A man down and trailing 1-0 at AC Siena with ACF Fiorentina's victory against Pescara Calcio pushing them down into fourth in Serie A, AC Milan stole a UEFA Champions League play-off berth in dramatic style with two goals in the last six minutes on Sunday. "We deserved it," said coach Massimiliano Allegri.
Milan fell behind in their final league fixture of the season as Claudio Terzi converted from an Alessandro Rosina free-kick after 24 minutes, and things got worse when captain Massimo Ambrosini was dismissed halfway through the second half. At that point, with Fiorentina winning 5-0 at Pescara, third place seemed destined to elude them, but after Siena's Christian Terlizzi was dismissed, Allegri's side responded. Mario Balotelli converted a penalty with six minutes left, then Philippe Mexès completed the comeback for the seven-time European champions.
"I think that this season has been quite tough for everybody here, but in the end we showed our mental strength," said Mexès, who would have been substituted before his goal had Ignazio Abate not got injured. "During the break, I just wanted to stay by myself and think about something else because there was so much tension in the dressing room that you can't even imagine. I think we should all give the credit to Allegri for what we did."
Milan vice-president Adriano Galliano also gave the coach credit. "In the last three years under him, we have picked up more points than Juventus, even if they won the Scudetto twice," he said. "Everybody is saying that we scored a last-gasp goal tonight, and you know, it could have really been the last breath for me. We have been third for the last three months, but all of a sudden we were losing that precious position... Luckily we found those two goals."
Milan's joy was matched only by Fiorentina's disappointment, even though coach Vincenzo Montella kept his chin up as they prepare for the UEFA Europa League play-off round. "We shouldn't be sad," said the former AS Roma and Italy striker, 38. "We can go on our holidays feeling calm, happy and proud, because we fought until the end, and we also believed we could do it. Our duel with Milan has been such a fascinating one that it caught the imagination of the supporters of other teams too."
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