Pazzo brace helps Milan see off rivals Lazio

Posted by Sumeet Paul

Milan took another big step in their relentless chase of third place with a 3-0 win over Lazio at San Siro on Saturday night. With the Biancocelesti reduced to ten-men early in the first half, the Rossoneri eased to victory thanks in large part to a brace from Giampaolo Pazzini.

- Video: AC Milan 3-0 Lazio (UK & Ireland)

In a game that was billed as decisive in the race for Champions League football, Milan fully deserved all three points. Andrea Candreva's early dismissal perhaps ruined the game as a spectacle, but it was clear Massimiliano Allegri had sent his players out on a mission from the start.

Stephan El Shaarawy revelled in taking centre stage again in the absence of the injured Mario Balotelli, as he put in a performance reminiscent of his early season form.

Constantly marauding down the left wing and unlucky to not have added to his scoring tally, he undoubtedly raised his game after Allegri called upon him to produce in his pre-game press conference.

Despite his critics, Pazzini also delivered after being given the envious task of replacing Balotelli in the starting line-up. Not only scoring his 12th and 13th goals of the season, he played a part in Kevin-Prince Boateng's goal, and generally impressed with his performance.

No longer guaranteed to be a starter following the arrival of 'Super Mario', Pazzini continues to show his importance to this squad. Capable of stepping in whether from the bench during a game or due to injuries, he remains a goal threat and demonstrated it perfectly with his poacher-like first goal, before unleashing a long-range shot for his second.

There were notable performances all across the pitch, including what is becoming a fairly normal occurrence with Mattia De Sciglio producing another solid display. Both Silvio Berlusconi and Adriano Galliani were reportedly delighted with him after the game, and it will be difficult to leave him out next week should Kevin Constant return.

Collectively Milan did more than enough to deserve all three points and will hope to carry their momentum forward.

With victory on Saturday night, Milan moved a point clear of Lazio while also doing little harm to their head-to-head record with the capital club following the 3-2 defeat in Rome last year.

Inter, Fiorentina and the rest of the chasing pack play on Sunday hoping to close the gap to third, but the Rossoneri look confident and there is a real togetherness in the squad judging from the various reactions at the full-time whistle.

Naturally there will be some glancing up the table now as Milan extended their unbeaten run this calendar year to nine league games. Napoli are just five points ahead in second place, with the two sides set to meet at San Siro next month.

Looking ahead at the fixture list though, the Rossoneri face Fiorentina, Napoli and then Juventus over a three-week period in April, which will provide us all with answers as to where the season will be heading.

However, for now the focus will be on Genoa next Friday and getting the squad back to full health. Balotelli will likely return next week, while it is hoped the issues that forced Cristian Zapata off at half-time aren't serious.

"The lads deserve to be in third place, as they are playing pretty well. We've got to concentrate on achieving this objective and next Friday we'll go into a very tough game away to Genoa. At the moment we are more balanced and organised, which makes it more likely we will win," Allegri said after the game.

Whether it was decisive or not will become clearer further down the final stretch of the season, but Milan looked confident, solid and hungry to achieve more.

Who was your man of the match against Lazio? Has Pazzini shown enough so far this season to suggest he will continue to be an integral part of the squad?

For all the latest Milan and Serie A news, you can follow me on Twitter @italiafooty

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