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December 1, 2013
• Stadio Angelo Massimino, Catania
Referee: N. Rizzoli
• Attendance: 17383
L. Castro 13'
R. Montolivo 19'
M. Balotelli 63'
Luigi De Canio's side go in search of a crucial three points next weekend when they travel to fellow relegation strugglers Sampdoria whilst Milan will hope for back-to-back wins away to Livorno. Thanks for joining me, Max Bentley, on this live commentary. Until next time, goodbye.
That first league win since October 19, combined with the 3-0 midweek Champions League victory over Celtic, will help to ease the pressure on under-fire Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri for one more week at least. That win sees Milan rise into the top half of the table but they remain 17 points off leaders Juventus.
FT: CATANIA 1-3 MILAN. Goals from Riccardo Montolivo, Mario Balotelli and Kaka give the Rossoneri their first league win in six matches after Lucas Castro had given the hosts the lead. The Gli Elefantini also saw Panagiotis Tachtsidis harshly sent off for a foul on Balotelli as they remain rooted to the foot of the Serie A table.
90' + 2'
Urby Emanuelson looks to add his name to the score sheet in stoppage time but his curling free kick is comfortably saved by Andujar.
There have been some good performers for both sides today but for me, Riccardo Montolivo has been man of the match. He started the Milan comeback with a superb cushioned volley and has stretched the Catania defence on numerous occasions with his passing before setting up Kaka's goal.
Catania make their final change as Pablo Barrientos is withdrawn for the remaining few minutes by Sebastian Leto.
BARRIENTOS GOES CLOSE! Plasil has been lively for the hosts in the second half and he picks out Barrientos on the edge of the box, who curls an effort beyond the outstretched hand of Gabriel and narrowly wide of the post.
GREAT CHANCE FOR CATANIA! Plasil's quick thinking from a free kick allows him to roll a pass into Lopez's feet inside the box but the striker takes too long to get his shot away and Bonera makes a good challenge.
Allegri opts to make another change and it is a clever one as Balotelli is replaced by Matri. The enigmatic striker was in danger of losing his temper.
Assist Riccardo Montolivo
BRILLIANT GOAL FROM KAKA! The Brazilian continues his excellent recent goalscoring form to wrap up the points for Milan. He plays a splendid one-two with Montolivo down the right and with Rolin backing off, Kaka drives towards goal and thumps a fierce shot into the roof of the net. Three goals and three points for Allegri's side.
Yellow Card Kaká
Balotelli is incensed with Spolli again after sending a cross over the head of El Shaarawy and out of play. Kaka then picks up a booking for preventing Catania from taking a quick free kick.
Biraghi is enjoying some joy down the left and with Poli absent, the left-back swings a brilliant cross into the box which just misses the run of Maxi Lopez. Catania have responded brilliantly despite going down to ten men.
The tensions are mounting here and the referee has to get between Balotelli and Spolli to prevent the Milan striker from exploding. Balotelli wags his finger at the Argentine defender after an innocuous challenge.
Stephan El Shaarawy
Here is what Milan fans have been waiting for! Allegri decides to make his first substitution as Stephan El Shaarawy makes his long-awaited comeback from injury to replace Valter Birsa.
Yellow Card Pablo Barrientos
Pablo Barrientos will miss the next match against Sampdoria after picking a yellow card for a mistimed challenge on De Jong.
GOOD CHANCE FOR CATANIA! On-loan Inter man Cristiano Biraghi produces a good run to get clear down the left and he drills a superb cross into the box but Plasil cannot make contact and the ball runs out of play on the far side.
Keko looks to make his impact from the bench but he can only balloon a shot high over the bar from outside the box. Credit to Catania, they are refusing to sit back despite their numerical disadvantage.
GOOD SAVE FROM ANDUJAR! Balotelli has certainly had more of an impact in this second half and he latches onto a incise through pass before firing a low left-footed shot at goal which is well saved by the Argentine goalkeeper.
Luigi De Canio makes a second change as he looks to cope with Tachtsidis' red card, throwing on on-loan Sevilla midfielder Tiberio Guarente for the goalscorer Lucas Castro.
SO CLOSE TO 2-2! Catania nearly find an unlikely equaliser when Barrientos cuts the ball back for Plasil on the edge of the box. However, the Czech Republic international's curled effort goes inches over the crossbar.
Red Card Panagiotis Tachtsidis
TACHTSIDIS SENT OFF! It goes from bad to worse for Catania as Panagiotis Tachtsidis receives his marching orders after a nasty challenge on Balotelli. It certainly wasn't a well-timed tackle but I'm not sure that merits a red card. Long way back for Gli Elefantini now.
Goal Mario Balotelli
BALOTELLI MAKES IT 2-1! The striker has looked brighter after a quiet first half and he drills a stunning low free kick underneath the wall and beyond Andujar into the bottom corner. That's his fourth Serie A goal of the season.
Luigi De Canio makes his first substitution of the game as Keko replaces Fabian Monzon.
BALOTELLI GOES CLOSE! Just seconds after Castro spurns a good chance to put Catania back into the lead, Milan launch a counter attack. Montolivo produces a superb cross to pick out Balotelli at the back post but the striker cannot steer his header on target and it flashes narrowly wide.
Yellow Card Jaroslav Plasil
Moments after Silvestre becomes the third Milan player to be cautioned, Plasil joins him in the book after cynically tugging on the shirt of Kaka.
CONTROVERSY! Kaka's superb through ball sends Balotelli clean through on goal but the striker appears to have his heels clipped by Rolin. The striker certainly goes down dramatically but there was contact. Rolin looks like he got away with that one.
ROLIN TO THE RESCUE! Montolivo miskicks Birsa's cutback straight into the path of Balotelli and the Milan striker looks set to wheel away and celebrate but his goalbound poke is bravely blocked by Rolin. Superb defending from the Uruguayan.
Milan are offering no attacking threat whatsoever in wide areas and Barrientos gets back excellently to prevent Poli from picking his pass. Allegri must be contemplating introducing El Shaarawy if this continues.
GREAT CHANCE FOR NOCERINO! Milan launch their first attack of the second half and Kaka delivers a precise cross towards the edge of the six-yard box but Nocerino fails to make good contact with his header and glances it wide of the post.
Barrientos whips the free kick into the penalty area but it is only half-cleared to the edge of the box, where Castro wildly slices the ball over the bar.
Catania continue to press Milan and they are not allowing their opposition any time to settle on the ball. Monzon pressurises Poli into conceding a foul, much to the delight of the home support.
Milan have achieved three draws and three defeats on their Serie A travels this season. Can they find a winner in the second half to earn them their first away league win of the season and heap further misery on Catania?
Nicola Rizzoli blows his whistle to signal the beginning of the second half and Catania get the game back underway. There have been no substitutions at the break.
HT: CATANIA 1-1 MILAN. Lucas Castro's deflected opener gave the hosts the ideal start on 13 minutes but their lead was short-lived after the Rossoneri equalised through Riccardo Montolivo's brilliant cushioned volley. Milan have dominated possession but they have struggled to create clear cut chances in the final third whilst Catania have looked dangerous on the break, with Daniele Bonera particularly unconvincing in defence. All square in Sicily at the break.
45' + 1'
Luigi De Canio will be pleased at how little Andujar has been tested in this first half despite Milan's pressure and the goalkeeper produces a routine save to deny Birsa's speculative shot from the edge of the box.
Balotelli once again finds himself in a heap on the floor and complains to the referee, who is not interested in his appeals. The Milan striker has been anonymous in this first half.
CATANIA GO CLOSE! Bonera is once again at fault as he is pushed off the ball all too easily by Maxi Lopez. The striker tees up Monzon just outside the box and the Argentine's low fizzed shot is parried by Gabriel but there is no Gli Elefantini shirt following up the rebound.
Milan go in search of the lead before the half-time whistle but Biraghi produces a crucial interception to prevent Balotelli from reaching Nocerino's low cross. The Rossoneri are lacking that creative outlet out wide in this first half. Perhaps El Shaarawy's introduction from the bench will help to stretch the Catania defence.
Milan win a succession of corners but they cannot take advantage as Rolin heads clear from the first delivery before De Jong's attempted chip for Nocerino is well anticipated by Andujar.
Maxi Lopez looks to score against his former club but the Argentine striker is denied by the linesman's flag after being put through by Barrientos' precise through ball. Lopez seems to have caught Gabriel in attempting to get his shot away and the Milan goalkeeper receives some treatment.
Emanuelson has delivered some good crosses from the left in this first half but this time, his attempted diagonal ball for Kaka is overhit and Andujar collects.
Bonera has looked unconvinving alongside Silvestre in the heart of the Milan defence and he sums up his first half performance by sending an easy pass to Emanuelson straight out of play. Allegri will hope to have both Mexes and Zapata available next week.
Tachtsidis steps up to take the free kick and the Catania players scream for a penalty as it seems to strike the arm of Balotelli in the wall. However, the referee is not interested and waves away their appeals.
Yellow Card Matías Silvestre
Matias Silvestre is the second Milan player to be cautioned after he trips Rolin just outside the box. Can Catania test Gabriel here?
GOOD CHANCE FOR MILAN! Montolivo's glorious flicked pass finds Kaka in the box but the Brazilian overcomplicates things and fails to get his shot away. Kaka has been impressive for Milan recently, scoring in their previous two matches, but has fairly quiet so far today.
There is a stoppage in play here as Plasil and Birsa both receive treatment after a well-contested 50:50 challenge. Milan have certainly enjoyed the majority of the possession but Catania do look a threat when going forward. I expect more goals in this one.
Yellow Card Andrea Poli
Andrea Poli picks up the first booking of the game after cynically tugging Fabian Monzon to the floor.
Milan have their tails up here and De Jong unleashes a shot from the edge of the box which blazes high over the crossbar. However, the Rossoneri defence has looked shaky in this opening 23 minutes and Luigi De Canio will be hopeful that his side can take advantage on the counter attack.
After a slow start, this game has sprung into life and Milan nearly complete a quick turnaround. Kaka pokes a neat ball to Balotelli on the left corner of the box and just as the striker looks set to find the far corner, Spolli gets across to make a brilliant sliding interception.
Assist Urby Emanuelson
Goal Riccardo Montolivo
MONTOLIVO EQUALISES FOR MILAN! Catania's lead lasted just six minutes and it is a brilliant finish from the Rossoneri skipper. Urby Emanuelson finds space down the left and his precise cross picks out Montolivo at the back post who cushions a volley expertly past Andujar and into the net. Brilliant technique.
CHANCE FOR CATANIA! Bonera is too casual in possession and finds himself dispossessed by Barrientos about 25 yards from goal. The Argentine attacker looks to fizz a low shot into the bottom corner but it bobbles narrowly wide of the post.
Balotelli is dispossessed easily by the Catania defence and Tachtsidis spots Gabriel off his line but his half-way line effort goes wide of the target. That was certainly ambitious.
Milan look to respond immediately and Montolivo's cross picks out Nocerino on the edge of the box but his acrobatic volley flashes wide of the target. That would have been one of the goals of the season if that went in.
Assist Maxi López
Goal Lucas Castro
CATANIA TAKE THE LEAD! It's the first shot on goal and it is an extremely bizarre one for Milan to concede. Maxi Lopez's cross from the left causes chaos in the Milan box and Lucas Castro capitalises on a slip from Bonera before firing a shot against the back of the defender which loops over the helpless Gabriel and into the net. I think the goalkeeper had that covered had it not hit Bonera. Serie A's bottom side lead.
Balotelli uses his strength to hold off a Catania defender before feeding the ball out wide for Nocerino. Balotelli continues his run into the box but Nocerino's low curled cross is easily intercepted by Peruzzi.
Catania look organised at the back and their quick pressing means that Milan are finding it hard to keep possession in the final third. Neither goalkeeper has been tested so far.
Milan are dominating the possession early on but Emanuelson cannot get past Tachtsidis down the left and a patient build-up breaks down. It's certainly a very narrow Milan midfield this afternoon with Birsa and Kaka tucked behind Balotelli.
Bonera's long diagonal ball picks out the run of Emanuelson down the left but the Dutchman is not awarded the corner after he is flagged offside. Slow start to the game in Sicily.
Balotelli is looking to make his mark early on but he concedes a foul when he barges Catania stand-in captain, Nicolas Spolli, to the floor. I imagine that will be a good battle today.
Barrientos delivers the free kick himself but it is a poor one and Balotelli easily heads the ball clear. Milan have taken only three points from their last five Serie A matches.
Milan get the game underway and De Jong is fortunate to escape an early booking after a crunching mistimed challenge on Barrientos. Good chance for Catania to get the ball in the box from the free kick.
The two sides emerge from the tunnel and receive a good reception from both sets of fans. Nicola Rizzoli is in charge of this match and Milan, in their alternative white strip, will get the game underway.
Milan do have history on their side in this fixture however and did the double over Catania last season. The Rossoneri have not lost to Gli Elefantini in their previous 14 league meetings.
As for Milan, Max Allegri is forced to make three changes to the side which defeated Celtic 3-0 in midweek. Cristian Zapata's suspension means Matias Silvestre comes into the heart of defence whilst Ignazio Abate's injury witnesses Andrea Poli switch to a make-shift right-back role with Antonio Nocerino coming into the midfield. Gabriel replaces Christian Abbiati between the sticks whilst Milan have Alessandro Matri and Stephan El Shaarawy on the bench.
Luigi De Canio makes six changes to the team which were defeated 4-1 by Torino last week. Alexis Rolin, Nicolas Spolli, Gino Peruzzi and Cristiano Biraghi make up an entirely new defence whilst former Milan striker Maxi Lopez is partnered either side by Fabian Monzon and Lucas Barrientos. On-loan Milan youngster Kingsley Boateng joins Gonzalo Bergessio, Giuseppe Bellusci, Mariano Izco and Sergio Almiron on the injury table.
MILAN (4-3-2-1): Gabriel; Poli, Bonera, Silvestre, Emanuelson; Montolivo, De Jong, Nocerino; Birsa, Kaka; Balotelli.
CATANIA (4-3-3): Andujar; Peruzzi, Rolin, Spolli, Biraghi; Plasil, Tachtsidis, Castro; Barrientos, Maxi Lopez, Monzon.
Without further ado, here are the lineups...
Milan have not won in the league for five games, since a 1-0 victory against Udinese on October 19. The win over Celtic in midweek halted a seven-game winless run in all competitions for Allegri's side and he will be expected to make it back-to-back victories against a Catania side with just two league wins all season. Time seems to be running out for Allegri and failure to win here today could signal the end of his Milan tenure.
While Milan's on-field problems have been well documented this season, it is their off-field affairs which have taken centre-stage this week. Milan CEO Adriano Galliani had announced his intention to step down after 27 years earlier this week but that was rejected by president Silvio Berlusconi, who assured Rossoneri fans that Galliani will stay at the club for the foreseeable future.
It's relegation candidates vs. underachievers in the early Sunday Serie A kickoff as Catania and Milan both go in desperate search of a valuable three points. Catania currently sit at the foot of the table with just nine points from 13 games, whilst Massimiliano Allegri's Milan occupy 13th position, 20 points off leaders Juventus and just four points above the relegation zone. The pressure is really on Allegri to reverse the Rossoneri's domestic fortunes and he will hope to build on the 3-0 UEFA Champions League win over Celtic in midweek. Bringing you all the action from the Stadio Angelo Massimino, my name is Max Bentley.
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