Balotelli brace boosts AC Milan

Mario Balotelli's 11 goals in 11 games helps AC Milan thrash Pescara and strengthen third place in Serie A.

    Balotelli brace boosts AC Milan
    Balotelli (L) has made remarkable start to his time in Italian top division after leaving Man City [EPA]

    A Mario Balotelli brace and one apiece from Sulley Muntari and Mathieu Flamini put AC Milan within sight of Champions League football next season thanks to a 4-0 rout of already-relegated Pescara on Wednesday.

    Milan started the match knowing that three points would reinforce their grip on third place, which offers a qualifying round place in Europe's premier club competition.

    Any fears of an upset were quickly stifled, the Rossoneri starting strongly and dominating throughout to secure a 20th win of the season that keeps them four points ahead of Fiorentina with two games remaining.

    However, in the later-kick off, Fiorentina showed Milan they will not give up without a fight defeating Siena 1-0 and ensuring the battle for Champions League football goes down to the wire.

    Napoli mathematically secured second place and an automatic entry into Europe's elite with a 3-0 victory over Bologna. And Inter Milan's chances of snatching a Europa League spot are all over after losing 3-1 at home to Lazio.

    Udinese kept their outside hopes of European football alive with a 3-2 victory at Palermo.

    Serie A results

    Wednesday May 8

     Pescara 0-4 AC Milan
     Atalanta 0-1 Juventus
     Bologna 0-3 Napoli
     Cagliari 0-1 Parma
     Inter Milan 1-3 Lazio
     Palermo 2-3 Udinese
     Sampdoria 1-1 Catania
     Siena 0-1 Fiorentina
     Torino 0-0 Genoa

    Balotelli set the tone for what was a one-sided performance on the sunny Adriatic coast by smacking the crossbar in the second minute. The former Manchester City man put the visitors ahead shortly after from the penalty spot after Antonio Nocerino had been fouled by Serbian defender Uros Cosic.

    It was Balotelli's 10th goal in 11 appearances following his January signing and marked a personal best in Serie A for the former Inter Milan striker.

    Milan were being given free reign and French teenager M'Baye Niang twice came close, forcing a one-handed save from Mattia Perrin and then shaving the goalkeeper's post with a rasping, angled drive.

    Pescara, whose return to Serie B was confirmed last weekend, were offering little in attack and their defence was found sorely wanting as Milan scored their second shortly after the half hour.

    Robinho sent a long cross over from the right wing and Ghanaian midfielder Muntari was allowed time and space to run in and send a bouncing effort over the head of Perrin.

    Milan resumed in positive fashion after the break and were soon 3-0 up. Flamini was given another rare start by coach Massimiliano Allegri following his goal-scoring exploits in a 4-2 win over Catania two weeks ago, and when Robinho pounced on a blunder by defender Luciano Zauri, the Frenchman was on hand to slot the Brazilian's pass into the net.

    Minutes later Balotelli took his season's tally to 11 when he collected Flamini's smart pass in the area, held off his marker and swivelled to beat Perrin with a shot that slammed into the roof of the net.

    Giampaolo Pazzini replaced Niang on 64 minutes and the veteran striker spurned a great chance to make it five when he shot straight at Perrin when well placed.

    Shortly after, Stephan El Shaarawy, making a rare start on the bench, replaced Robinho and came close to scoring almost immediately but was bundled off the ball as he shot.



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