AC Milan recorded their first win of the season, beating 10-man Cagliari 2-0 to ease the pressure on coach Massimiliano Allegri despite a nervy performance in the San Siro.
Goals in each half from Stephan El Shaarawy at last gave the home fans something to cheer about, although the victory owed much to the second-half sending off of Cagliari midfielder Daniele Conti for two bookable offences with the visitors on top and hunting an equaliser.
Roared on by a home crowd desperate for victory, Milan pressed Cagliari onto the back foot from the offset, the lively El Shaarawy providing the early attacking impetus in partnership with Giampaolo Pazzini.
And it was El Shaarawy who had the crowd on its feet in the opening 10 minutes, setting off on a mazy run from just inside the Cagliari half and dancing his way past three defenders before a heavy touch let him down with the goal beckoning.
Moments later, he was on the scoresheet to give the home fans the home goal they had waited so long to see. A defence-splitting pass from Riccardo Montolivo put him through on goal and he calmly slid the ball past Michael Agazzi. Coach Allegri remained impassive.
Their tails up, Milan pressed for a second and breathing space. Nigel De Jong blasted over from Urby Emanuelson’s pass and Pazzini was close to hooking the ball in from a corner before flashing a shot just wide.
Cagliari were not without chances of their own as Milan endured a wobbly 10 minutes as the game reached the half-hour mark. Victor Ibarbo found himself in space on the edge of the box and forced Christian Abbiati into tipping his powerful shot around the post. Minutes later and the Colombian was close again, beating Daniele Bonera before firing a left foot shot just wide of the post.
But Milan ended the half on top and it looked for all money like they would go in two goals to the good at half time. A deflected El Shaarawy shot crashed against the crossbar and, after some goalmouth pinball, Davide Astori hacked Pazzini’s goalbound header of the line.
If Milan ended the first half strongly, it was Cagliari who came out with all guns blazing in the second and amazingly pinned Milan into their own half for the first quarter of an hour.
A great cross from Gabriele Perico found Mauricio Pinilla completely unmarked but he somehow failed to test the keeper. Minutes later, slack marking allowed Pinilla another free header direct from a corner but again the striker fluffed his lines. A third chance came and went and again it was Pinilla the architect, setting up Radja Nainggolan whose shot deflected back off Abbiati for Pinilla to again shoot over.
With the Milan crowd becoming increasingly restless, Ibarbo flashed a header wide of the post with Abbiati rooted to the spot. An equaliser looked certain to come but the game turned in Milan's favour after three minutes of madness from Conti. He first grabbed the cheek of Pazzini after the Milan player was booked for a foul of his own and moments later he was heading down the tunnel for elbowing the same player.
It changed the tempo of the match and, from Milan being on the defensive, they pressed for a killer second. El Shaarawy could have added to his tally but blasted his chance over from substitute Massimo Ambrosini’s excellent lofted ball. But five minutes later he was again on the scoresheet, Ambrosini again the provider with a neat pass.
Milan should have had a third in stoppage time but Kevin Constant, put through beautifully by Robinho, sliced his effort wide.
- Stephan El Shaarawy