Mario Balotelli was on target once again for AC Milan as they ground out a 1-1 draw at Cagliari in Serie A on Sunday afternoon.
The pragmatic home side ceded much possession to their opponents, yet it fashioned the better chances in the opening period and scored on the stroke of halftime thanks to an astute header from Victor Ibarbo. It soaked up great pressure in the second period, but eventually they crumbled as Davide Astore was dismissed and Balotelli converted from the spot.
Philippe Mexes, who had a wretched afternoon, conceded a needless free kick 35 yards from his goal, and the resultant delivery from Danieli Conti was beautifully glanced home by the Colombian.
Milan seemed to have been successfully frustrated, yet 10 minutes from time it received a lifeline when Davide Astori foolishly held Balotelli as the ball span in the air after Robinho’s shot was kicked clear by the goalkeeper. From the spot, the Italian preserved his perfect record from 12 yards while the defender was walking down the tunnel having been shown his second yellow card.
Balotelli nearly secured maximum points three minutes from the end, but his header from six yards was straight at Agazzi.
Ibardo really should have had his first goal of the season before that moment. During the first half he was released by the impressive Conti, but after beating compatriot Cristian Zapata he had the ball robbed from him by Ignazio Abate.
Marco Sau’s cunning was to the fore as the next chance was fashioned for the South American down the left channel, but the forward slashed hopelessly over the top with only Christian Abbiati to beat.
To that point, Milan had been extremely flat. Although M’Baye Niang was making progress down the right wing, only Balotelli was provoking any real threat to Michael Agazzi’s goal. Having struck twice last weekend, the striker was full of confidence, yet his long-range free kicks were comfortably fielded by Agazzi, despite their awkward, bobbling nature.
While the hosts had provided a genuine counterattacking threat in the opening half, they were considerably more limited after the break and became largely a defensive unit. Despite this, their well-organized nature meant that Milan were asphyxiated and there appeared no prospect of a leveling goal before Astori’s moment of foolishness.
The draw means that Milan remains unbeaten in Serie A since the turn of the year, yet it has not made the inroads desired into the three-point advantage that Lazio now holds over it.
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