Milan – AC Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri praised striker Mario Balotelli's resolve in the face of racist taunting during a tense Milan derby which finished 1-1 on Sunday.
Both clubs had fears that Balotelli's first derby since his playing days for Inter would lead to ugly taunting of the striker, who recently signed for the club from Manchester City.
And although the match was relatively incident-free, some fans in the “Curva Nord” end of the San Siro where Inter's hardcore fans traditionally sit were seen waving inflatable bananas during the game.
When Milan attacked the Curva end after half-time, monkey noises were also heard briefly before being immediately drowned out by a chorus of whistles – many of which came from Inter's fans.
It was not clear whether only Balotelli, or the club's other black players – Sulley Muntari, Kevin Prince Boateng and Cristian Zapata – were the targets.
Balotelli, who is Italian but of Ghanaian descent, has hit the headlines over the years for his off-field pranks and his run-ins with City manager Roberto Mancini are well documented.
Allegri did not speak openly about the incidents after the game except to say the striker – who missed several chances to seal victory for the Rossoneri – had done well not to react to the taunting.
“Mario had a lot of chances to score in the first half but let's put things into perspective,” said Allegri.
“He's a 22-year-old playing against his old team in a very tense situation. He did well not to respond (to the provocations). I don't think we can criticise him.”
Boateng, who helped set up Stephan El Shaarawy for a 21st minute lead, said: “It was a really special game for Balotelli as the whistles from the fans were loud but he's a real champions and he'll be back.”
Milan dominated throughout however Ezequiel Schelotto came off the bench to level for Inter in the 71st minute. – Sapa-AFP