Clarence Seedorf was in the stands to watch Milan beat Spezia 3-1 in the Coppa Italia with Keisuke Honda’s debut goal.
“At this moment I feel emotion and also a sense of duty,” Seedorf told Milan Channel. “I left Milan in May 2012 at the end of an era. My job now will be to open another era.”
The Rossoneri sacked Massimiliano Allegri on Monday and new Coach Seedorf flew into the city today, so Mauro Tassotti was given the reins as caretaker manager for this Coppa Italia Round of 16 tie. The winner goes on to face Udinese in the quarter-finals.
Keisuke Honda was given his first start along with Adil Rami, while Giampaolo Pazzini marked his full comeback from injury. Spezia had Coach Devis Mangia in the stands due to a touchline ban and missed star striker Osarimen Ebagua, but started ex-Livorno midfielder Pasquale Schiattarella.
After 50 seconds Serie B strugglers Spezia took a quick free kick to force a corner, proving they were not intimidated by the San Siro atmosphere, partly thanks to their 7,000 visiting fans.
Cristian Zaccardo forced a save at the back post from a Milan corner, but Juventus-owned Nicola Leali was up to the task, while Philippe Mexes skimmed the bar with a long-range screamer.
Honda was booked for pulling Cesare Bovo’s jersey and almost created a goal. He chipped up a free kick that was knocked down for Pazzini, who came sliding in to prod wide from six yards. Pazzini also went extremely close when his strike skimmed the bar.
Moments later, Pazzini turned provider with great success, as he whipped in a cross from the right for Robinho’s diving header to put Milan in front.
Pazzini did get his name on the scoresheet soon after and he did it in style. A pass was chipped up and he waited for it to drop over his shoulder and volleyed in from 12 yards. He had not scored in a competitive match since April 28 2013.
Francesco Migliore’s shot from a free kick situation whistled just wide and Riccardo Montolivo cleared a dangerous Bovo header off the line from a corner.
Honda started the second half with a bang, as he fired in the rebound when Leali got down to beat away a Montolivo snapshot from distance. It was the Japanese star’s first goal in a Rossoneri jersey.
Honda surged through the middle and spread the play for Pazzini to balloon over the bar, then Leali had his palms stung by a fierce Mattia De Sciglio strike.
Leali performed a crucial save on Pazzini from point-blank range, but most of the crowd wasn’t watching because at that moment new Milan Coach Seedorf walked into the stands.
Valter Birsa blasted just over and Andrea Poli side-footed wide, but Christian Abbiati twice had to deny Nicola Ferrari a consolation goal. First the goalkeeper came flying off his line to clear, then he got down quickly to smother the angled drive a few minutes later.
Spezia and their 7,000 fans finally had something to celebrate in the final minute. Abbiati parried a wonderful Migliore volley into the ground, but could do nothing on Ferrari’s follow-up.
Milan 3-1 Spezia
Scorers: Robinho 28 (M), Pazzini 31 (M), Honda 47 (M), Ferrari 91 (S)
Milan: Abbiati; Zaccardo, Mexes, Rami, De Sciglio; Poli, Montolivo, Cristante; Honda (Birsa 64), Robinho (Nocerino 78); Pazzini (Petagna 70)
Spezia: Leali; Baldanzeddu, Bianchetti, Lisuzzo, Migliore; Seymur, Bovo; Schiattarella (Culina 61), Catellani (Orsic 84), Rivas (Ciurria 76); Ferrari