Football: Milan punish depleted Lazio to go third

Giampaolo Pazzini made the most of Mario Balotelli's absence to score as AC Milan outclassed 10-man Lazio 3-0 on Saturday to go third in Italy's Serie A.

Lazio ended a run of five games without a win last Monday with a morale-boosting 2-0 victory over Pescara.

However, Vladimir Petkovic's side were reduced to 10 men on the quarter hour when Antonio Candreva was sent off for a foul on the edge of the area.

From then on, Lazio, already missing a number of key players including Miroslav Klose and Frenchman Abdoulay Konko, were playing catch-up.

Milan dominated from the outset and Pazzini opened the scoring five minutes before the interval.

Massimiliano Allegri's side, who beat Barcelona 2-0 in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie in February, were given another boost when Ghanaian Kevin Prince Boateng doubled the score on 44 minutes.

Pazzini put the game beyond reach with his second on the hour mark.

Having began the campaign in dire fashion, Milan are now in with a chance of competing in next season's Champions League or even challenging Juventus for what would be a remarkable title triumph.

After scoring his 12th goal of the season, Pazzini -- who scored a hat-trick against Bologna in Milan's second match of the season -- admitted: "We had a horrible first couple of months.

"But now we've left that behind and the effort's been down to everyone -- the president, the players and the coach. But we have to keep going, get as many points as possible and never give up."

Allegri had to do without star striker Balotelli after he failed to recover in time from heavy bruising suffered during last week's 1-1 derby draw with Inter.

Pazzini stepped in for a rare starting place with Stephan El Shaarawy and Boateng either side and showed Allegri he can still produce the goods.

"Pazzini always needs to show that he can still do the job, that's just the way it is," said the Italian.

The striker added: "I'm super-happy I've scored 12 goals and want to thank everyone for their contribution."

Petkovic, meanwhile, was left lamenting an expulsion which turned the game in Milan's favour.

"Before the sending-off it was an open game and we were pushing forward," said the Bosnian coach.

"Unfortunately it (expulsion) changed the landscape."

The remaining Serie A fixtures will be held on Sunday.