Mario Balotelli was not expected to see much time in AC Milan's Friday matchup against Genoa. After suffering an injury in the Derby della Madonnina two weeks ago, Massimiliano Allegri had been telling the media that Balotelli was unlikely to start, and one wondered if Milan would even risk him if, as expected, they were able to handily take out their 17th-placed opponents.
It wasn't to be Milan's day, injury-wise, however. Giampaolo Pazzini was injured in the 19th minute after a bad foul by Daniele Portanova. The Genoa defender was booked for the infraction, and Pazzini was clearly hindered.
Super Mario was told to warm up.
Before coming off, Pazzini opened the scoring with a powerful drive from the center of the box into the right-hand corner and off the underside of the crossbar. Three minutes later Balotelli was ready and came on.
His start was not particularly encouraging. Literally seconds after he came onto the field he was booked for fouling Daniel Tozser. Overall, Balotelli committed five fouls on the day. Three of those fouls came after left-back Kevin Constant was dismissed for a second yellow in the 65th minute for a foul on Cesare Bovo.
Genoa took the initiative after the dismissal and took nine shots, several of which had to be handily saved by Christian Abbiati to keep the clean sheet. Committing so many fouls so late in the game, when you've already been booked and your team is a man down, is recklessness, bordering on the insane.
Now, one might contend that Mario Balotelli is insane, which would not be an altogether incorrect statement. But Balotelli showed a disregard not only for the situation in the game but the situation at large. If Pazzini is out for an extended, Balotelli will be integral to Milan's ability to field competitive forward lines, as Stephan El Shaarawy will have to shoulder more of a load in the Champions League with his new teammate cup-tied.
If he had gotten himself sent off and suspended, Max Allegri would have had one heck of a pickle on his hands.
Now, that rant isn't to say that Balotelli's day was all bad.
On the hour, Balotelli took a pass from Christian Zapata, following a corner kick, and one-timed the ball diagonally from right to left past Sebastian Frey. It was a quality goal, one that shows just how talented Balotelli is.
Still, the goal didn't fully mitigate the lack of quality in Balotelli's overall performance. He completed only 33 percent of his passes on the day for a paltry total of 12 overall. Whoscored.com only credited him with 25 touches, altogether, in the entire match. It was one of those days when Super Mario ghosted through the match, not making a huge impact with the obvious exception of his goal.
Overall, it was definitely not a game that flew off the page. Given his quiet day overall and his worrying foul count, he would have gotten a very low grade overall if it wasn't for his goal. The goal, a quality piece of finishing, pumps it up to a B-.
It was the type of game that we haven't seen from Balotelli since his arrival at Milan, and fans of the Rossoneri are going to be hoping that these performances are few and far between.