Own goal keeps Blades believing
Fri, 29 Mar 2013 17:49:00
AC Milan head coach Massimiliano Allegri hopes Mario Balotelli can continue his goal streak against Chievo on Saturday.
This week saw the 22-year-old Italy international bring up his 10th goal in nine appearances for club and country since he left Manchester City, but any gentle taunts from the Maltese crowd paled in comparison to discriminatory chants directed his way in recent Serie A games.
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli praised Balotelli for keeping his cool in Malta and Allegri backed his player to ignore any more serious abuse directed his way in Verona on Saturday night.
He told acmilan.com: "Balotelli has never reacted to provocation on the pitch since he's been playing for us.
"Certain bad things that can happen during matches should be stamped out and the culture needs to change. He'll be fine tomorrow.
"He needn't focus on any of the chants coming from the stands but rather about the three points that would at least maintain the distance between us and the team behind us.
"The important thing is that he keeps on playing for the team. He can improve with us as he's playing with continuity here."
Seven of Balotelli's 10 recent goals have arrived in just six league games and recent history suggests he could well add to his tally at the Stadio Marc'Antonio Bentegodi, with Milan having beaten the Flying Donkeys 12 times in a row since December 2005.
Back-to-back victories may have fired Chievo 10 points clear of the relegation zone with nine games remaining but head coach Eugenio Corini will not relax until the Flying Donkeys are mathematically safe.
"We have put ourselves in a good position in the league table through hard work but we cannot celebrate yet," he told La Repubblica.
"We have to stay composed through the final games of the season.
"When it comes to Milan, they are a team in amazing shape and we know that this is a big game for them so we will give our all."
The Blades never looked threatened by Rovers as they produced a classic away performance, while Barry Robson and Ryan Flynn both went close.
Jonathan Forte had the game's clearest opportunity in the 24th minute, playing a neat one-two with Dave Kitson, but stand-in skipper Owain fon Williams was equal to his effort.
The Blades took the lead minutes before the break, with Tony McMahon's ambitious free-kick taking a huge deflection off Taylor as he tried to clear and flying past fon Williams.
Both sides were cagey after the restart, with only on-loan Manchester United man Sean McGinty testing George Long for Rovers.
Flynn nearly sealed all three points for United, but his fiercely struck effort five minutes from time smashed against fon Williams' bar and away to safety.
Robson went even closer a minute later, but former Rochdale keeper fon Williams tipped his superb strike over the bar.