Pazzini rescues Milan to preserve advantage

Posted by Sumeet Paul

Claudio Villa/Getty ImagesTwo for brace? V for victory? Either interpretation works for this gesture by Milan's Giampaolo Pazzini in the win over Catania.

For a time, it looked as though the dark days of the early months of the season had returned, as Milan trailed at home with their Champions League aspirations at risk.

Yet a brace from substitute Giampaolo Pazzini helped turn things around and seal a 4-2 win over Catania on Sunday night at San Siro.

- Video: AC Milan 4-2 Catania (UK, Ire)

For all their endeavour and promise going forward, the Rossoneri were left to rue defensive lapses that could well have cost them. Rivals Fiorentina had secured all three points against Sampdoria earlier in the day, shifting the pressure firmly on Massimiliano Allegri to find a way to deliver.

Conceding from yet another set piece and then later failing to deal with a swift counter-attack laid bare the flaws that still haunt this Milan defence, and it undoubtedly needs addressing in the summer.

However, the more immediate concern will be to build on this confidence-boosting result and preserve the slender one-point lead over the Viola.

A defeat on Sunday would have come as a crushing blow, handing the initiative to Vincenzo Montella's men as they are seemingly hitting their stride at just the right time.

However, for all the criticism that he receives, Allegri should be lauded for his switch in bringing on Pazzini, who demonstrated yet again his habit of being in the right place at the right time.

For a player much-maligned in certain quarters, 'Pazzo' now has 15 league goals this season and has proven to be an astute acquisition who complements the other players in the squad.

Granted, he is perhaps more effective off the bench, but his attributes add a different dimension to the Milan front line and he has proven to be an integral part of the squad over the course of the season.

Mario Balotelli returned to action as well as the score-sheet with his late penalty, taking his tally to eight goals in nine games for the Rossoneri.

However, his post-match comments made for interesting reading. Balotelli not only addressed the unfair treatment he believes he receives from the officials, but also echoed the thoughts of the Curva Sud who displayed a banner prior to kick-off asking for "More respect for our Coach".

“We knew we had to win this game. We conceded two stupid goals, but reacted as only a great team can,” he told Sky Sport Italia.

“Allegri is a great manager and I hope that he will stay here for a long time to come. I think we can get the Champions League place, even if you never know in football,” he added.

It appears Balotelli is growing tired of being consistently penalised, albeit for unacceptable behaviour, but actions for which other players don't seem to receive punishment.

However, the questions surrounding the future of Allegri remain an unwanted distraction. The man at the centre of the speculation thanked the fans for their support, while refusing to comment on rumours suggesting Clarence Seedorf is wanted as a replacement.

Allegri has dealt with it in the correct matter, repeatedly stating that his only focus is on finishing in third place. It would be welcome if all concerned would share that sentiment, as the battle for Champions League football continues.

With Torino next to visit San Siro while Fiorentina host Roma, Milan will prepare for next weekend with their point buffer still intact thanks to super sub Pazzini.

What did you make of Sunday’s win? Agree with the Curva Sud that Allegri deserves more respect? Is Balotelli unfairly treated by the officials?

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

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