Milan: Marco Parolo scored a brace either side of Miroslav Klose`s fourth goal of the season as Lazio moved up to third in Serie A with a bad-tempered 3-1 victory over AC Milan on Saturday.
Embattled Milan travelled to the Stadio Olimpico desperate to make amends after last week`s shock 1-0 home defeat to Atalanta dented their chances of qualifying for next season`s Champions League.
But despite Jeremy Menez hitting a fourth-minute opener, the visitors were outplayed for the remainder of the opening half and undone in four second-half minutes when Klose turned provider for Parolo before adding his own name to the scoresheet in the 51st minute.
Milan coach Filippo Inzaghi made a series of tactical changes which left the visitors exposed and Lazio pounced to extend their lead nine minutes from time when Parolo hit his second into a virtually empty net.
Tempers had frayed several times during the opening half but Milan`s frustrations finally boiled over minutes from time when defender Philippe Mexes saw a straight red for grabbing Lazio captain Stefano Mauri by the throat after a number of altercations between the pair.
The Frenchman could risk further punishment by Serie A league officials, and possibly Milan, after he continued trying to unleash his anger before being forcibly removed from the pitch.
Lazio moved up to third place one point ahead of Napoli and Sampdoria and within 12 points of leaders Juventus ahead of their home game against struggling Chievo on Sunday.
"It was a deserved win," Lazio coach Stefano Pioli told Mediaset.
"The lads had the right character and the right mentality and we played with lucidity given that the game started badly for us."
Milan`s crisis, meanwhile, deepened with the seven-time European champions dropping to 10th ahead of the rest of the weekend fixtures to finish January without a league win for the first time since 1941.
They are now 20 points behind Juventus but eight points behind Lazio in the third and last Champions League qualifying spot -- and also face Lazio at home in the quarter-finals of the Italian Cup in midweek.
"We had a terrible game," Inzaghi told Sky Sport.
"The team is giving everything they can, but it`s not enough. We`re struggling... we`re disappointed but all we can do is try to keep on fighting to improve.
"Right now we`re not the team we were in December, that`s three or four games we`ve been like that and we have to turn it around."
Milan threw everything into the match early on and were repaid when Menez stole possession from Dusan Basta in midfield before beating Federico Marchetti with a low angled strike.
But Lazio should have finished the half well in front after Mauri and notably Klose forced Diego Lopez into action on several occasions.
Mauri narrowly missed connecting with Antonio Candreva`s pacy cross from the right at the far post.
Lopez then saved Milan with a great block on Klose after a Mexes blunder allowed the German through on goal and Candreva follow-up met traffic.
On 20 minutes Klose sent a glancing header just wide of Lopez`s upright after rushing in to beat Alex to Candreva`s cross.
Minutes later the German collected a long cross from midfield and rounded Alex to slip the ball through for Candreva charging down the right, but Lopez pulled off a fine one-handed save to keep the Italian`s shot out.
However Lazio made amends quickly after the restart to end Milan`s slim hopes of holding on for the win.
Parolo levelled two minutes after kick-off running in to beat Andrea Pioli to Klose`s cross from the right flank to coolly volley past a rooted Lopez.
Milan`s defence was caught out again less than three minutes later when a mis-hit pass from Riccaro Montolivo left Mexes running back towards Klose but the German kept his cool to beat Lopez at his near post.
Inzaghi replaced Giacomo Bonaventura with Alessio Cerci and minutes later Marco Van Ginkel, making a rare start in a three-man midfield, made way for striker Giampaolo Pazzini, prompting a tactical switch to a 4-2-3-1.
However Milan fell to pieces, Mexes`s angry and frustrating end to the match perfectly summing up the Rossoneri`s current struggles in the league.