AC Milan recorded its first league win at San Siro this season as it overcame a dogged Cagliari side 2-0 in Serie A action on Wednesday evening.
Stephan El Shaarawy was the star of the evening as he bagged a double on a night when Massimiliano Allegri’s side was aiming not just for its first win at home, but also its first goal.
El Shaarawy came close to opening the scoring for the hosts after just seven minutes when he evaded several challenges inside the penalty area, but a heavy touch at the death gave Cagliari goalkeeper Michael Agazzi the opportunity to pounce on the ball before a shot could be made.
However, the 19-year-old eventually did make the breakthrough for Milan 10 minutes later when he broke the Cagliari offside trap to latch on to a neat through pass from Ricardo Montolivo before coolly slotting into the bottom right corner for his side’s first Serie A goal at San Siro this season.
Massimo Ficcadenti’s side was unlucky not to equalize in the 23rd minute when Daniele Conti picked out Thiago Ribeiro with a gorgeous pass over the top of the Milan defense to the left-hand side, and Brazilian lashed a strike towards goal on the half-volley, only to see his effort excellently turned round the post by Christian Abbiati.
As the first half progressed, Cagliari grew in confidence. Despite the ascendancy of the away side, Milan almost doubled its lead four minutes before halftime when El Shaarawy shot towards goal from the edge of the area only to see his deflected effort crash off the crossbar.
The 15 minutes of the second half saw a plethora of excellent opportunities for Cagliari, with Mauricio Pinilla in particular guilty of being wasteful for the away side. His first chance came just two minutes into the second half when he woefully headed over the bar after getting in the position to attack a fine cross from Ibarbo. This was followed by a misjudged shot from 15 yards that went wide, despite the Chilean having a good portion of the net to aim at.
Cagliari’s task was made that bit more difficult in the 65th minute when Conti, who had been superb all evening, caught Pazzini with an elbow as Milan mounted a counterattack, and was subsequently sent off.
The points were sealed for Milan with seven minutes remaining when Massimo Ambrosini slid a pass through the middle for El Shaarawy, who smashed the ball past Agazzi to earn his brace.
It was by no means a comfortable victory for Milan on the evening, with Cagliari having plenty of opportunities to find the net, but the three points sees at least some of the pressure taken off coach Massimiliano Allegri.