DCSIMG

AC Milan on brink ahead of Celtic game

Mario Balotelli reflects the frustrations of his struggling team as AC Milan toiled to a 11 draw with Genoa on Saturday. Picture: Reuters

Mario Balotelli reflects the frustrations of his struggling team as AC Milan toiled to a 11 draw with Genoa on Saturday. Picture: Reuters

  • by MASSIMO MARZOCCHI
 

AC MILAN will arrive in Glasgow today in disarray ahead of tomorrow night’s potentially decisive Group H Champions League clash with Celtic.

Saturday’s 1-1 Serie A draw at home to ten-man Genoa was Milan’s seventh straight game in all competitions without a win and left them sitting 11th in the table – just five points off the relegation zone.

The latest poor display proved too much for their supporters, with around 300 of the notorious Milan “Ultras” blocking the players’ exit from the San Siro after the game and refusing to leave until players Kaka and Christian Abbiati emerged to issue an apology for the alarming run of form.

During the game, home supporters maintained a series of chants against their team, singing “Shame on you”, “We’re waiting for you with sticks”.

One fan said afterwards: “These brats don’t know what sacrifice is. Their bank accounts are full while people like us work for them.”

Mario Balotelli, who missed a 36th-minute penalty, was singled out for insults and the former Manchester City striker later took to Twitter to tweet “this is the end” in English at around 5am local time.

Six hours later he sent out another tweet in Italian which read: “Forza Milan comunque e sempre.” (“Go on Milan, no matter how and forever”). Balotelli famously wore a T-shirt with the words “Why always me?” during his days in England with City, which were marked by a series of controversies.

The Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper speculated that he could have been referring to a possible transfer in the January window or that he was hinting that Milan’s beleaguered coach Massimiliano Allegri could be facing the sack.

Allegri attempted to put a brave face on the situation, looking for positives from the performance. He said: “We had loads of chances, missed a penalty and they scored with their only shot. We have to be more clinical in front of goal.

“Even when it was 11 v 11 we were always on the front foot but we weren’t rewarded.

“We have to give something extra at the moment. There’s a lot of work to do and you need patience. The fans have to stay behind us and together we’ll get out of this situation.”

However, club chief executive Adriano Galliani did little to lift Balotelli’s spirits by citing his penalty miss as the key moment of the game.

It was only the second time in the striker’s career that he has failed to score from the spot, but both misses have come this season and Galliani said: “Balotelli’s missed penalty was the key. If he had scored we would have won.”

Brazilian Kaka had put Milan in front with a fourth-minute goal, the Brazilian beautifully bringing down Nigel De Jong’s long pass as he burst into the area and, without breaking stride, sweeping home an ice-cool finish.

However, Alberto Gilardino equalised from the spot for Genoa after Urby Emanuelson clumsily brought down Sime Vrsaljko four minutes later.

Not even Thomas Manfredini being sent off for fouling Balotelli for the penalty which the forward subsequently missed could help Milan as they wasted a series of chances.

They will go into tomorrow’s match at Celtic Park under enormous pressure to ensure qualification from their group. With Barcelona five points clear at the top, Milan currently lie second on five points, but Ajax are just a point behind and Celtic two further back – meaning any one of those three teams could still secure second place in the group.

Celtic manager Neil Lennon, though, is unlikely to focus on the troubles of his opponents.

However, he will have taken heart from his own side’s performance during their 2-0 defeat at the San Siro in September and said that Saturday’s 3-1 victory against Aberdeen, in which they scored two goals in the last minute, would give them “a massive lift”.

 

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