goal.
The Sicilian-based outfit rode their luck and then, seemingly out of nowhere, took the lead. Lodi’s dangerous set-piece from 30 yards was met by the towering former Milan player, Legrottaglie, who crashed his header into the back of the net from 10 yards leaving the keeper no chance.
Home fans and players alike seemed stunned but the hosts responded well and continued to knock the ball around, probing for the equaliser.
Boateng smacked the bar with a wonderful left-footed volley following El Shaarawy’s intelligent knock down. The former Tottenham and Portsmouth player dropped off with Milan’s big-haired striker looming and shuffled his feet to drill the ball onto the frame of the goal.
It seemed that, despite the intense pressure, Milan weren’t going to score until another bit of smart link-up play down the right.
Abate’s devilish cross to the near post found the chest of Boateng, who laid it off to the advancing Flamini allowing the midfielder to simply volley the ball into the far corner from all of 8 yards.
The hosts started the second half in the same vein that they had performed throughout the entire first half, and stayed on top.
El Shaarawy failed to convert a few good opportunities from in and around the Catania penalty area before Philippe Mexes stung the hands of Alberto Frison with a stooping header at the near post.
The visiting side bided their time, soaked up the pressure and, with another rare attack, then went and took the lead once more.
With Milan piling men forward, they were caught short at the back which allowed Izco to find Bergessio with a well-timed, well-weighted pass. The striker’s first touch was impeccable as he tore in on goal. Marco Amelia raced off his line to close down the angle but was helpless as he could only watch Bergessio dink the ball over him and into the back of the net.
Allegri, evidently unhappy at his side’s fortunes, changed it up and introduced Pazzini who changed the game completely, scoring two goals in a matter of minutes.
The first came somewhat fortuitously as Balotelli’s speculative 30 yard drive was fumbled by the keeper, giving the substitute the simplest of tap-ins from 8 yards, though he did do his best to miss it by sending the ball in-off the post.
His second one wasn’t much more difficult as he finished off a swift Milan counter attack. Boateng and Montolivo linked well through the spine of the Milan midfield with the latter feeding El Shaaraway. The Italian’s striker’s effort was hit well but not angled enough to beat the Catania custodian, whose midriff blocked the shot and deflected it into the path of Pazzini.
Again, all the front man had to do was open up his body and roll the ball into the net, which he did with ease.
Catania seemed deflated with that goal and were pegged further behind with what was essentially the last kick of the game. Balotelli was tripped on the very edge of the Catania penalty area as Izco’s tired foot caught the Italian.
Adopting his usual cocky but quite brilliant penalty kick routine, the 22-year-old sent Frison the wrong way and rolled the ball into the opposite corner.
- Sports & Recreation
- AC Milan
- Mario Balotelli
- Nicola Legrottaglie
- Giampaolo Pazzini