Mario Balotelli created one goal and scored another to end Milan’s crisis with a surprise 2-0 win away to Fiorentina.
The Viola were back in contention for third place after beating Napoli at the weekend, a fine way to put their Europa League elimination behind them. The Rossoneri were in dire straits with one point from the last five games in all competition and pressure rising on Coach Clarence Seedorf.
Fiorentina had to deal with an injury crisis, missing Mario Gomez, Giuseppe Rossi, Anderson, Juan Manuel Vargas, Marvin Compper, David Pizarro and Ante Rebic, so Alessandro Matri faced the club he left on loan in January. Andrea Poli was suspended for Milan, who were without Mattia De Sciglio, Stephan El Shaarawy and Ignazio Abate.
Milan were unbeaten in their last seven trips to Florence in all competition, but hadn’t beaten the Viola home or away in the last five meetings.
Keisuke Honda returned to the starting XI, but within three minutes hit a fresh-air shot on Kaka’s assist. Matri was taking on his old teammates and wasted a couple of early scoring opportunities.
Mario Balotelli returned to the line-up after he was dropped against Lazio, but was booked for dissent after 16 minutes.
Fiorentina lost Manuel Pasqual to injury, so he made way for Facundo Roncaglia.
Milan took the lead against the run of play, as Neto only beat a Balotelli free kick into the path of Philippe Mexes for the tap-in.
Neto fingertipped a long-range Adel Taarabt effort out from under the bar after beating away a Sulley Muntari snapshot.
Milan had a great team move before half-time with Honda putting Taarabt’s long ball back into the middle with the outside of his boot only for Muntari to balloon the volley off target.
At the dawn of the second half Matri wasted a golden opportunity, turning his free header wide from seven yards on Joaquin’s cross.
Massimo Ambrosini got on the end of a free kick, but could only find the side-netting. Milan also wasted, as Balotelli pulled back for the unmarked Taarabt to blast over the bar.
Balotelli’s free kick had set up the opening goal, but he curled the second in directly by himself. It whipped round the wall into the near top corner to surprise Neto.