Balotelli scores another late penalty in Milan draw
MILAN - Maverick forward Mario Balotelli's impressive return to Serie A continued when he scored a late penalty for the second straight game on Sunday to give new club AC Milan a 1-1 draw at Cagliari.
The Italy forward won the penalty after being pulled down by Davide Astori and sent Michael Agazzi the wrong way to make it three goals in two games for fifth-placed Milan since his move from Manchester City.
Astori, already booked for a previous foul on Balotelli, was sent off as Cagliari faded in the second half after dominating the opening 45 minutes and taking the lead with a Victor Ibarbo header.
Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri described his team's result as "a useful point against a good team."
"Today, we had four players on the pitch who were born in 1992," he added.
Palermo and AS Roma, who fired their coaches after losing their previous games, failed to win, but Inter Milan beat Chievo 3-1 to ease the pressure on coach Andrea Stramaccioni.
Pablo Osvaldo missed a penalty for Roma in their 3-1 defeat at Sampdoria as they remained winless in the league in 2013.
Juventus, who beat Fiorentina 2-0 on Saturday, are top with 55 points, five clear of Napoli who drew 1-1 at third-placed Lazio, also on Saturday.
Lazio are a further six points behind in third and only one ahead of Inter.
Palermo stayed level on points at the bottom with Siena after drawing 1-1 with Pescara, who are also in the relegation zone.
Alberto Malesani, taking over as Palermo's third coach of the season following the dismissal of Gian Piero Gasperini, saw his side fall behind to a 73rd-minute header by Birkir Bjarnason.
Diego Fabbrini, signed on loan from Udinese in January, levelled in the 80th minute for the Sicilians who have 18 points from 24 games, three behind Pescara who are 18th in the 20-team table.
Paraguay midfielder Marcelo Estigarribia gave Sampdoria the lead against Roma in the 55th minute as Aurelio Andreazzoli moved into the hot seat on an interim basis following the dismissal of Zdenek Zeman.
Osvaldo then won a penalty for Roma, insisted on taking it despite protests from the usual taker Francesco Totti and weakly sent it into the arms of Sergio Romero.
That was followed by three goals in five minutes as Gianluca Sansone curled in a free kick for Sampdoria, Erik Lamela volleyed one back and 19-year-old Argentine Mauro Icardi restored the two-goal lead with a header.
Diego Milito scored his first goal of the year early in the second half to complete Inter's win over Chievo.
Antonio Cassano, overlooked by Italy since Euro 2012, gave Inter a second-minute lead, helped by a blunder from Chievo goalkeeper Cristian Puggioni.
Luca Rigoni leveled in the 21st minute after being left unmarked to head in but Inter, who had won only one of their last seven league games, quickly re-gained the lead when Andrea Ranocchia headed in from a corner.
Siena drew 1-1 at Bologna after going ahead through Switzerland midfielder Innocent Emeghara. Panagiotis Kone replied for 15th placed-Bologna, both goals coming in an eight-minute spell before halftime.
Genoa's point from their 0-0 draw at Parma kept them one point clear of the danger zone in 17th place.
Milan's match finally went ahead at the Sardinian club's Is Arena after being switched to Turin on safety grounds and then back to Cagliari last week.
The hosts had the better of the first half and went ahead when Colombia forward Ibarbo headed in from a free kick.
Milan took control in the second half and a goal was on the cards, finally arriving immediately after Agazzi kept out Robinho's shot with his foot and Balotelli was fouled as he tried to head in the rebound.
Balotelli scored a controversial penalty deep into stoppage time in the 2-1 win over Udinese one week ago but this time the decision was more clearcut as Astori bundled him over, although the hosts still protested energetically.
Balotelli was then denied an injury-time winner when Agazzi brilliantly kept out his header, earning a congratulatory pat on the back from the fiery 22-year-old. (Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne; editing by Pritha Sarkar and Alison Wildey)