MILAN, Italy -- AC Milan cruised to a 3-0 victory over 10-man Lazio on Saturday in a direct battle for third place in Serie A and a spot in next season's Champions League.
Lazio was seeking a first win at San Siro since 1989 but its chances grew slimmer when Antonio Candreva was controversially shown a straight red card after just 15 minutes.
Candreva brought down Stephan El Shaarawy on the edge of the box and was adjudged to have prevented a clear scoring opportunity.
Milan broke the deadlock five minutes before halftime as Lazio goalkeeper Federico Marchetti spilled a shot and Giampaolo Pazzini tapped into an empty net from close range.
Marchetti did well to parry Pazzini's header from a corner, but Kevin-Prince Boateng was on hand to follow up and double Milan's lead on the stroke of halftime.
Pazzini sealed the result on the hour with a powerful, long-range strike into the bottom right corner.
"Pazzini always needs to prove himself because it's always been like that, but Pazzini is very happy, he's scored 12 goals," Pazzini said. "I thank everyone because they have put me in the best conditions to do well. We hope to still do more from now until the end of the season.
"We had two horrendous months (at the beginning of the season) and then we bounced back. The credit goes to everyone: Players, the president and the coach. We are doing very well, we have to get as many points as possible and never give up."
Balotelli was missing from the match after the Milan striker was injured in last weekend's derby in a collision with Inter Milan goalkeeper Samir Handanovic.
Milan leapfrogs a point above Lazio into third place.