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AC Milan Clinch 3rd Place Amidst Controversies Leaving Fiorentina Heart Broken – Serie A Wrap

Balotelli celebrating with Milan players

The 38th and final round of Serie A didn’t promise to provide a whole lot of drama. Juventus were crowned champions in Round 35, the relegation race was decided a few days later, and Napoli subsequently secured second place. The only two scenarios left wide open was third place and the remaining Europa League place. The former ended up providing the most entertainment and discussion following the conclusion of the 2012/13 season.

Siena hosted AC Milan at the Artemio Franchi, a venue where Milan drew the Robur’s Tuscan rivals Fiorentina 2-2 on April 7th. That match was embroiled in refereeing controversies and conspiracy theories. It was only fitting that the fixture on Sunday delivered the sequel.

The Rossoneri came from behind to win 2-1 thanks to a Mario Balotelli penalty and a Philippe Mexes strike just minutes later. Just prior to that, captain Massimo Ambrosini, booked in the 62nd minute, picked him his second yellow card in the 68th after getting his studs up on Adrian Calello. Things looked doom and gloom for the visitors, especially considering they were 1-0 down and Fiorentina (at the time of the foul) were up 5-0 on relegated Pescara, meaning the Tuscan side would clinch a Champions League place if Milan failed to win.

Luckily for Milan, the man advantage for Siena only lasted for two minutes. Christian Terlizzi got his leg up on Mario Balotelli, prompting Mauro Bergonzi to brandish Terlizzi’s second booking of the match, reducing the match to 10 versus 10 for the final 20.

Then, on 82 minutes, with Fiorentina’s victory all but secured (they ended up winning 5-1 at Pescara), the breakthrough for Milan arrived. Balotelli was hauled down in the box by Siena defender Felipe. Bergonzi had perfect vision of the incident, assessed it for a quick second, blew his whistle, and pointed to the spot, signalling a penalty. After witnessing Ambrosini tugging on Claudio Terzi’s shirt in the 20th minute going unpunished, many fans were up in arms on Twitter and Facebook over the “soft” call.

Nonetheless, Balotelli, who’s cold blooded from the spot, kept his perfect record from seven yards out intact, burying the spot kick to the left corner past Gianluca Pegolo, who became the only player to play in all 3420 minutes of the season. However the single point Milan would’ve earned wasn’t enough to get into the Champions League preliminaries, they needed to win.

That’s exactly what they managed to do in the 87th minute. Mexes fired on goal which Pegolo saved, but went right back to the Frenchman, who made no mistake on the rebound. Milan, in the most crazy and unlikely of circumstances, clinched third place meaning they’ll be in the last round of qualifying for the Champions League, and Fiorentina, despite their 5-1 demolition over Pescara, finished the campaign in fourth and will play Europa League football instead.

Lots of discussion has been sparked following that result. Many are crying wolf over conspiracy theories, just like what happened in the 2-2 draw between the Viola and Rossoneri back in April, except the shoe was on the other foot. Instead of the referees being for Milan, they were against them.

Calciomercato has a theoretical table on their website which determines the Serie A table if there were no “refereeing errors”. Juventus would still be champions, Napoli would’ve remained in second, but Roma would’ve been in third place while Fiorentina and Milan would occupy the Europa League berths. This doesn’t mean that the Lega and the Italian Association of Referees are in favour of the Diavolo, in fact it’s far from it. All of the officiating for any team is poor and must be improved for the better of Italian football.

Other talking points

  • Fiorentina, as mentioned earlier, did their job and destroyed relegated Pescara 5-1 at the Stadio Adriatico on Sunday. Adem Ljajic bagged a hat trick, finishing the year with 11 goals, erasing the bad memories of 2011/12 when he was nearly punched by former manager Delio Rossi.
  • Pescara, meanwhile, finish bottom of Serie A with 22 points. With six wins, 28 defeats, and 84 goals conceded, they’re officially the worst Serie B champions to play in the Italian top fight.
  • Udinese, fighting for the last Europa League place, grabbed hold of it by smashing lowly Inter 5-2 at the Giuseppe Meazza. The Zebrette won their eighth match in a row while the Nerazzurri had recorded a victory in just three of their last 12, finishing in ninth.
  • As a result of their defeat, Inter have to play Coppa Italia preliminaries in August and earned their 16th loss, the most they’ve ever had since 1947/48.
  • Cagliari halted Lazio’s European aspirations by knicking a 1-0 win. The Biancocelesti still have an opportunity to play in the Europa League. If they win the Coppa Italia final next weekend against fierce rivals Roma, they’ll claim a spot.
  • Speaking of Roma, they ended their year on a high note, defeating an unmotivated Napoli side 2-1 at the Stadio Olimpico, the host venue of the cup final. La Magica also close out at 8-4-3 under interim manager Aurelio Andreazzoli. Despite that, current AC Milan boss Massimiliano Allegri is heavily linked with a move to the capital.
  • Sampdoria became the first side since Parma in 2010/11 to beat Juventus twice in one campaign. They won 3-2 and in doing so scored the most goals against Juve than any other team with five. Twenty-year-old Mauro Icardi scored the third for Samp, giving him 10 on the year.

Other results: Atalanta 2-2 Chievo; Bologna 0-0 Genoa; Palermo 1-3 Parma; Torino 2-2 Catania