Milan leave stadium after players meet angry 'ultras'
MILAN - Agence France-Presse
AC Milan's forward Mario Balotelli fights for the ball with Genoa's defender Thomas Manfredini (L) during the Serie A football match between AC Milan and Genoa at San Siro Stadium in Milan on November 23, 2013. AFP photoAn angry protest launched by hardline "ultra" fans finally ended outside AC Milan's San Siro stadium on Saturday nearly two hours after a 1-1 draw with Genoa, but only after demands to speak to players had been met.
Milan have endured a disastrous start to the campaign for the second successive season and had targeted a win against Genoa to end a run of four games without a win that has left the Serie A giants in the second half of the table.
But despite Genoa being reduced to 10 men just after the half hour when Thomas Manfredini was sent off for a foul on Mario Balotelli in the box, Milan failed to capitalise.
Italy striker Balotelli, who has not scored a league goal in two months, stunned the hosts when he missed from the penalty spot for only the second time in 23 career attempts.
Despite having the man advantage, Milan went on to spurn a series of chances in a dominant second-half to claim an unwelcome share of the points.
Subjected to angry banners in the hardline Curva Sud (South Stand) throughout the game, almost the entire San Siro turned against Milan at the final whistle when jeers and insults rained down on Massimiliano Allegri's men.
A reported 400 fans then gathered outside the stadium to block the exit of Milan's squad bus, in doing so preventing the small party of fans who had travelled to support Genoa from leaving the stadium.
Milan, and the Genoa supporters, were finally allowed to leave shortly after midnight (2315 GMT) but not before the disgruntled supporters' demands for an audience with key players was met.
Television pictures later showed club icon Kaka, who returned to the club at the start of the season, and veteran goalkeeper Christian Abbiati meeting with fans in a bid to calm the situation.
Reports on domestic agency ANSA said during the meeting an ultras "leader" hit out at the "unprofessional" attitude of a number of Milan's side and demanded improvements.
It added that Kaka, who scored in the fourth minute for the Rossoneri, and Abbiati -- who had failed to stop an eighth-minute penalty strike from Alberto Gilardino -- had pledged to pass on the message to the squad.
Milan's fifth draw in 13 games left the seven-times European champions 18 points off the pace of leaders Roma and 14 behind the first Champions League qualifying place occupied by Napoli.
The pressure has increased on Allegri, who, after winning the scudetto (league title) in his first season in charge, in 2011, and a runner-up place in 2012 had to drag Milan fighting and kicking to a third-place finish last season.
Ironically, Allegri may have benefited from Saturday's incident, which appeared to show that a growing number of fans are angry with the performances of players and not necessarily the coach's tactical choices.
Allegri, who escaped a pre-Christmas sacking last year, was given immediate backing by club vice-president Adriano Galliani, who called on fans to support the club in a difficult time.
"The fans shouldn't get dramatic, because all of this is not just down to the last game (that was played)," Galliani he told the Milan Channel.
"We have to stand up and be proud of this Milan squad, even if things are not going well at the moment."