Milan fought back twice to earn a thrilling 2-2 draw with Roma that either side could’ve won in stoppages.
There were 19 points separating the teams going into this clash, but the Rossoneri received a boost midweek when reaching the Champions League knockouts. Stephan El Shaarawy, Valter Birsa, Ignazio Abate, Robinho, Kevin Constant, Matias Silvestre and Marco Amelia were all unavailable, so Riccardo Montolivo took a new role in the Christmas Tree formation. Miralem Pjanic sat out a ban with Federico Balzaretti and Marco Borriello injured, Francesco Totti still not fit enough to start, but Mattia Destro played after scoring on his comeback from seven months out.
This evening Milan marked the 114th anniversary of the club’s foundation, while Roma wore special jerseys sponsoring the Telethon charity drive.
Daniele De Rossi received an early booking for a tackle on Urby Emanuelson and will be suspended for the last game of the year against Catania.
It was Roma who took the lead with Destro’s second goal in as many games. Kevin Strootman sprung the offside trap down the left from Adem Ljajic’s pass and rolled across for Destro to come sliding in relatively unmarked from six yards.
Kaka’s angled drive was just wide of the far post and Emanuelson’s shot was deflected over. From the resulting corner, Sulley Muntari knocked it on for Cristian Zapata’s diving header at the back post.
Moments later Michael Bradley thought he had restored Roma’s advantage with a flick from close range on a free kick, but Daniele Bonera’s goalline clearance prevented the ball from crossing completely by a matter of inches.
Gervinho pounced on a defensive error to go clear, but Zapata timed his sliding tackle perfectly just as the Ivorian was pulling the trigger. De Rossi had penalty appeals for a shirt tug from Bonera, but the referee waved play on.
Dodo’s cross-shot was just past the near top corner, but the visitors lost Leandro Castan to injury after he fall awkwardly under a Kaka shove. Milan were also forced into a change, as Christian Abbiati suffered a stomach problem at half-time and made way for Gabriel.
It wasn’t a great start for the young Brazilian goalkeeper, who within five minutes was booked for scything down Gervinho just inside the box. It was on the outside edge, so not a clear scoring opportunity. Strootman took spot-kick duties and side-footed it into the near bottom corner, sending Gabriel the wrong way.
A free kick was given against Balotelli in the box for a tussle with Mehdi Benatia, as he was accused of reaching behind him to pull down the defender. Emanuelson’s sliding tackle was crucial to stop Gervinho finishing off a splendid move with Ljajic, but Kaka’s shot was accidentally charged down by teammate Montolivo.
Totti made his comeback two months after a hamstring injury, while Max Allegri threw on Alessandro Matri. Kaka had penalty appeals for a shove in the back from Dodo, but the referee waved play on.
Bradley’s free header was wide and the tension got to Milan, as Kaka was booked for sarcastic applause and Montolivo got a card for dissent, meaning the Italian will be suspended for the Derby di Milano.
The Rossoneri equalised when Balotelli held up the ball well surrounded by defenders, rolling across for Muntari to rush in and blast into the near bottom corner. It was the first time Rudi Garcia’s Roma had conceded more than one goal.
The San Siro crowd called for a penalty, but Mattia De Sciglio’s pull-back hit Burdisso on the chest and not the arm.
De Sanctis had his gloves stung by a rocket of a Balotelli free kick, but Gabriel came out to punch and accidentally smacked into teammate Emanuelson’s jaw. Thr Dutchman had to be stretchered off.
It was end to end stuff right to the end, as Benatia timed his challenge perfectly to stop Kaka’s run on the edge of the area and Bradley’s shot was charged down from 12 yards.
Balotelli must’ve thought he had scored at the 93rd minute when he gathered on the counter, dummied De Rossi to create space and drilled wide of the near post from a great position.
It still wasn’t over, as De Rossi went on a mazy run and forced a corner with a deflection in the six-yard box. From that move, Gervinho fired inches wide with the last kick of the game.