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Balotelli subbed after 'racial abuse'

ESPN staff
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Nicolas Spolli and Mario Balotelli exchanged words during AC Milan's win at Catania © Getty Images
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Mario Balotelli was substituted by AC Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri in their Serie A Sunday lunchtime win over Catania after appearing to accuse Nicolas Spolli of racial abuse.

The striker, who scored Milan's second goal of the game, had to be held back by his teammates after confronting Spolli following a tackle with the Catania defender.

Balotelli appeared to accuse Spolli of racially insulting him, although it was not clear what the Argentine had allegedly said.

The former Manchester City forward was pushed back towards his own bench by his teammates and, only minutes later, Allegri chose to replace him with Milan, leading 2-1 at the time, going on to win 3-1.

"There was a moment in which Balotelli clashed with Spolli, but he [Balotelli] did well then to score with a free-kick," Allegri told Sky television.

"I don't know if there were any insults. There was a lot of tension on the field and so I preferred to protect him from it. Maybe we were all a bit tired."

At the end of the game, Balotelli then made a gesture to the Catania fans who were booing him, raising three fingers indicating the goals his side scored in what was their first away win of the season.

Lipreading experts have been unable to determine there was any racial abuse.

"I didn't hear what he said because I arrived afterwards and saw how wound up Mario was, so I told him to calm down because he's important for the side," Kaka said. "He scored a goal once again and he's happier now, things are starting to go his way again."

Balotelli has yet to give his version of events, although Catania coach Luigi De Canio is sure there was nothing untoward in what his player said.

"To be honest, I didn't notice anything," he said. "I've only known Spolli for a short time, but he's a very good lad. I think it was just a misunderstanding and not a racial insult."

The Lega Serie A disciplinary panel is nonetheless set to investigate the incident with Spolli facing a ban of 10 matches if the accusation is proven, as a result of strict new anti-racism rules.

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