Balotelli bags brace but Milan held at Livorno
AC Milan Mario Balotelli greets the fans at the end of the Serie A football match against Livorno at the Armando Picchi stadium in Livorno on December 7, 2013. The match ended 2-2 draw
Balotelli had opened the scoring in the eighth minute with a cheeky but fortuitous flick at the back post following Kaka's inviting ball across the face of goal.
However Livorno, the home town of Massimiliano Allegri, were in no mood to honour the Milan coach's 200th game in Serie A and were soon back level and pushing for the win.
Davide Nicola's men equalised on 26 minutes when Luca Siligardi fired in a fierce curler that bounced just in front of Milan 'keeper Gabriel to end up in the far bottom corner.
Balotelli missed a scoring chance shortly after the interval and, as Milan switched tactics to press for the lead -- midfielder Antonio Nocerino making way for striker M'Baye Niang -- Livorno sighted the breakthrough.
Milan's defence had been guilty of leaving space at the back all too often and when Paulinho collected a weighted through-ball from midfield the striker outpaced Cristian Zapata with ease to beat Gabriel at his near post in the 58th minute.
Livorno's hopes of holding on for their first win against Milan since January 2005 were kept in check when a Balotelli free-kick from 25 metres left 'keeper Francesco Bardi with no chance in the Livorno net with seven minutes to play.
Balotelli had ended a two-month goal drought in the league only last week and almost had his third two minutes from time but the striker saw a stunning, looping drive smack off the crossbar with Bardi beaten.
Milan's sixth draw of the campaign left them in eighth place but in danger of being overtaken by three teams -- Lazio, Parma and Atalanta -- who are only a point adrift ahead of their games away to Torino, Inter and Verona respectively.
Torino and Udinese are two points back and can also overtake the Serie A giants with wins against Lazio and Napoli respectively.
Milan host Ajax on Wednesday hoping to beat the Dutch giants to second spot in Group H and book their place in the last 16 of the Champions League.