Goals from Giampaolo Pazzini and Mario Balotelli were enough to give 10-man Milan a 2-0 win over Genoa.
The Rossoneri went into the game looking for the three points that would consolidate their place in that all-important third position – but they did so without a number of key men. Kevin-Prince Boateng, Antonio Nocerino and Ignazio Abate were all rested ahead of their clash with Barcelona in midweek. The home side meanwhile were pinning their hopes on former Diavolo forward Marco Borriello – who started the match up top on his own.
It was the visitors though, who started the brighter of the two teams. Kevin Constant and Mattia De Sciglio were providing attacking width from full-back, but their early crosses were dealt with well by Sebastian Frey.
Despite the initial slackness, the Grifone weren’t there to be rolled over, and they soon started creating chances of their own – Andrea Bertolacci, inside the first 10 minutes, opened up space for himself on the edge of the area, but could only shoot straight at Christian Abbiati.
Eventually class began to tell however, and it wasn’t long before Massimiliano Allegri’s men were in front. A cross from De Sciglio wasn’t cleared properly by Daniele Portanova, and Pazzini was there on the edge of the area to smash a shot in off the underside of the crossbar.
It was to be the last thing Pazzini did though, as two minutes later he hobbled off to be replaced by Balotelli. And with it, seemingly, went the San Siro side’s attacking potency. The former Manchester City man wasn’t at the races – and was booked within 30 seconds of coming on. He wasn’t the imposing central figure that his predecessor had been, and without that front-line hassling, the hosts started to get back into the match.
For all their possession and set-piece opportunities, Davide Ballardini’s team couldn’t force the equaliser. Borriello fired over from inside the area, but that was about as close as they came to an equaliser.
After the break, the Rossoblu were, again, very much in the ascendency, but this time came much closer to grabbing a goal back.
Bertolacci saw his early effort go wide of the post, but it was Cesare Bovo who came closest to beating Abbiati. The 30-year-old’s rasping free-kick flashed past the veteran shot-stopper but couldn’t beat the post.
After all their attacking endeavours though, on the hour-mark, Milan made Genoa pay for their lack of cutting-edge in front of goal. A Stephan El Shaarawy corner found Cristian Zapata, who flicked it to Balotelli, and the 22-year-old calmly slotted it past the goalkeeper from the right-hand side of the area.
What looked like a comfortable night for the Rossoneri was turned somewhat sour with 20 minutes remaining however, as Constant was given his marching orders after clashing with Bovo.
The Grifone peppered Abbiati with shots and put the Diavolo backline under intense pressure for the last period of the match, but they held out for a hard-fought win.
Sent off: Constant 65 (M)