Palermo had dominated the first hour and were 2-0 up, but Stephan El Shaarawy completed a Milan comeback to snatch a Coach-saving draw in Sicily.
Max Allegri got a stay of execution with a 1-0 win over Genoa on Sunday and made big changes for this midweek round, switching to a 3-5-2 system with Antonio Nocerino, Mathieu Flamini, Kevin Constant and Philippe Mexes stepping in. He had to do without the injured Robinho, Mattia De Sciglio, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Luca Antonini and Djamel Mesbah. Palermo missed Abel Hernandez and Milan Milanovic, but had a strong record in this fixture, losing just one of the last seven editions at the Stadio Barbera.
Marco Amelia, Nocerino and Palermo’s Massimo Donati were facing their former clubs in Sicily. Daniele Bonera was booked in the opening minute for barging Fabrizio Miccoli off the pitch and will be suspended against Chievo.
Donati was in doubt after pulling up during the warm-up and it was clear he was in no condition to play, so abandoned the match after just six minutes.
There were penalty appeals after Franco Brienza combined with Miccoli to burst into the box, but Kevin Constant went shoulder-to-shoulder. Moments later Alexandre Pato spun round on a long ball, but was closed down.
Miccoli ran on to a Josip Ilicic through ball past Bonera only to drag the angled drive across the face of goal. A fierce Miccoli free kick bounced off Amelia’s chest, but nobody was there to take advantage of the error.
A corner was cleared to the edge of the box for a fine Nocerino volley that Samir Ujkani smothered well. At the other end Santiago Garcia’s header landed on the roof of the net, then Constant’s poor backpass was intercepted by Miccoli, whose powerful finish skimmed the crossbar.
Flamini was booked for dragging down Ilicic and Miccoli curled the resulting free kick inches past the post with Amelia beaten. El Shaarawy’s header was palmed off the line by Ujkani just before half-time.
On the stroke of half-time Miccoli tried to flick the ball between two defenders, but it struck Ignazio Abate’s hand from point-blank range and the referee considered it to be intentional, pointing to the spot. Miccoli buried the low penalty into the near bottom corner despite Amelia guessing the right side.
Urby Emanuelson replaced Flamini at the break for a 3-4-3 formation, but Palermo doubled their lead with a sensational individual strike just a minute into the second half. Brienza was not closed down outside the box and unleashed a screamer that bounced into the far bottom corner with Amelia rooted to the spot.
Allegri took drastic steps, throwing on Bojan Krkic and Giampaolo Pazzini, moving to a four-man defence with Constant and Abate as full-backs.
Ilicic fired over, while substitute Bojan went on a mazy run through four defenders to sting Ujkani’s palms at the near post. Palermo’s Santiago Garcia risked a second yellow for tripping Bojan.
Emanuelson’s curling long-range free kick was spectacularly palmed out from under the bar by Ujkani and Bojan mis-hit from the resulting corner.
Milan thought they were going to equalise on 69 minutes when Abate rolled the ball across the face of goal, but El Shaarawy mistimed his intervention and hit a fresh-air shot from a yard.
That was a warning shot and the Rossoneri did get one back moments later. Bojan ran rings around substitute Mauro Cetto down the right and set up Riccardo Montolivo to strike at the back post.
Miccoli pulled up clutching the back of his right thigh and was able to continue after treatment, but the momentum was very much with the visitors now after Palermo sat too deep on their lead.
The Rosanero paid for that attitude, as Milan completed the comeback from 2-0 down to draw 2-2. Ujkani flapped at an Abate cross and El Shaarawy smartly turned in on the half-volley from a tight angle at the near stick.
Amelia captured a long-range Miccoli effort and Ujkani did the same on Bojan.