Mario Balotelli helps rescue AC Milan Champions League place

Mario Balotelli

Mario Balotelli's late penalty helped rescue AC Milan as they came within three minutes of missing out on a place in next season's Champions League.

The seven-time European champions began the day in Serie A's final qualification spot, with Fiorentina two points behind.

Milan were 1-0 down at Siena - with Fiorentina 5-1 up at Pescara - when Balotelli scored on 84 minutes.

And Philippe Mexes made it 2-1 three minutes later as Milan finished third.

Milan's relieved players celebrate at full-time
Milan's relieved players celebrate at full-time

The Rossoneri had not missed out on a place in the Champions League since the 2007-08 season but they looked certain to be playing in the Europa League as they toiled against Siena, who took a 25th-minute lead through Claudio Terzi.

Milan's prospects seemed bleaker still when captain Massimo Ambrosini was sent off with 21 minutes remaining, though Siena defender Christian Terlizzi followed him off the field a minute later.

But Massimiliano Allegri's side rallied, former Manchester City striker Balotelli converting from the spot after being fouled, then Mexes bundling home from close range after his initial shot was blocked.

Milan were 15th in October after a slow start to the season but have lost only three league matches since then.

"It was normal to be a little tired, above all psychologically, after this incredible fightback from a poor start to the campaign,'" Allegri said. ``Tonight we ran into a great goalkeeper and hit the woodwork, while we were a little too hasty and felt the tension of the occasion.

"I want to thank the players and the fans, who deserved a night like this.

"We finished the season the way we started, with suffering and difficulty."

Milan's city rivals Inter already knew before the final round of matches that they could not qualify for either European competition next season.

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