Milan comfortably swept Cagliari aside 3-0 thanks to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Antonio Nocerino and a rare Massimo Ambrosini strike.
The Rossoneri felt the pressure to win this tie and avoid Juventus running away at the top of the table, but a growing injury crisis ruled out Thiago Silva, Luca Antonini, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Alexandre Pato, Alberto Aquilani, Alexander Merkel, Gennaro Gattuso, Mario Yepes, Antonio Cassano and Mathieu Flamini. At least confidence was boosted by a midweek Coppa Italia quarter-final victory over Lazio. Massimiliano Allegri’s former club were missing Nene, Sebastian Eriksson and Lorenzo Ariaudo, but gave Mauricio Pinilla his debut just days after moving from Palermo.
Milan were unbeaten in their last 18 meetings with Cagliari, home and away, since a 1-0 loss in October 1998. Victor Ibarbo flashed a ball across the six-yard box with Pinilla too late to tap in, while Robinho threaded through for Antonio Nocerino’s shot charged down.
It was a very sluggish start to the match, as Cagliari focused on the counter-attack and the Rossoneri seemed uninspired. Djamel Mesbah fired just over the bar from a tricky angle, while Michael Agazzi smothered a Mark Van Bommel volley.
Only a moment of magic could break the deadlock and Zlatan Ibrahimovic provided it by curling a fantastic free kick into the near top corner where Agazzi could not reach, as it brushed the inside of the upright.
Ibra turned provider for the second goal, chesting down a long Philippe Mexes pass for Nocerino’s left-foot screamer on the volley from the edge of the box, flying into the near bottom corner.
Davide Astori had a good chance for the visitors, but nodded over from a corner.
After the break Agazzi flew to palm another fierce Nocerino effort round the post, while substitute Thiago Ribeiro’s strike was deflected out for a corner.
Stephan El Shaarawy came off the bench and with practically his first touch volleyed a Clarence Seedorf free kick inches past the base of the near stick. Agazzi beat away an Emanuelson effort.
Massimo Ambrosini came off the bench and scored a rare goal, passing it into the net from just inside the area from Emanuelson’s roll across.
Ibarbo sprinted past Mesbah at the byline and his shot whizzed over, just clipping the bar. Ibrahimovic made way for Pippo Inzaghi, who is reportedly leaving Milan during the transfer window.
Agazzi beat away a Van Bommel snapshot, while SuperPippo had a good chance that ricocheted off his thigh.