Gonzalo Higuain finally ended his goal drought after two months, as Milan beat plucky SPAL to save Gennaro Gattuso’s job, but Suso saw red.
The Rossoneri slipped down to sixth place after a dismal run of results, which saw them fail to score in four consecutive Serie A rounds for the first time since 1984, with Gonzalo Higuain firing blanks for eight competitive games. Suso returned to the XI after a pelvic inflammation, while Ignazio Abate was preferred to Davide Calabria, but Lucas Biglia, Andrea Bertolacci, Giacomo Bonaventura and Mattia Caldara were still absent. SPAL were forced to do without star winger Manuel Lazzari and defender Yohan Djourou, but Jasmin Kurtic returned from suspension.
SPAL have now not beaten Milan in Serie A since June 1957, followed by seven draws and 16 defeats. This result puts the Rossoneri in fifth place, just one point shy of Lazio in fourth.
It was an aggressive start from the hosts and Thiago Cionek threw himself in the path of Samu Castillejo’s strike, then Alessio Romagnoli was flagged offside as he redirected a deflected Tiemoue Bakayoko effort into the net.
Instead, SPAL scored completely against the run of play, as Andrea Petagna turned Alessio Romagnoli on the edge of the box and his finish took a deflection to bobble around Gianluigi Donnarumma into the far bottom corner.
Milan fought back immediately, as Castillejo pounced on an awful Filippo Costa clearance to rifle his ferocious left-foot shot into the far top corner. It ended their four-round goalless run, the longest negative streak for the club since 1984, which ran for 395 minutes of football.
Higuain seemed very sluggish and the crowd increasingly grumbled at his every error. Franck Kessie rolled across for Tiemoue Bakayoko, who ballooned over the bar from 12 yards totally unmarked.
Hakan Calhanoglu drilled just wide from the edge of the box, but the fans were increasingly impatient with Higuain, openly jeering a heavy touch that took a good chance straight out of play.
After the restart, Petagna fired a not dissimilar chance to his goal over the bar, turning Romagnoli again to shoot from the edge of the box.
Milan’s tempo was dropping and they were back to being ineffective in attack, so Gattuso introduced Davide Calabria and Patrick Cutrone.
It paid off immediately, as Calabria’s cross was knocked back from the by-line by Calhanoglu for Higuain to take a touch, commit the defender and fire in from six yards. Pipita celebrated his first goal since October 28 with wild abandon and his teammates relished the moment too.
Higuain suddenly looked as if a weight had been lifted off him and there might even have been a tear in his eye. He sparked another move with Suso’s cross for Calhanoglu, who curled just wide of the far post, then Bakayoko stung the gloves of Alfred Gomis.
However, Milan’s defending from set plays was still a problem and Thiago Cionek’s header from a corner skimmed the far post with Donnarumma beaten.
Mirco Antenucci created another big chance for Petagna, whose shot from just inside the area was deflected inches wide off Romagnoli.
Suso was booked for dissent, then received another yellow for his late tackle in midfield to see red. It means he’ll be suspended for the Italian Super Cup clash with Juventus.
It wasn’t over, as in stoppages SPAL thought they had equalised with a diving Mohamed Fares header, but Donnarumma flew for a sensational one-handed save from close range.
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Sent off: Suso 89 (M)