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Saturday, 28 February 2015, 19:45

Italian Serie A

Allegri praises cool Mario

AC Milan head coach Massimiliano Allegri praised Mario Balotelli for rising above a hostile reception from Inter Milan fans to play a key role in Sunday night's derby clash.

Last Updated: 25/02/13 at 13:10 Post Comment

Mario Balotelli: Praised by Allegri

Mario Balotelli: Praised by Allegri

The points were shared at the San Siro as Italy striker Balotelli faced his former club for the first time since leaving for Manchester City in 2010, with an Ezequiel Schelotto header cancelling out Stephan El Shaarawy's cool opener for Milan.

There were certainly hearty whistles and boos for 22-year-old Balotelli, but reports in Italy suggested fans had also directed racist abuse at the striker, who enjoyed at least three solid chances on goal only to come up against inspired Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic.

Allegri, whose side remain one point better off than their city rivals, told acmilan.com: "I'm happy with the players and let's not forget that Balotelli is only 22 years old.

"This was the first time that he played against his former team, the team where he grew up as a player.

"It's normal that he would be under a bit of pressure for this match. He did well not to react to any of the provocations on the pitch.

"I'm happy with his performance but a bit disappointed as he could have scored but didn't."

Allegri's assistant Mauro Tassotti was banished from the bench as tensions frayed in the second half and he cut a frustrated figure from the stands as Milan were forced to settle for a single point.

"When you take the lead as we did, a draw leaves a bitter taste in the mouth," he said.

"Balotelli had three goalscoring chances and it was a very special match for a player of his age. Basically all the goalscoring chances fell to him.

"He's an outstanding forward but you can't demand that he scores in every game that he plays."

Defender Cristian Zapata echoed his coaches' words concerning his new team-mate.

He said: "It was a really special game for Balotelli as the whistles from the fans were loud but he's a real champion and he'll be back.

"Lazio are the next visitors to the San Siro and we have to make sure we get all three points against them."

Inter head coach Andrea Stramaccioni, meanwhile, was not too disappointed to see a run of three straight derby wins snapped as the draw kept his side in touch with the Champions League places and ahead of the chasing pack.

"I think a draw was the fair result in the end," he told inter.it. "AC Milan were superb in the first half but we were determined to get ourselves back into it and we ended the game stronger.

"I have to thank Handanovic for his brilliant saves as well."

Having been under the cosh for 45 minutes Inter raised their game and Stramaccioni saw signs his players have learned their lesson from a humbling 4-1 defeat at Fiorentina.

He added: "The most unfair criticism is that which has been aimed at the players.

"It's right that I should come in for some flak because I'm a young coach and something of a novice but the players aren't.

"Lazio lost badly the day after our defeat in Florence but theirs was seen as a slip-up, whereas in our case it was described as a tragedy, people saying our players have run out of steam... and so on.

"But as it turned out, Inter held their own against an AC Milan side in world-class form."

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