It was a thrilling 1-1 draw in Sicily that saw a Milan effort cleared when mostly over the line and Catania’s goal controversially disallowed.
The Rossoneri didn’t have a chance to rest stars ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League quarter-final with Barcelona, as Djamel Mesbah and Sulley Ali Muntari were suspended, joining the injured Mark van Bommel, Thiago Silva, Pippo Inzaghi, Mathieu Flamini, Rodney Strasser and Antonio Cassano. Ignazio Abate returned from his lay-off at right-back with ex-Catania striker Maxi Lopez on the bench. The Elefantini have been the surprise package of this season and threaten to qualify for Europe. Only Marco Biagianti, David Suazo and Alessandro Potenza were unavailable.
Catania had the first chance at the third minute when Gonzalo Bergessio sprung the offside trap to fire just off target at the near post. Sergio Almiron’s head only skimmed a dangerous cross, but Milan also went very close on seven minutes when Urby Emanuelson went clear and fired straight at Juan Pablo Carrizo’s legs from point-blank range.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic burst forward and chested down a long ball between two defenders, but was closed down by Carrizo with an outstretched foot at the near post from a couple of yards.
Bergessio nodded a Marco Motta cross inches over the bar, then Abate needed a perfectly-timed intervention to stop Bergessio finishing off a smart Francesco Lodi chipped pass through the defence.
Milan broke the deadlock with a wonderful team move. Robinho exchanged passes in a give-and-go with Ibra on the edge of the box and surprised Carrizo by passing it into the near bottom corner from nine yards.
Catania went extremely close to an equaliser, as Alejandro Gomez dispossessed Daniele Bonera in the final third and unleashed a screamer that dipped over Christian Abbiati to rattle the crossbar.
Luca Antonini clattered into Pablo Barrientos on the counter-attack, but the referee waved play on. A central Ibra strike was easily smothered by Carrizo.
Straight after the restart Gomez snuck round the back of the Milan defence to head in a flicked on cross from the left, but it was incorrectly flagged offside. It’s possible Barrientos was offside during the build-up when he flicked on the cross, but the linesman only raised his flag when Gomez got the ball.
Moments later Barrientos thought he’d scored from a pull-back, but Antonini threw himself across the shot to block in front of an open goal. Bergessio fired a free kick just wide, as did Francesco Lodi with a snapshot.
The Sicilians did get their thoroughly-deserved equaliser on 57 minutes, as Nicola Legrottaglie knocked down a corner for Nicolas Spolli to volley in from point-blank range. It confirmed Catania’s excellent form from set plays, as this season they have scored 23 times from dead ball situations.
Ibrahimovic was also incorrectly flagged offside when clear on goal, then Bergessio only glanced his head on a Lodi cross and an Almiron snapshot flew over the bar.
However, just as Catania were pouring forward, Robinho dribbled round the goalkeeper and rolled towards an empty net, beating Spolli and Legrottaglie before Giovanni Marchese managed to clear with the ball halfway across the line. Even replays do not entirely clarify the situation, but the ball did not seem to completely cross over, but it is a matter of millimetres.
Bonera’s sliding tackle charged down a Mariano Izco strike, but at the other end a fantastic Carrizo save blocked the Philippe Mexes header on the line from a corner as Milan began to pile on the pressure.
Lodi volleyed wide from a poorly-cleared corner, then an Ibra angled drive flashed all the way across the face of goal. Spolli had to intercept for a corner as Stephan El Shaarawy dribbled past the first defender.
Maxi Lopez came on against the club he left in January, Alberto Aquilani making way for an all-attack line-up, while Davide Lanzafame replaced Gomez. Legrottaglie’s header from a free kick was over, then Carrizo had to flap an Ibrahimovic chip out from under the crossbar as it was end-to-end stuff.
Carrizo came flying off his line to smother at Ibra’s feet from a couple of yards. In stoppages an Ibrahimovic volley was charged down by Motta’s arm, but it was across his chest, so could not be considered a penalty. With the last kick of the game, Catania had the chance to win it on the counter, but desperate defending charged down the strike.