Italian Serie A - Balotelli magic gives Milan another win

Serie A, San Siro – Milan 2 (Paletta o.g. 39, Balotelli 78) Parma 1 (Sansone 90)

Mario Balotelli continued his excellent start to life at Milan with a superb free-kick in a 2-1 Serie A win at home to Parma.

Balotelli, who had wasted several similar opportunities earlier in the match, curled a fantastic dead ball into the top corner to ensure his side would go joint-third with Lazio.

Parma started well but Milan took the lead through a first-half own-goal from Gabriel Paletta.

The Rossoneri had missed several chances to extend their lead before Balotelli struck.

The hosts tried to play keep-ball to the final whistle, and it looked a successful ploy until Nicola Sansone grabbed a late consolation.

Italy striker Balotelli has now scored four goals in three matches since joining from Manchester City at the end of January.

His ability to hit top form after falling out of favour at Eastlands is hugely important for Milan because Stephan El Shaarawy is managing a knee problem that saw him miss this match, with the midweek Champions League clash against Barcelona in mind.

‘Super Mario’ was not at his best, sending a succession of dreadful free-kicks into the wall, although his link-up play was competent, particularly in the second half.

More impressive was livewire French teenager M’Baye Niang, who worked the flanks well with Kevin-Prince Boateng.

But it was Parma who started the brightest, dominating the early exchanges as Paletta and Amauri both put wide from good positions after haphazard defending from the hosts.

Milan grew into the game though, as the likes of Riccardo Montolivo and Sulley Muntari became more influential, Boateng firing just wide after his Ghana team-mate picked out a superb through ball.

So, while fortuitous, the goal had been coming, with Boateng putting in a testy low cross that wreaked unnecessary havoc in the Parma defence as Paletta flicked out a boot to put past his own keeper.

The second half was an all-Milan affair, as their Ghanaian heritage trio of Muntari, Boateng and Balotelli regularly cut the visitors apart at the back, with Niang a lively presence too.

A Niang run and cross deserved a goal - Balotelli was denied a finish by some desperate defending - while Boateng side-footed Balotteli’s inventive low pass wide of the goal before, seconds later, missing his free header after Balotelli again picked him out from the left. Those last two chances were initiated by Muntari passes, as the Ghana midfielder grew into a dominant force.

Finally Milan got the second goal their play deserved when, after earning a free-kick just short of 30 yards, Balotelli stepped up.

He had wasted about four shots from similar distances, but this time the mercurial striker unleashed a beauty, leaving Nicola Pavarini helpless as the ball flew in.

There were 12 minutes of normal time left, and Milan mostly gave Parma the runaround as they passed their tiring guests dizzy.

Roberto Donadoni made several changes, one of which was to replace the lumbering Amauri with Algerian-French forward Ishak Belfodil.

The former Lyon trainee had an impact as he raced down the right to fire a superb cross into the six-yard box, Sansome exploiting the havoc to fire past a stranded Christian Abbiati.

It was too late though – the final kick of the game in fact – as Milan made it back-to-back home wins in their battle for a Champions League place.

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