Balotelli leads AC Milan to fifth straight win, crush Livorno
Mario Balotelli set a personal record with his 14th goal of the Serie A season and set up another score as AC Milan beat visiting Livorno 3-0 on Saturday for its fifth straight win.
Still, Milan remained five points behind city rival Inter Milan in the race for fifth place and the final Europa League berth, after Inter beat 10-man Parma 2-0.
In the 43rd minute at the San Siro, Balotelli scored with a textbook header from the center of the area following a cross from Kevin Constant.
Midfielder Adel Taarabt doubled Milan’s lead in the 51st after dribbling past a defender, and substitute Giampaolo Pazzini finished off in the 84th after taking a pass from Balotelli that left him with only the goalkeeper to beat.
Balotelli’s previous best output was 13 goals, with Manchester City in 2011-12, and City and Milan combined last season.
It was also Balotelli’s 18th goal in all competitions this season, another personal record, which should give the striker confidence entering the World Cup as Italy’s leader in attack.
”I’m happy to have reached the record but I have to improve, because there are players that score 40 in a season,” said Balotelli, who did not celebrate after his goal.
The win was also a relief for new Milan coach Clarence Seedorf, amid reports his job was at risk.
”I didn’t know anything about that,” Balotelli said. ”The coach has given a big hand to the squad. … But this is still nothing. It’s just a great result. We’re playing to qualify for the Europa League.”
Elsewhere, third-place Napoli was held to 1-1 at Udinese, while Torino and Lazio remained level eighth after a wild 3-3 draw that saw Ciro Immobile score his league-leading 20th goal.
Also, it was: Atalanta 1, Hellas Verona 2; Catania 2, Sampdoria 1; Chievo Verona 0, Sassuolo 1; and Genoa 1, Cagliari 2.
Later, league leader Juventus hosted Bologna and second-place Roma was at fourth-place Fiorentina.
In Parma, Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic stopped a penalty from Antonio Cassano by tipping it off the post in the 44th. The hosts were then reduced to 10 men when Italy international Gabriel Paletta picked up his second yellow card in first half added time for a foul on Rodrigo Palacio.
Defender Rolando put Inter ahead in the 48th with a header and Parma had more misfortune when Alessandro Lucarelli hit the crossbar with a header in the 55th.
Substitute Fredy Guarin sealed Inter’s victory by scoring on his first touch in the 89th with a shot from beyond the area.
In Udine, Jose Callejon gave Napoli the lead in the 39th with a volley and Bruno Fernandes equalized for Udinese in the 54th following a defensive error.
In Rome, Immobile thought he scored the winner for Torino in the 89th when he shot between two defenders but Antonio Candreva – a favorite of Italy coach Cesare Prandelli – equalized for Lazio four minutes into added time from close range.