AC Milan vs. Catania, Final Score 4-2: Milan struggle but overcome Elefanti

Claudio Villa

They dominated the game, but Milan only just managed to beat a plucky Catania, keeping themselves in the race for the Champions League.

They left it late, but Milan have seen off Catania 4-2 at the San Siro to keep themselves in contention for the Champions League. They dominated throughout, though twice allowed Catania to take the lead, only to pin them back and eventually go ahead themselves inside the final 15 minutes.

Milan seized control of the game immediately, and Mario Balotelli dragged his shot wide after some nifty footwork on the edge of the area in the opening few minutes. Riccardo Montolivo forced Serie A debutant Alberto Frison into a diving stop soon after, before Kevin-Prince Boateng's drilled cross from the right almost found Mario Balotelli in the box. Somehow, Catania were still level.

The elefanti barely ventured out of their own half, and it was completely one-way traffic. It was remarkable therefore, when, just short of half-an-hour in, they took the lead. Ex-Milan defender Nicola Legrottaglie leapt to meet a free-kick from Francesco Lodi, powering his header into the corner of Marco Amelia's goal.

Milan looked unsurprisingly angry. Storming up the other end, they immediately created a great chance, though Boateng's shot rattled the bar. A chaotic game of pinball in the Catania box ensued, with the hosts having three stabs at the ball before it was finally cleared away. Frison -- only in goal due to Mariano Andújar's suspension -- was becoming Milan's enemy number one, tipping a Balotelli free-kick around the post soon after.

But, in the final minute of the half, Catania's luck finally ran out. A loose ball in the area popped up for Mathieu Flamini, who drove the ball into the corner of the goal from inside the area. Having held on for so long, it was a bitter pill for the elefanti to swallow.

The onslaught continued into the second half, with Milan now looking to take the lead. Frison was on hand again to keep out Stephan El Shaarawy's effort from inside the area. Then, 20 minutes into the second half, the ridiculous happened. A perfect through ball from Catania's Pablo Barrientos found Gonzalo Bergessio in the box. The Argentine striker had barely touched the ball all game, but he only needed one chance, clipping the ball over Amelia for 2-1.

Sadly, it wouldn't last. Milan coach Max Allegri had brought Giampaolo Pazzini off the bench for added firepower, and it paid dividends. A shot from outside the box by Mario Balotelli was tapped in by Pazzini with 15 minutes to go, and within a couple of minutes he'd scored again. Milan had the lead for the first time, as Pazzini beat Frison from inside the area.

Unfortunately lightning wouldn't strike thrice for Catania, with Milan adding a fourth goal before the final whistle. Mariano Izco tripped Balotelli in the box, with the Italian international stepping up. Of course, he didn't miss. Milan sealed the three points, though really should've done so in the first half.

AC Milan: Marco Amelia; Mattia De Sciglio, Daniele Bonera, Philippe Mexès, Ignazio Abate; Antonio Nocerino (Giampaolo Pazzini 67), Riccardo Montoivo, Mathieu Flamini; Stephan El Shaarawy (Sulley Muntari 81), Mario Balotelli, Kevin-Prince Boateng (Mbaye Niang 88)

Catania: Alberto Frison; Giovanni Marchese, Alexis Rolín, Nicola Legrottaglie, Mariano Izco; Sergio Almirón (Marco Biagianti 81), Francesco Lodi (Ciro Capuano 88); Alejandro Gómez, Lucas Castro, Pablo Barrientos; Gonzalo Bergessio

Goals: Legrottaglie 30 (C) Flamini 45 (M) Bergessio 65 (C) Pazzini 74, 77 (M) Balotelli pen 92 (M)

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