Siena vs. AC Milan: Final score 1-2, Rossoneri clinch third

Gabriele Maltinti

Milan defeated Siena after a frantic last ten minutes to claim the third and final spot for the Champions League even as Fiorentina demolished relegated Pescara, 5-1.

It took a late push and a bit of luck, but AC Milan completed a late comeback to beat Siena 2-1 and finish third in Serie A.

Milan started the game in dominant fashion. From the whistle, Milan pressured Siena off the ball and before long; the pressure resulted in a dipping Mario Balotelli shot from 20 yards that was well saved. From the resulting corner, the ball was flicked to the far post where Christian Zapata failed to meet the ball to guide it into an empty net. Robinho was also taking free-kicks at this point so psyching out Siena seemed to be the tactic.

Ignazio Abate, who was making the right wing his own, cut-back a pass for Antonio Nocerino at the top of the box, after playing a well worked one-two with M'Baye Niang. Antonio Nocerino blazed the ball over the bar. The pressure continued and Montolivo won a free-kick about 35 yards from goal after being cut down, Balotelli only managed to hit the four man wall with his shot.

Robinho -- who was working hard at this point -- flashed a cross by the face of the goal that evaded everyone in the middle before reaching Niang at the far-post, but he too failed to get a proper touch on the ball and the chance went begging. News broke that Fiorentina had scored -from a very similar play to the Robinho one, though from the opposite side-and the pressure was on for Milan.

Siena, to their credit started to impose themselves around the 16th minute, having a good spell of possession, though they could not seem to create any chances from it. They were forcing the Milan forwards to track back though, as Niang was needed to clear a cross from the left side, that could have easily been a goal for Siena if successful.

Milan would regain their dominance not too long after. Robinho drifted into the center and after receiving the ball, tricked his way past the defender and attempted to curl in the ball from about 20 yards away. The keeper was forced into a good diving save, the corner was wasted.

Against the run of play -- mainly due to Ambrosini giving away a cheap foul in midfield -- Siena would score. After the initial foul by Ambrosini, the free-kick was taken short and passed to Rosina, who delivered a pinpoint accurate cross to the back post, where Terzi was left unmarked and turned the resulting free header into the goal, past the flatfooted Abbiati, with little fuss.

The next few minutes were a combination of frustration and dejection for Milan and vice-president Adriano Galliani --who looked very sad at this point-- as chances were wasted by Antonio Nocerino, Mario Balotelli --has a great chance from an Abate cross: a header that cannoned back off the crossbar ... and Robinho. Siena also had chances through Emeghara and Rosina but Christian Zapata and Philippe Mexes were up to the task of blocking the shots.

The second half started off in similar vein as the first, with Milan pressuring Siena while trying to create chances from individual play. Robinho for all of his hard work wasted a potential move by ballooning the cross after Montolivo had once again won a free kick around midfield.

Milan began to throw more and more players forward as time expired, leaving the midfield completely open and their two central defenders isolated against the very quick combination of Rosina and Emeghara. Luckily for them, Zapata was having one of the best games of his life, out-muscling the starkly smaller Emeghara and positioning himself well to deal with the troublesome Rosina before the diminutive attacker was subbed off for Adra.

The lackluster Antonio Nocerino was subbed off for Stephan El Shaarawy at the 60th minute and the spikey haired forward promptly announced himself with a good header -- albeit over the bar -- after an accurate cross from Philippe Mexes. Before Milan could start to impose themselves again, Massimo Ambrosini was sent off for a challenge on Adrian Callelo that would have been more controversial had Milan lost the match. Adriano Galliani was extremely sad now.

Before Siena could even make their man advantage count, Christian Terlizzi was sent off too, after a tussle with Mario Balotelli, promising a tense ending to what had been a dull half. Milan though, would continue to be unremarkable in attack as Siena were comfortable to hold the ball and defend whenever possible. Massimo Paci replaced Innocent Emeghara and Kevin Constant came in for Ignazio Abate in all the excitement.

The last ten minutes of the match arrived with a bang, as Balotelli, who was given a talking to for an earlier dive, was bundled over by Felipe Dal Belo as he waited for an incoming cross. Massimiliano Allegri was a man relieved at this point. Mario Balotelli, after a weird long wait from the referee, did as he has done all season and tucked the penalty in, this time to the bottom left corner. Massimiliano Allegri looked determined to win once he turned his back to the game again, of course.

The frantic ending continued with Roberto Vitiello fouling Kevin Constant 35 meters away from goal. The resulting free-kick was played short to Riccardo Montolivo, who delivered a cross to the back-post where Philippe Mexes controlled with his chest like a center forward, then side-footed to goal. The initial shot was saved but the keeper seemed to bundle in and in the commotion, the defender turned forward, poked in the rebound. Milan was now 2-1 up and in control of their destiny again.

Siena would try to push for an equalizer in the last few minutes, bringing on Erjon Bogdani in place of Matteo Rubin to bolster their strikeforce. Unfortunately, Milan were brimming with confidence now and saw out the game: possessing the ball and dispossessing Siena players easily when defending.

The final whistle came as a relief to all Milan players and supporters as the win sees them back into the Champions League for the 5th consecutive year and spells heartbreak for unfortunate Fiorentina.

Adriano Galliani, previously enraged, was finally happy.

AC Milan: Chrsitian Abbiati, Ignazio Abate, Christian Zapata, Philippe Mexes, Mattia De Sciglio, Antonio Nocerino, Massimo Ambrosini, Riccardo Montolivo, M'Baye Niang, Mario Balotelli, Robinho.

Subs: Giampaolo Pazzini (45), Stephan El Shaarawy (60), Kevin Constant (78)

Siena: Gianluca Pegolo, Claudio Terzi, Christian Terlizzi, Felipe dal Belo ; Roberto Vitiello, Adrián Calello, Francesco Bolzoni, Francesco Della Rocca, Matteo Rubin, Alessandro Rosina, Innocent Emeghara.

Subs: Salvador Agra (61), Massimo Paci (75), Erjon Bogdani (89)

Goals: C. Terzi (25), M. Balotelli penalty (84), P. Mexès (87)

Red Cards: Massimo Ambrosini (69), Christian Terlizzi (70)

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