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Catania vs AC Milan, final score 1-3: Rossoneri victory eases the pressure on Allegri

AC Milan came from behind to net a morale boosting 3-1 victory over struggling Catania in Sicily

Maurizio Lagana

Massimiliano Allegri will sleep a little easier tonight after a dominant display by the Rossoneri. Lucas Castro put the home side ahead, before Riccardo Montolivo pegged them back. Mario Balotelli and Kaka added second half goals to keep Catania at the foot of the table. Panagiotis Tachtsidis saw red to compound a miserable day for the Sicilians.

Milan were hampered by a host of injuries. Brazilian understudy Gabriel took the goalkeeping gloves from flu-victim Christian Abbiati, with back-up keeper Marco Amelia sidelined. Allegri was also forced to gamble with a new defensive lineup.

Philippe Mexes, Ignazio Abate, Mattia De Sciglio, Cristian Zaccardo and the suspended Cristian Zapata were all unavailable, meaning Andrea Poli was used as a makeshift right-back.

Luigi De Canio's side were still licking their wounds from last weekend's 4-1 defeat at Torino. Gino Peruzzi was handed a debut in defence, but Gonzalo Bergessio, Giuseppe Bellusci, Mariano Izco, Sergio Almiron and Milan-owned Kinglsey Boateng were all unavailable. Former Milan loanee Maxi Lopez led the line up front.

Milan controlled the early possession, but were hit by a Sicilian sucker punch after only 13 minutes. Catania's first foray forward had the new look defence in chaos. Castro's shot took a deflection off Daniele Bonera, with the ball looping over a grounded Gabriel and trickling over the line.

Antonio Nocerino sliced a bicycle kick wide from the edge of the area for the shell-shocked visitors, who then allowed the home side space for Pablo Barrientos to shoot wide.

The Rossoneri were only behind for six minutes. Urby Emanuelson's first time cross from the left was volleyed in by Montolivo from ten yards. The Milan captain was clinical with his controlled finish.

Nicolas Spolli put a last ditch challenge in to thwart Balotelli in the area. Catania retreated and crowded out Kaka as the Brazilian tried to dribble in the area.

Tachtsidis appealed for a handball after his free kick went into the Milan wall. The ball looked to make contact with Balotelli's arm, but the referee turned down Catania's appeals.

Right on half time, Fabian Monzon's drive from distance bounced off Gabriel's chest, but Milan cleared the rebound to safety.

Milan continued to press after the break. Nocerino was inches away from turning in a Kaka free kick, then Alexis Rolin got in a crucial block to stop Balotelli from stabbing in from close range. Montolivo crossed for Balotelli to head wide, but Super Mario finally put the ball in the net on 63 minutes. Milan were given a free kick on the edge of the box and Balotelli smashed the ball past Mariano Andujar into the bottom corner.

Straight from the kickoff, Catania made their task even harder when Tachtsidis was given a straight red for hacking down Balotelli. The ten men enjoyed a brief purple patch. Castro pulled back for Jaroslav Plasil to drill a shot just over the bar from 18 yards.

Milan almost notched a third on the counter attack. Balotelli's shirt pull on Peruzzi went unnoticed, giving the forward a clear run on goal, but Andujar saved a low shot with his legs. Stephan El Shaarawy came on for his first Milan appearance in over two months after injury.

Tempers flared between Balotelli and Rolin, as the two exchanged heated words. Kaka calmed the situation then cooled Milan's jets with a third goal nine minutes from the end. The Brazilian found space down the right hand side, then cut into the box and blasted the ball into the roof of the net. With the game safe, Balotelli was withdrawn to prevent any further headaches for Allegri. The forward rubbed salt into the wounds, waving three fingers to the Catania fans to remind them of the score.

Catania: Andujar; Peruzzi, Spolli, Rolin, Biraghi; Plasil, Tachtsidis, Monzon; (Keko 61) Barrientos, (Leto 88) Maxi Lopez, Castro (Guarente 68)

AC Milan: Gabriel; Poli, Bonera, Silvestre, Emanuelson; Montolivo, De Jong,Nocerino; Birsa, (El Shaarawy 74) Kaka; Balotelli (Matri 83)

Goals: Castro 13 (C) Montolivo 19 (M) Balotelli 63 (M) Kaka 81 (M)

Sent off: Tachtsidis 64 (C)