Maverick forward Mario Balotelli’s impressive return to Serie A continued when he scored a late penalty for the second straight game on Sunday to give his new club AC Milan a 1-1 draw at Cagliari.
The Italy international won the penalty after being pulled down by Davide Astori and he sent Michael Agazzi the wrong way to make it three goals in two games for fifth-placed Milan since his move from Manchester City.
Astori, already booked for a previous foul on Balotelli, was sent off as Cagliari faded in the second half after dominating the opening 45 minutes and taking the lead with a Victor Ibarbo header.
Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri described his team’s result as “a useful point against a good team.”
US Citta di Palermo and AS Roma, who fired their coaches after losing their previous games, failed to win, but Inter beat AC Chievo Verona 3-1 to ease the pressure on coach Andrea Stramaccioni.
Pablo Osvaldo missed a penalty for Roma in their 3-1 defeat at UC Sampdoria as they remained winless in the league this year.
Palermo stayed level on points at the bottom with AC Siena after drawing 1-1 with Delfino Pescara 1936, who are also down in the relegation zone.
Alberto Malesani, taking over as Palermo’s third coach of the season following the dismissal of Gian Piero Gasperini, saw his side fall behind to a 73rd-minute header by Birkir Bjarnason.
Diego Fabbrini, signed on loan from Udinese last month, leveled in the 80th minute for the Sicilians, who have 18 points from 24 games, three behind Pescara who are 18th in the table.
Paraguay midfielder Marcelo Estigarribia gave Sampdoria the lead against Roma in the 55th minute as Aurelio Andreazzoli moved into the hot seat on an interim basis following the dismissal of Zdenek Zeman.
Osvaldo then won a penalty for Roma, insisted on taking it, despite protests from the usual taker Francesco Totti, and weakly sent it into the arms of Sergio Romero.
That was followed by three goals in five minutes as Gianluca Sansone curled in a free-kick for Sampdoria, Erik Lamela volleyed one back and 19-year-old Argentine Mauro Icardi restored the two-goal lead with a header.
Diego Milito scored his first goal of the year early in the second half to complete Inter’s win over Chievo.
Antonio Cassano, overlooked by Italy since Euro 2012, gave Inter a second-minute lead, helped by a blunder by Chievo goalkeeper Cristian Puggioni.
Luca Rigoni leveled in the 21st minute after being left unmarked to head in, but Inter, who had won only one of their previous seven league games, quickly regained the lead when Andrea Ranocchia headed in from a corner.
Siena drew 1-1 at Bologna after going ahead through midfielder Innocent Emeghara. Panagiotis Kone replied for 15th-placed Bologna, both goals coming in an eight-minute spell before halftime.
Genoa’s point from their 0-0 draw at Parma kept them one point clear of the danger zone in 17th place.
Also on Sunday, Udinese beat Torino 1-0 and Atalanta BC were held to a goalless draw at home by Catania.
Additional reporting by staff writer