Serie A: Milan 1 Torino 0
Mario Balotelli's late goal cemented AC Milan's hold on third place in Serie A as they beat Torino 1-0 at San Siro on Sunday.
Fiorentina went down to Roma at the hands of a late Osvaldo header on Saturday, which gave Massimiliano Allegri's side a great chance to move closer to sealing the last UEFA Champions League spot.
The visitors had the best opportunities of the match through Udinese loanee Paulo Barreto, but Milan snatched victory six minutes from time.
Milan were without Ricardo Montolivo after the midfielder picked up a hamstring injury in training, while Giampaolo Pazzini missed out on a starting berth despite grabbing a brace against Catania last Sunday.
Giuseppe Vives and Matteo Darmian returned for Torino after serving suspensions and coach Giampiero Ventura opted to rest strikers Rolando Bianchi and Riccardo Meggiorini.
The visitors had a great early chance after Alessio Cerci was given a free run at goal, but the midfielder’s curled effort was too close to goalkeeper Christian Abbiati.
Jean-Francois Gillet could only parry a shot from Sulley Muntari as Milan responded, but the Belgian keeper redeemed himself by keeping out Mario Balotelli with a fine double save.
Paulo Barreto should have put the visitors ahead in the 15th minute when he raced clean through on goal, but the Brazilian striker hesitated and ended up hitting his shot straight at Abbiati.
Milan were wasteful in possession during the opening 30 minutes and Kevin Prince-Boateng missed a header when completely unmarked inside the six-yard box.
Stephan El Shaarawy saw a shot deflected behind by Vives and Philippe Mexes almost headed in the resulting Balotelli corner as the hosts tried to impose themselves on the game.
There were chances at either end shortly before half-time as Cerci fired wide from an acute angle and Gillet kept out a driven shot from Boateng, before Balotelli failed to connect with a cross at the far post.
Torino keeper Gillet gifted El Shaarawy a chance in the second-half after he failed to deal with a deep cross from the right.
However, the Italian forward could not take advantage of the mistake, before he had to make way for substitute Pazzini.
Torino’s Barreto missed another glorious opportunity to break the deadlock as his volley from Cerci’s pinpoint cross somehow bounced up and over the Milan bar in the 65th minute.
Pazzini scored from two rebounds last weekend and almost struck again, but Gillet managed to recover after he spilled a speculative long-range effort from Balotelli.
The game remained level heading into the final 15 minutes as Milan struggled to create any clear-cut chances and the visitors failed to find the net when they had an opportunity to do so.
Torino centre-back Valerio Di Cesare scuffed a shot wide of the post with only Abbiati to beat, when a striker would have been much more likely to find the net in his position.
Robinho was introduced for the last ten minutes of the game and almost immediately found the net with a low shot, which Gillet got down well to stop.
The deadlock was finally broken in the 84th minute when Mexes’ great header back across the face of goal was tapped home by Balotelli, who picked up a yellow card for his celebration.
The win increased Milan’s lead over fourth-placed Fiorentina to four points heading into the final three league fixtures.