MILAN, Italy - Mario Balotelli hit a 25-metre rocket to secure a late 1-0 win for AC Milan at home to Bologna yesterday and boost flagging morale ahead of a crucial week for the struggling Serie A giants.
Milan coach Clarence Seedorf had 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 witnessed a mediocre display against a Bologna side who 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 Japanese 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 Italian striker in tears on the substitutes' bench — days after a DNA test confirmed he was the father of a year-old 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.
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, to host Chievo on Sunday, hold a nine-point lead over Roma, who have a game in hand, ahead of their Sunday meeting with Sampdoria.