Valter Birsa’s scorching strike and debutant goalkeeper Gabriel gave Milan a much-needed 1-0 victory over Udinese.
The pressure was piling on the Rossoneri and an injury crisis made matters worse, ruling out Mario Balotelli, Christian Abbiati, Stephan El Shaarawy, Giampaolo Pazzini, Mattia De Sciglio and Daniele Bonera, plus the suspended Nigel De Jong and Philippe Mexes. Therefore 21-year-old Brazilian goalkeeper Gabriel received his Serie A debut. Valter Birsa and Matias Silvestre returned with Kaka on the bench. Udinese missed Maurizio Domizzi and Zeljko Brkic, while Luis Muriel was rested after international duty in Colombia.
Birsa’s long-range strike tested Ivan Kelava, then Robinho drilled wide of the near post. Milan went on a counter-attack with Birsa from Udinese’s free kick, but Alessandro Matri’s pullback flashed across the box with nobody ready to turn in. Birsa was hacked down from behind during that move and Gianpiero Pinzi was perhaps fortunate to only get booked.
Birsa recovered quickly from that knock to open the scoring. He curled a sensational left-foot finish into the far top corner from the edge of the box, his second Serie A goal of the season.
Udinese fought back with a Gabriel Silva screamer that was not far wide and Dusan Basta’s snapshot deflected off target.
Gabriel’s first real save came on 54 minutes on a scuffed Antonio Di Natale effort, but the veteran tested him considerably more on 63. Di Natale curled a free kick over the wall and Gabriel fingertipped it on to the crossbar.
Andrea Poli did everything right in the build-up, but misplaced his ball across the face of goal. Poli tried again and this time went for goal, forcing Kelava to parry at the near post.
Kaka replaced Matri for his first Milan appearance at San Siro since May 2009, having been out for a month after his lone game of the season against Torino. The Brazilian went out to the left in a 4-3-3.
Ignazio Abate was decisive with an intervention to stop Luis Muriel turning in Di Natale’s through ball from 10 yards. Moments later Kaka went on a mazy run to set up M’Baye Niang, who ballooned over the bar. Niang was also wasteful in stoppages on the counter and earned jeers from the crowd, though his third effort was inches past the upright.