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Milan And Fiorentina Keep Serie A Alive As The Race For The Champions League Heats Up – Week 34 Wrap

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Heading into their match with Catania on Sunday, AC Milan were a point behind Fiorentina for the third and final Champions League spot. The Rossoneri held the position for a little over two months, but thanks to the Viola’s 3-0 victory earlier that day against Sampdoria, Vincenzo Montella’s men occupied third place, meaning Milan needed a win to reclaim a potential berth in Europe’s premier competition.

Milan’s 14 match undefeated streak ended last weekend against Juventus in a 1-0 defeat in Turin. Catania, meanwhile, had failed to win in their last four fixtures. They were also only five points back and claiming three points would mean they’d be right in the thick of things down the stretch. In the end, it was the Milanese side who took the honours, winning 4-2.

Balotelli celebrating with Milan players

Within the first three minutes, the Rossoneri could’ve been awarded a penalty. Kevin Prince Boateng’s shot was deflected off of Giovanni Marchese before striking Nicola Legrottaglie’s arm, however upon further review, it would’ve been a pretty harsh decision to give.

The next few moments continued at a fast pace with Milan creating chances through Mario Balotelli and Riccardo Montolivio before Flamini broke into the Catania box, looking destined to score only to overrun the ball. On 16 minutes the Frenchman played a clever one-two with Balotelli, yet with his strike blocked once more, the ball broke to Boateng on the right and, from his low cross, Balo was just inches away from giving Il Diavolo the lead.

However despite a lot of pressure from the hosts, Catania surprisingly took the lead on 30 minutes. Francesco Lodi curled an excellent free-kick into the box, which Legrottaglie met high above the Milan defence and flew into the top corner past goalkeeper Marco Amelia. Just a minute later frantic defending took place in the Rossazzuri penalty area as Alexis Rolin charged down Balotelli’s drive and Catania keeper Alberto Frison saved low from Antonio Nocerino. What was then looking like a one man crusade against the Milan attack saw the 24-year-old keeper save two Balotelli free-kicks within three minutes.

Mathieu Flamini calmed the home supporters near the end of the first half with his equaliser. He received a Boateng pass, and blasted it into the bottom corner to make it 1-1 just before the halftime whistle.

However, the Rossazzurri reclaimed the advantage near the halfway point of the second interval. Gonzalo Bergessio got onto the end of a Pablo Barrientos through ball off of a counter attack and slotted it into the back of the net to make it 2-1.

For a while, Milan supporters started to get frustrated, sensing that their once very optimistic Champions League qualifying hopes were slowly fading away. That was until manager Massimiliano Allegri threw on striker Giampaolo Pazzini. The former Inter forward sent his new fans into a frenzy by getting the Rossoneri’s second, tying up the game yet again.

Milan then earned their first lead of the match shortly thereafter. Montolivio perfectly timed a pass down the right of the defence to El Shaarawy and when his strike was palmed across the box by the keeper, the approaching Pazzini placed his shot through a crowd of players for his brace.

The San Siro faithful could finally breath just before full time. Mariano Izco was called for a foul in the box on Balotelli in injury time. The Italian international stepped up and converted, reclaiming third place for the mighty Casciavit.

Other talking points

  • As mentioned earlier, Fiorentina did their job earlier that Sunday, shutting out hosting Sampdoria 3-0. Despite that win, they still remain two points behind third place with four games remaining.
  • Torino and Juventus faced off in the 227th edition of the Derby della Mole. Torino hadn’t scored a goal against the Bianconeri since 2002, plus they hadn’t beaten Juve since 1995. Both streaks of futility continued as the Serie A champions-elect won 2-0 at the Stadio Olimpico.
  • Ensconced in second place, Napoli maintained the gap between them and AC Milan by defeating lowly Pescara 3-0. Blerim Dzemaili scored the third goal. It’s his fifth strike in five games. The Partenopei need at least a point and for Fiorentina to lose to solidify their position in next season’s Champions League.
  • Their quest for the Champions League failed, but Roma are close to claiming a place in next season’s Europa League. After missing out on European competition entirely in 2012/13, the Giallorossi are very close to changing that as they crushed Siena 4-0. They’re a point up on sixth place. More significantly, Siena fall back into the relegation zone. They’re 19th place, two points away from safety.
  • Palermo are the lucky ones this weekend. Thanks to their 1-0 victory at home to Inter, they’re 17th with four games left with 32 points. Since taking over for the second time this season, Giuseppe Sannino has a 3-2-1 record. He has as many wins in this stint as the Rosanero have managed all year.
  • Thanks to Genoa’s 1-0 win against Chievo, they’re level on points with Palermo. However due to their lower goal differential (-17 compared to Palermo’s -15), the Grifone are 18th in the table.

Other results: Atalanta 1-1 Bologna; Cagliari 0-1 Udinese; Parma 0-0 Lazio