Balotelli scores double as Milan held to draw

Mario Balotelli opened and closed the scoring in a 2-2 draw at Livorno that did nothing to shake AC Milan out of their mid-table malaise.

Mario Balotelli of AC Milan celebrates after scori

The Italy striker saw his clumsy first goal cancelled out by Luca Siligardi as Livorno snapped their three-game scoring drought, and the struggling Tuscans moved towards taking a valuable win when Paulinho completed the turnaround shortly before the hour mark.

Balotelli would, however, spare the Rossoneri from the embarrassment of suffering a sixth Serie A loss of the season with a powerful free-kick in the last 10 minutes.

The point - Livorno's first since November 3 - leaves Milan in eighth place ahead of a full weekend of league games that could see them dragged back into the bottom half of the table by other teams.

It was hardly the confidence-boosting result Milan needed before a crucial Champions League showdown with Ajax.

Balotelli wasted no time practising his aim at the Stadio Armando Picchi.

Seven minutes were on the clock when Kaka fed the Italy international from the left wing and, although he failed to connect properly with the ball, he would fumble it past Francesco Bardi.

Livorno pushed back and Federico Ceccherini was unlucky to nod over the bar from Alfred Duncan's cross before Paulinho sent an angled drive wide.

Moments after Kaka saw his right-footed volley deflected wide, Emerson sent Gabriel sprawling across the Milan goalmouth with a classy shot on the turn.

The Rossoneri goalkeeper did not heed the warning and was picking the ball out of his net in the 26th minute.

He should have done so much better when Siligardi appeared on the edge of the box to hook a slow-moving effort home at the far post.

The Tuscans fancied a second to turn the game around but would not find it despite Paulinho dazzling with a backheeled through-ball in the 33rd minute.

Duncan latched onto the pass, only to make a complete hash of his finish from a clear scoring position.

Bardi had to be at his best to keep Milan out when play resumed, the young keeper first absorbing Antonio Nocerino's shot before pulling off a sensational save on Balotelli.

The former Manchester City striker loped into the area and let rip with a fierce drive but Bardi's hand somehow got in the way.

Livorno celebrated that moment and were even happier in the 58th minute.

A defensive mix-up from Milan allowed Paulinho free reign to pick his spot past Gabriel and the Amaranto were on course to claim a famous victory.

Bardi earned his wages once again as Milan pushed for an equaliser, blocking a close-range header from Cristian Zapata before shepherding Mbaye Niang out of striking range.

Siligardi will have wished he took his chance to push Livorno further clear in the 75th minute, but he put too much power behind an angled drive from the right.

In the 83rd minute, Milan equalised through a familiar source.

There were nervous glances between Livorno's players when Milan won a free-kick in Balotelli range and the mercurial forward did not disappoint, steering an unstoppable curler past the flailing Bardi.

He found time to further entertain the crowd before the final whistle, clattering the crossbar from an improbable angle.

As nice as it looked, Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri was left to rue the fact his strikers had failed to earn all three points on the west coast.

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