MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Mario Balotelli gave AC Milan fans a goal to savor, and then a brief cause for concern.
Balotelli and M’baye Niang scored first-half goals, and AC Milan controlled long stretches of play in what became a 2-0 win over the Los Angeles Galaxy in the third-place match of the Guinness International Champions Cup tournament Wednesday night.
Balotelli scored in the 17th minute, and Niang extended the lead with a nifty score in the 40th. But the storied Italian club, which opens its league play at home later this month, lost Balotelli in the 79th minute. He played a ball across the field and went down immediately, holding the back of his right leg around the knee area, though apparently was only cramping up on a night where the heat index in South Florida was 96 degrees at game time.
“We played a good match from a technical and effort standpoint,” AC Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri said. “We made a few mistakes, but feel satisfied.”
For the most part, so did the Galaxy. who substituted liberally at halftime and in the second half. Galaxy star Landon Donovan was among those who logged only 45 minutes in the exhibition.
“I thought it was a good experience for our group,” Donovan said. “They’re a good team. There’s a reason why these guys are playing for AC Milan. I enjoyed it. I think the guys enjoyed it. It was difficult, but all in all, a great experience.”
AC Milan won two of its three matches in this series of exhibitions among eight club teams. The Galaxy, which beat two-time defending Serie A champion Juventus earlier in the tournament, was the only U.S.-based team in the event and dropped two of three games.
The inaugural tourney wrapped up later Wednesday night, with Real Madrid vs. Chelsea for the title.
Balotelli’s free kick from about 30 yards in the 10th minute curled left off his foot but was saved by Galaxy goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini. AC Milan didn’t wait much longer to break through.
The Galaxy misplayed a clearing pass in the 17th minute, and Andrea Poli played a ball into the box for Balotelli, who was marked by two defenders. He shook free with ease, splitting the pair and his low shot beat Cudicini.
Donovan had a shot to tie in the 23rd minute, his blast from the top of the box going off the head of defender Cristian Zapata, who was briefly shaken up. Donovan set up another chance in the 36th, taking a run down the right side before dropping a pass into the center for Juninho, who didn’t get much on his shot, the ball skipping well wide to the left.
Before much longer, it was 2-0.
Niang faked around a number of defenders, then feinted clear of L.A.’s Todd Dunivant before nonchalantly sending a low left-footed strike inside the far post.
“A really nice goal,” Allegri said.
Cudicini made some fine plays, including coming off his line in the 26th minute to deflect a point-blank opportunity taken by Stephan El Shaarawy. Cudicini was among the halftime substitutions made by Galaxy coach Bruce Arena.
“If we can learn from these three games, it’s going to help improve our team for the remaining games in Major League Soccer,” Arena said. “That’s what’s important.”
NOTES: Arena’s Galaxy worked out at Florida International University, where his son, Kenny Arena, is the men’s soccer coach. … The two-time defending MLS Cup champions, currently fifth in the Western Conference for the league’s final playoff spot with 12 matches remaining, return to regular-season play Sunday at FC Dallas, which is one point behind them in the standings. … New York Knicks forward Amare Stoudemire milled about in the team areas after the game, first wearing a Balotelli jersey, then removing it to expose a Chelsea jersey as he walked past the Blues’ dressing room.