Stephan El Shaarawy scored on his 20th birthday against his former club as an uninspired Milan scraped a 1-0 victory on Gigi Del Neri’s Genoa debut.
It was the Last Chance Saloon for Massimiliano Allegri after losing six of his 11 games so far this season, but Genoa had already axed Gigi De Canio this week to bring in Del Neri, here making his debut. Allegri unveiled the 3-4-3 system in the Champions League defeat to Malaga midweek and confirmed it here.
Alexandre Pato got his first start in eight months, but Kevin-Prince Boateng had a knee problem joining the injured Robinho, Mattia De Sciglio, Djamel Mesbah and Sulley Muntari. Christian Abbiati was only fit for the bench after suffering from a respiratory infection. Genoa are without Marco Borriello for six weeks, while Marco Rossi, Damiano Ferronetti, Juan Manuel Vargas and the suspended Michele Canini were also unavailable.
A very powerful but central free kick from Bosko Jankovic was well held, then Pato tried to run at a defender but his through ball for Urby Emanuelson was poor.
Milan ran a huge risk with Cristian Zapata’s dreadful clearance intercepted by Luca Antonelli, Marco Amelia punching the cross on to Ciro Immobile’s chest and lucky to see it ricochet wide.
Ignazio Abate’s deflected cross was palmed out from under the bar by Sebastien Frey and Mario Yepes nodded off target from the resulting corner.
El Shaarawy, on his 20th birthday, went on a scorching run from midfield with shot deflected wide. The corner came to the D for an unmarked Nigel De Jong, whose shot was charged down amid timid appeals for a handling offence.
Pato kept a pass in at the by-line, but hesitated on the pass to El Shaarawy and allowed Genoa to close him down, much to the Little Pharaoh’s frustration. From the corner El Shaarawy flashed a ball across the face of goal, but nobody was ready to tap in from six yards.
Luca Antonini got two injuries simultaneously, as he pulled up clutching the back of his thigh and had a nasty cut to the same knee, so made way for Kevin Constant.
Pato tried turning Cesare Bovo in the box and went down, but the referee waved play on, as the Brazilian seemed to run into him.
Straight after the restart Pato rolled a great ball across the goal, but once again nobody was there for Milan’s easy tap-in.
There were stronger penalty appeals on 54 minutes when De Jong seemed to be clumsily nudged in the back by Andreas Granqvist as he tried to chest down a chipped Emanuelson pass, then the move continued and Frey parried Abate’s angled drive with his feet.
Constant’s header was deflected out for a corner, possibly off an arm, but it was from point-blank range. Amelia smothered long-range efforts from Alexander Merkel and Jankovic.
Pato took the header when he should’ve left it for De Jong right behind him. It was the Duck’s last contribution before he made way for Giampaolo Pazzini.
Milan did eventually break the deadlock with El Shaarawy on his 20th birthday and he refused to celebrate against the side where he grew up. Abate sprung the offside trap - although there are doubts over his position - and rolled a smart ball across the six-yard box past Pazzini, but this time El Shaarawy was there to tap in at the back post. The Little Pharaoh confirmed his status as the Rossoneri’s most prolific player with his eighth goal of the season in all competition.
Zapata nodded an El Shaarawy corner past the upright, but Emanuelson went close with a scorching first-time shot from the edge of the box that skimmed the bar.
There was a huge scare in stoppages when Immobile turned wide with Amelia well off his line, but he was flagged offside.