Italy: Mario Balotelli leads AC Milan closer to Champions League
Mario Balotelli scored twice to help AC Milan beat already-relegated Pescara 4-0 in Serie A on Wednesday and leave it on the verge of qualifying for next year's Champions League.
Milan remained four points clear of Fiorentina, which beat relegation-threatened Siena 1-0, in the fight for third spot and a place in the Champions League qualifying round. Napoli mathematically secured second place and an automatic entry into Europe's elite with a 3-0 victory over Bologna.
"There are two games left after today's win and we have to manage our advantage,'' Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri said. "We need three points, we have a good chance, but anything can happen in football so we need to remain focused to reach our goal.''
Balotelli scored from the spot in the ninth minute after Uros Cosic tripped Antonio Nocerino.
The Italy striker has never missed a penalty in his professional career and he fired into the bottom right corner for his 22nd from the spot.
Sulley Muntari doubled Milan's lead after half an hour, running unmarked into the area to volley in Robinho's cross.
Robinho also created Milan's third five minutes after halftime, snatching the ball after Luciano Zauri slipped and crossing in for Mathieu Flamini to score from close range.
Flamini has four goals in a month. The French midfielder had scored three in his previous four seasons at Milan.
Balotelli, who hit the crossbar in the opening two minutes, added a fourth shortly before the hour mark, controlling Flamini's pass before swiveling and firing in for his 11th goal in 11 games since joining Milan.
Napoli was seven points clear of Milan and, with two games remaining, can't be caught.
"It's the norm for Napoli to be back in the Champions League,'' Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis said. "I thank the fans, so many of them were here too, and I thank the coach.''
Marek Hamsik broke the deadlock in the 53rd and Edinson Cavani doubled Napoli's lead from the spot after he was brought down by Bologna goalkeeper Dejan Stojanovic.
Goran Pandev sealed the result following more good work from Cavani.
Gonzalo Rodriguez's goal kept alive Fiorentina's slim hopes of finishing third.
Inter Milan's chances of snatching a Europa League spot are all but over after it lost 3-1 at home to direct rival Lazio.
Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic gifted Lazio the lead when he mistimed his attempt to punch clear Antonio Candreva's cross, clashing with Sergio Floccari and Juan Jesus, and the ball ended in the back of the net.
Ricky Alvarez headed Inter level but Lazio restored its lead in first-half stoppage time when Andrea Ranocchia brought down Sergio Floccari and Hernanes converted the resulting penalty.
Inter was awarded a penalty of its own when Lorik Cana fouled Fredy Guarin, but Alvarez slipped as he took the spot kick and blasted over the bar.
Ogenyi Onazi scored a stunning third for Lazio, from 30 yards.
Lazio moved level on points with Roma, two points behind Udinese, which beat struggling Palermo 3-2.
Luis Muriel, Gabriele Angella and Mehdi Benatia scored for Udinese, with the winner coming following a howler from Palermo goalkeeper Stefano Sorrentino.
Palermo twice leveled through a Fabrizio Miccoli penalty and a stunning, long-range Abel Hernandez strike.
Udinese captain Antonio Di Natale also missed a penalty.
Palermo was four points from safety after Torino drew 0-0 against Genoa. Siena was two points further back but has a better head-to-head record against Genoa.
Newly crowned champion Juventus showed no hangover from Sunday's title celebrations as it won 1-0 at Atalanta.
Alessandro Matri raced clear in the 18th minute to bring down Andrea Pirlo's long ball and lob the goalkeeper.
The match was suspended for about five minutes, with the fans throwing fireworks at each other. Antonio Conte and the Atalanta players went to ask their respective sets of fans to stop.
Sampdoria drew 1-1 against Catania. Parma beat Cagliari 1-0.
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