'Inter' fan Cassano puts boot into 10-man Milan
Parma's forward Antonio Cassano celebrates after scoring a penalty during the Serie A football match between AC Milan and Parma at San Siro Stadium in Milan on March 16, 2014 - by Giuseppe Cacace
After two consecutive defeats the pressure was on Milan coach Clarence Seedorf, who in midweek was forced to deny he had had harsh words for misfiring striker Mario Balotelli.
But despite the misfortune of seeing 'keeper Christian Abbiati sent off inside 10 minutes for a foul on Ezequiel Schelotto, the burden on the 37-year-old Dutchman is already weighing heavier.
Dozens of angry fans congregated outside Milan's shared San Siro ground to protest, some of whom got to meet the Milan coach to express their frustrations.
"It's a very delicate situation but it was a peaceful meeting and the fans who are close to the club have every right to express their feelings, before, during and after the match," Seedorf told Sky Italia.
Seedorf, who earlier this week complained he had inherited an "ailing" team from previous coach Massimiliano Allegri, who was sacked in January, saw his side crash out of the Champions League after a 5-1 aggregate reverse to Atletico Madrid last week.
Milan's third league defeat in succession left the Italian giants 37 points behind leaders Juventus and now 11 behind Parma, who occupy the first Europa League spot in fifth.
While Juve continue their charge towards a third consecutive scudetto -- they hold a 14-point lead on Roma, who have a game in hand, before their respective games later -- the battle for European places is well and truly on.
Parma now have a one-point lead on Fiorentina as well as a game in hand, although Fiorentina can reclaim fifth spot with a win at home to Chievo later on Sunday.
Having tempered the jeers of Milan's fans with the joy of scoring his 10th and 11th goals of the season, Cassano said he would welcome a shock call-up to Cesare Prandelli's Italy squad for the World Cup.
"I've never played at the World Cup before, so it would be wonderful," said Cassano, who has lost several kilos this season to produce some solid form for Roberto Donadoni's side.
But when pressed about the verbal abuse to which he was subject at the San Siro, Cassano twisted the knife against his former club.
"I'm an Inter fan, I'm proud of it and besides I don't care a damn," Cassano told Sky Sport Italia.
Inter on Saturday crept up to fourth place with a 2-0 away win at Verona thanks to goals from Rodrigo Palacio and Jonathan.
It was three wins on the trot for Walter Mazzarri's side and the former Napoli handler said: "This is the improvement in quality that we've been looking for and what I've tried to instill in the lads.
"We should be playing like this all the time. Now let's look forward to that and see how we end up at the end of the season."
Elsewhere Sunday, Lazio maintained their hopes of Europa League football with a 2-0 away win at Cagliari which kept the capital side five points behind Parma in seventh.
Cagliari had little to offer but after seeing Senad Lulic and Keita Balde score in either half, Lazio coach Edy Reja said: "We put in a great performance, I've seen some improvement again.
"It will help us make up for last week's defeat (1-0) to Atalanta, without which we would have been even closer to the Europa League."
Relegation-threatened Livorno had two men sent off but survived to beat Bologna 2-1 at home and move one point clear of the relegation zone.
In another bottom-of-the-table clash Sassuolo beat Catania 3-1 to send the Sicilians back to the bottom.
Fiorentina host Chievo and Juve travel to Genoa in Sunday's late games while Napoli, in third, are away to Torino on Monday, when Roma host Udinese.