Carlos Bacca ended his 98-day goal drought with a late winner as Milan beat Cagliari 1-0 with Bruno Alves sent off in stoppages.
The Rossoneri were feeling confident after ending 2016 with the Supercoppa Italiana, beating Juventus on penalties in Doha for their first silverware since 2011. Juraj Kucka, Mati Fernandez and Riccardo Montolivo were injured, but Gianluigi Donnarumma made his 50th appearance at the age of 17 and Manuel Locatelli started on his 19th birthday. The Sardinians missed Artur Ionita, Federico Melchiorri and suspended Simone Padoin.
Cagliari last beat Milan 1-0 in Sardinia in October 1998, managing just six draws from the next 25 meetings, home and away.
The hosts had two chances in the opening 120 seconds, as first Alessio Romagnoli’s header tested Rafael and then Carlos Bacca turned wide.
M’Baye Niang returned to the line-up and blasted over from distance, as Cagliari were pinned back into their own half. The Sardinians only created a chance when Ignazio Abate was off injured following a terrible Bruno Alves tackle – which somehow didn’t warrant a card – Donnarumma getting down very quickly to palm the Nicolo Barella effort off the line.
The Rossoneri lost their momentum as the half wore on and failed to make much of a dent in the usually-porous Cagliari back line. Locatelli saw his volley deflected after Rafael only punched a corner to the edge of the box.
After the restart Daniele Dessena fired over from a promising position, but Bacca and Niang both failed to get on the end of a Suso cross.
Gabriel Paletta fired off target from an improbable distance and Suso’s cross went past everyone, while a Niang chest and volley flashed across the face of goal.
Cagliari thought they had taken the lead at San Siro on 68 minutes, but Mauricio Isla was offside both on the original cross and when the deflection sent it into his path.
Rafael needed a good low save on Locatelli’s bobbling effort from the edge of the box, but it looked to be heading for a dour goalless draw.
With only a couple of minutes left on the clock, substitute Gianluca Lapadula fought hard to get away from a defender and flick on for Bacca to smash in past Rafael. It was the Colombian’s first goal in 98 days, ending an unusually-long drought.
To make matters worse for the Sardinians, Bruno Alves hauled down Bacca on the counter just outside the box for an inevitable red card.
Sent off: Bruno Alves 93 (C)