AC Milan displaced Lazio in third place with a 2-0 win over them at the San Siro. However, the visitors were forced to play 75 minutes with ten men.
A Giampaolo Pazzini brace and Kevin-Prince Boateng strike did the damage for the hosts, while Antonio Candreva saw red for the visitors. For Pazzini, it was a timely reminder to Massimiliano Allegri of what the frontman can do in the absence of the injured Mario Balotelli.
In addition to ‘Super Mario,' Bojan Krkic, Kevin Constant, Daniele Bonera, Luca Antonini, Nigel De Jong and the suspended Philippe Mexes were all missing for the Rossoneri. Stephan El Shaarawy shook off the flu to start. Lazio missed injured quartet Abdoulay Konko, Cristian Brocchi, Stefano Mauri and Miroslav Klose. Bruno Pereirinha was given a first Serie A start on his 25th birthday.
The first five minutes were end-to-end. Senad Lulic headed wide a Candreva corner, while El Shaarawy picked up a sloppy Pereirinha pass and was denied by Federico Marchetti standing his ground. Less than 60 seconds later, El Shaarawy rounded the shot stopper and Giuseppe Biava had to instinctively clear off the line from Pazzini. Candreva then pulled back for Sergio Floccari to direct a weak shot straight at Christian Abbiati. On 11 minutes, El Shaarawy rose above Pereirinha to head over Pazzini's cross from eight yards.
Controversy struck on the quarter hour mark. El Shaarawy broke clear and had his heels clipped by Candreva. The referee ruled the inital contact was inches outside the area, but replays suggested it was inside. After a long deliberation with the third official, Candreva was shown a straight red card for being the last man and denying a clear goalscoring opportunity. Boateng laid off the resulting free kick for Riccardo Montolivo to drill wide.
The sending off curtailed Lazio's attacking impetus. Pazzini and Boateng both missed getting on the end of a dangerous Mattia De Sciglio cross and the ball finished wide of the post. Pazzini then dived under Stefan Radu in the box and was rightly cautioned.
The Biancocelesti managed to repel Milan until five minutes before the break. Marchetti couldn't hold onto Ignazio Abate's shot from inside the box, the Lazio defence failed to clear and Pazzini was left with an easy tap in from four yards. The Rossoneri quickly doubled their lead from a corner. Marchetti pulled off a fine point blank stop to deny Pazzini's bullet header, but Boateng was on hand to put the follow-up in.
Cristian Zaccardo came on for his Milan debut at the start of the second half, while Pereirinha was withdrawn for Lorik Cana. A rare Lazio foray forward drew a foul from Massimo Ambrosini. However, Hernanes' free-kick was easily beaten away by Abbiati.
A spat between Radu and Boateng resulted in cautions for both. Radu's poor clearance handed Milan a third goal on the hour and effectively ended the game as a contest. The loose ball fell to Pazzini, who drilled a low 25 yard shot past Marchetti at the far post. The frontman was denied a hat trick when he missed connecting with a volley just outside the six yard box. El Shaarawy fluffed a chance to make it four. The Pharaoh sprung the offside trap down the left hand side, only to bend his shot wide of the far post.
M'Baye Niang almost registered a first Serie A goal late on. The substitute exchanged passes with El Shaarawy and saw his effort clip the crossbar. Mario Yepes gave Lazio a final chance for a consolation, but substitute Louis Saha fired the resulting free kick straight down Abbiati's throat.
AC Milan: Abbiati; Abate, Zapata, (Zaccardo 46) Yepes, De Sciglio; Flamini, Ambrosini, Montolivo; Boateng, (Robinho 76) Pazzini, (Niang 68) El Shaarawy
Lazio: Marchetti; Pereirinha, (Cana 46) Biava, Dias, Radu; Ledesma; Candreva, Gonzalez, Hernanes, (Ederson 70) Lulic; Floccari (Saha 78)
Goals: Pazzini 40, 60 (M) Boateng 44 (M)
Sent off: Candreva 16 (L)