Jack Bonaventura’s cheeky free kick and some sensational Gianluigi Donnarumma saves gave Milan a slender victory over Pescara.
The Rossoneri had the chance to recapture third place and make up for the disappointing 3-0 defeat to Genoa midweek. M’Baye Niang recovered from flu symptoms to start, but Davide Calabria, Leonel Vangioni, Andrea Bertolacci, Luca Antonelli, Mati Fernandez and Riccardo Montolivo missed out. Gustavo Gomez stepped in for suspended Gabriel Paletta and Jose Sosa got a rare midfield start. Massimo Oddo returned to face his former club as a Coach for the first time, but missed Norbert Gyomber, Valerio Verre, Jean-Christophe Bahebeck, Dario Zuparic, Davide Vitturini and banned Hugo Campagnaro.
Pescara had only ever beaten Milan once, a 2-1 victory on December 30 1979, and lost the other 12 attempts, home and away in all competition. The Delfini scored just 11 goals in those meetings, conceding 40. The last six meetings between these clubs had provided an extraordinary 33 goals, including a 6-1 Milan win and 5-4 thriller in 1992.
It was a very bright start by the visitors at San Siro, as Gianluca Caprari and Alessandro Crescenzi put several dangerous crosses into the box.
Jack Bonaventura’s half-volley was smothered by Albano Bizzarri and Carlos Bacca came sliding on to a Suso cross, but couldn’t quite steer it past Bizzarri.
Another couple of Suso assists were prevented from reaching Bacca by slight deflections, as the Colombian was marked carefully.
Mattia De Sciglio was left unmarked to volley from eight yards, but Bizzarri performed a great reaction save on his finish and the follow-up from offside Niang.
It was very obvious by his movements that Niang was still suffering from the effects of the flu, but he still managed a huge leap for a glancing header that thumped the upright just before half-time. Bacca wanted a penalty for an Andrea Coda foul as he went to nod the rebound and it looked like a very strong shout.
After the restart, the game suddenly exploded into life. Jack Bonaventura was brought down on the edge of the box and he took the free kick himself, placing it underneath the wall as it jumped and into the near bottom corner, completely wrong-footing the goalkeeper.
Moments later Pescara thought they had equalised, but Caprari was flagged offside. No sooner had they finished protesting than Bacca had come sliding on to a Niang assist and hit the post from point-blank range.
Pescara turned on the siege with Ahmad Benali firing over after shaking off Gomez, then Ledjan Memushaj and Alberto Aquilani both went for the Francesco Zampano cross, clattering into each other. Aquilani came off worse and had to be replaced by ex-Milan youth product Bryan Cristante.
It was wide open in the second half, as Suso tested Bizzarri from a tight angle and Gianluigi Donnarumma flew for a sensational trailing hand save on Memushaj’s scorching strike as it was going into the top corner. On the resulting set piece, Donnarumma was again alert on Memushaj’s header.
Mario Pasalic, on loan from Chelsea, finally made his Milan debut and nodded a Suso cross over the bar. Pescara had another goal ruled offside, as Rey Manaj was offside when Donnarumma parried a Memushaj effort into his path.
Bryan Cristante drilled just wide, but in seven minutes of stoppages the Delfini poured forward, Caprari’s wonderful lob fingertipped away by Donnarumma at full stretch.