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Mar, 17, 2013

Mario Balotelli brace sparks Milan win

AC Milan maintained its challenge for second by beating struggling Palermo 2-0 on Sunday, with both goals coming from Mario Balotelli, while Napoli kept its slim Serie A title hopes alive with a 3-2 win over Atalanta.

Balotelli fired home an early penalty before doubling his tally in the second half with his seventh goal in six games since his arrival from Manchester City.

In Naples, Goran Pandev scored the winner for Napoli nine minutes from time after it had twice been pegged back by Atalanta.

Edison Cavani scored the other two, breaking a drought of eight games in all competitions -- the longest in his time at Napoli.

Napoli is nine points behind defending champion Juventus, with Milan two points further back, with nine rounds remaining.

Milan got off to the perfect start when Balotelli won a penalty after he was pulled down by Salvatore Aronica. Balotelli, who had scored all eight of his previous penalties in Serie A and the Premier League, then converted to give his side an eighth-minute lead.

Cristian Zapata was lucky not to get sent off in the 32nd minute when he cleared Paulo Dybala's long ball with his arm. Zapata was the last man and appeared to have prevented a clear goalscoring chance but the referee only showed him a yellow card.

Balotelli doubled his tally in the 66th, tapping in from close range after Palermo goalkeeper Stefano Sorrentino spilled M'Baye Niang's cross.

Palermo remains rooted to the bottom of the table, as its miserable week continued following a fourth coaching change.

Fiorentina beat 10-man Genoa 3-2 to keep its Champions League hopes alive.

Inter Milan is also in the running for the final Champions League spot, but its game at Sampdoria was postponed due to bad weather.

Information from Press Association and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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