Milan fought back from a goal down to beat 10-man Catania 3-1 in Sicily, ending a month-long drought of victories.
These were two teams with problems, as the Rossoneri had just three points from their last five Serie A games and and yesterday rejected Adriano Galliani’s resignation, making him joint CEO with Barbara Berlusconi. Cristian Zapata was suspended with Christian Abbiati, Philippe Mexes, Ignazio Abate, Mattia De Sciglio, Cristian Zaccardo, Marco Amelia, Giampaolo Pazzini and Robinho injured, so Andrea Poli was a makeshift right-back. Catania were rock bottom of the table and missed Gonzalo Bergessio, Giuseppe Bellusci, Mariano Izco, Sergio Almiron and Milan-owned Kinglsey Boateng, so gave ex-Velez defender Gino Peruzzi his Serie A debut.
Milan had all the early possession, but Catania took the surprise lead, as some chaotic defending eventually saw Lucas Castro’s effort take a deflection off Daniele Bonera’s block to loop over a helpless Gabriel. It was the Argentine’s third goal of the campaign.
Antonio Nocerino’s audacious volley was wide, but Pablo Barrientos drilled wide after dispossessing Bonera.
Milan did equalise when Urby Emanuelson got down the left and crossed for Riccardo Montolivo, who kept his volley down from 10 yards. The former Fiorentina midfielder marked his first goal of the season with a splendid finish.
Kaka was crowded out in the box before he could shoot and a Panagiotis Tachtsidis free kick hit the wall. Just before the break, Maxi Lopez went on the counter and set up Fabian Monzon for a shot that bounced off Gabriel’s chest. The Rossoneri had 77 per cent possession in the first half, but were still pegged back to a 1-1 scoreline.
Alexis Rolin needed a decisive block to stop Balotelli tapping in Kaka’s assist from six yards. SuperMario was furious soon after, as he was running towards goal when his heels were clipped by Rolin – perhaps by accident as they were crossing paths – but the referee waved play on.
Balotelli’s looping header was off target from a Montolivo chipped cross, but the striker got his goal soon after. Balotelli blasted a powerful and low free kick through the Catania wall to fly into the near bottom corner. That ended his four-match goal drought.
The game turned again moments later when Panagiotis Tachtsidis was shown a straight red card for a high tackle from the side on Balotelli.
Jaroslav Plasil had a good chance for Catania, but on the counter-attack Mariano Andujar used his ankle to parry from Balotelli. The Elefantini were still fired up and attacking despite being down to 10 men, as Cristian Biraghi’s ball flashed across the face of goal with nobody able to get the final touch.
Stephan El Shaarawy made his comeback after more than two months out injured, but Kaka had to calm down Balotelli after he got into a row with Nicolas Spolli.
Kaka was even more effective soon after, as he sprinted down the right and smashed a shot under the bar from the tightest of angles to give Milan a two-goal cushion.
Balotelli was substituted after risking a card for his repeated arguments with Spolli, but provoked the crowd on his way off by waving three fingers.
Barrientos drilled wide and Gabriel smothered a low strike, but 10-man Catania had the wind knocked out of their sails by that third goal.
Sent off: Tachtsidis 64 (C)