Mario Balotelli saw a penalty saved for the first time in career, as Napoli ended their Milan curse to conquer San Siro 2-1.
Something had to give at San Siro, as Napoli had a 100 per cent record in four competitive games this season, but their last victory here was in 1986. The Rossoneri’s injury crisis continued with Kaka, Stephan El Shaarawy, Riccardo Montolivo, Giampaolo Pazzini, Mattia De Sciglio, Matias Silvestre and Daniele Bonera sidelined. Ignazio Abate, M’Baye Niang and Andrea Poli returned, but Valter Birsa was again in the trequartista role. Napoli surprisingly rested Christian Maggio for Giandomenico Mesto.
It was a blistering start and after three minutes Lorenzo Insigne’s ball over the top found an unmarked Valon Behrami, but the volley was well over from the penalty spot. Gonzalo Higuain drilled inches wide of the near post moments later after Cristian Zapata’s error.
The goal felt inevitable and arrived when Raul Albiol knocked a free kick back across for a Miguel Angel Britos totally free header from four yards.
Milan finally ventured forward and Pepe Reina got down to beat away a Mario Balotelli strike, then his free kick whistled wide and the goalkeeper smothered another good chance.
Marek Hamsik’s deflected header, an Alessandro Matri nod down and Birsa shot charged down added to the chances, but Balotelli should’ve done better when blasting a volley over from a corner. Juan Camilo Zuniga clattered into Poli at the by-line, but the goal line referee was inches away and waved play on. From that corner, Balotelli’s attempted overhead kick just ended up booting Raul Albiol in the head. After the restart Reina didn’t come for a cross and was fortunate Philippe Mexes prodded the finish right at him.
Napoli doubled their lead when Abbiati got a hand to a Higuain screamer from distance and was unable to keep it out, as it bounced up under the bar. It was an error from the goalkeeper on his 300th Serie A appearance.
Robinho replaced Birsa and the referee awarded a penalty when Balotelli was sandwiched between Britos and Albiol. However, for the first time in his professional career, Balotelli failed to convert a penalty. The Reina picked the right angle and it was fairly central by the usual standards, so he palmed it off the line. It ended SuperMario’s run of 21 consecutive spot-kicks.
Balotelli’s chipped pass found Matri, but Reina was quicker to it. Balo has never scored against Napoli before and the curse continued, as he burst between centre-backs only on Matri’s assist for his shot to smash against the crossbar.
Reina flew to fingertip another Balotelli attempt out from under the bar and the striker had strong penalty appeals when Giandomenico Mesto appeared to clip his heels as he ran into the box. From that corner, Mexes flashed his shot across the face of goal.
It just wasn’t going in for Milan, as Niang’s volley from a corner was charged down by teammate Matri. Abbiati spilled a Jose Maria Callejon effort and Goran Pandev couldn’t finish it off on the rebound.
Balotelli did finally break through in stoppages with a sensational curler from the edge of the box into the far top corner. However, he was also sent off for dissent at the final whistle.
Saved penalty: Balotelli 61 (M)
Sent off: Balotelli 93 (M)