Stephan El Shaarawy’s brace finally ended the San Siro curse, although Milan had to struggle for their 2-0 win over 10-man Cagliari.
It was crisis time for Massimiliano Allegri, who was on a touchline ban for insulting officials and hanging on after shock defeats to Sampdoria, Atalanta and Udinese this season. Kevin-Prince Boateng and Cristian Zapata sat out bans, while Alexandre Pato, Mathieu Flamini and Sulley Muntari were out, but Robinho returned to the bench after a long lay-off. Bakaye Traore was given a surprise debut start in midfield.
Tension was also sky high at Cagliari after Sunday’s game with Roma was called off and a 3-0 victory handed to the Giallorossi. President Massimo Cellino had invited fans to the closed doors match, prompting security fears and the cancellation of the fixture. Andrea Cossu was the only man on the injury list.
The Sardinians had lost their last eight consecutive visits to San Siro, but neither Milanese club had yet managed to win a home game this season in all competition. The lack of confidence was evident in the fact this stadium was three-quarters empty for the midweek round.
Milan had possession and few real chances to begin with, but found a breakthrough when Stephan El Shaarawy combined passes with Riccardo Montolivo to break into the box and coolly slot past an on-rushing Michael Agazzi. It was the first goal the Rossoneri have been able to score on home turf in all competition this season.
Cagliari finally woke up and on 24 minutes Christian Abbiati had to palm a dangerous Thiago Ribeiro strike round the base of the near post.
There was a decent Cagliari penalty shout for a Traore shove on Francesco Pisano, while Ibarbo’s angled drive skimmed the back post as the Sardinians pushed forward.
Milan incredibly didn’t get their second just before half-time. An Urby Emanuelson corner found El Shaarawy’s volley, which was deflected on to the bar and Davide Astori managed to parry Pazzini’s follow-up header from seven yards.
Mauricio Pinilla couldn’t get clean enough contact with his head on a Perico cross, then Radja Nainggolan was stopped by a sliding Daniele Bonera tackle. Abbiati ran off his line to flap a dangerous pass off the chest of Victor Ibarbo, as Cagliari were clearly the dominant side at the start of the second half and jeers rained down from the stands.
Ibarbo had a free header wide from Daniele Conti’s free kick and Robinho made his comeback after picking up a muscular injury in the opening game with Sampdoria.
Cagliari were playing much better, but Conti foolishly received a second yellow card for elbowing Pazzini in the side of the head. They had both been booked for a tussle only four minutes earlier.
El Shaarawy and Nigel De Jong both ballooned over the bar from very promising positions, as 10-man Cagliari were still in this game.
El Shaarawy doubled Milan’s lead to put the result beyond doubt, running on to a Massimo Ambrosini through ball to slide the finish past Agazzi.
Kevin Constant should’ve made it 3-0 in the final minute, but ballooned horribly off target.
Sent off: Conti 67 (C)