Football: Super-Mario strikes to seal Milan win over Bologna

AC Milan's Mario Balotelli shoots to score against Bologna during their Italian Serie A soccer match at San Siro Stadium in Milan February 14, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
AC Milan's Mario Balotelli shoots to score against Bologna during their Italian Serie A soccer match at San Siro Stadium in Milan February 14, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

MILAN (AFP) - Mario Balotelli hit a 25-metre rocket to secure a late 1-0 win for Milan at home to Bologna and boost flagging morale ahead of a crucial week for the struggling Serie A giants.

Milan coach Clarence Seedorf has been under scrutiny and was looking for a morale-boosting performance ahead of the visit of Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 clash on Wednesday.

Instead, the 37-year-old Dutchman was witness to a mediocre display against a Bologna side that defended in numbers and came close to breaking the deadlock several times at the end of counter-attacking moves.

Seedorf eventually opted to shake things up when he replaced Japan international forward Keisuke Honda with striker Giampaolo Pazzini, who added some extra fizz to Milan's flat attack when he came on 20 minutes into the second half.

Pazzini had replaced Balotelli in last week's 3-1 defeat to Napoli which left the Italy striker in tears on the substitutes' bench - days after a DNA test confirmed he was the father of a year-old baby girl, Pia, born to a former girlfriend.

The energetic striker came close to helping Milan break the deadlock when he crossed for Kaka as the Brazilian burst into a crowded area, only to stumble into the goal as the ball was cleared to safety.

But four minutes from time Milan captain Riccardo Montolivo spotted Balotelli in space and the striker had time to look up and see Gianluca Curci off his line before hitting a rocket that the 'keeper scrambled in vain to keep out the net.

Seedorf's third win in five games as Milan coach moved the Rossoneri up one place to 10th ahead of the rest of the weekend games.

Champions Juventus, who host Chievo on Sunday, hold a nine-point lead over Roma, who have a game in hand, ahead of their Sunday meeting with Sampdoria.

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