AC Milan picked up their first win in six matches in all competitions as they earned a close-fought 2-1 win over SPAL at the San Siro.
The home side began the better of the two teams and Milan thought they'd got their noses in front after just seven minutes, however Alessio Romagnoli was judged to have been in an offside position before he tucked the ball home from close range. Just minutes later, SPAL remarkably took the lead against the run of play.
Striker Andrea Petagna held the ball up and backed into Romagnoli on the edge of the area before hitting a hopeful shot on goal, with the ball deflecting off the leg of the defender and spinning past Gianluigi Donnarumma into the corner of the net to make it 1-0 to the visitors.
San Siro was stunned into silence, however they were soon given something to cheer about. Just three minutes later Samu Castillejo latched onto a loose pass in the SPAL defence before unleashing a stinging shot from 12 yards out which flew into the top corner. It was his second goal for the club and it got the home side back on level terms.
Milan came out firing in the second half, and finally went ahead after Hakan Calhanoglu squared the ball to Gonzalo Higuaín, who set himself and lashed the ball into the top corner to score his first goal in two months.
Gennaro Gattuso's men were able to see the rest of the game out, however finished the game with 10 men after Suso picked up his second yellow card heading into injury time - just 10 minutes after receiving his first. Regardless, it was a very hard-fought win for Milan which helped close the gap on the top four in Serie A. Here's a breakdown of the night's events:
Key Talking Point
Having not won any of their previous five games, Milan were keen to make a statement with a win and they just about managed it. They were put on the back foot in the early stages after going a goal behind, however they responded almost instantly and after that they were in full control of the game.
One positive was Higuaín getting his name on the scoresheet for the first time in eight appearances for Milan, finally getting the monkey off his back and getting his side in front for the first time in the match.
It wasn't the most dominant display you'll see, however Milan will no doubt just be delighted to end their baron run and get back to winning ways as they keep the pressure up on those teams above them in the Champions League qualifying places.
Starting XI: Donnarumma (6); Abate (6), Zapata (6), Romagnoli (6), Rodriguez (7); Kessie (7), Bakayoko (8), Calhanoglu (7); Suso (6), Higuaín (8), Castillejo (7).
Substitutes: Calabria (6), Cutrone (6), Borini (6).
STAR MAN - The headlines will surround Higuaín after his decisive goal, however in a game where Milan dominated possession in the middle of the park, Tiemoue Bakayoko put in a fantastic shift.
Bakayoko is so good mahhn... ball control marking and the rest— that bad teeth niggur (@Dyskee) December 29, 2018
He kept things neat and tidy in the midfield whilst also remaining solid in defence when his side needed him. He's a player who has struggled for confidence since his big-money move to Chelsea and since he arrived at San Siro on loan, however that performance will do him the world of good.
WORST PLAYER - It was a quiet night for Ignazio Abate who struggled to make an impact on the game. He ventured forward whenever he could as he looked to try and influence the game, unfortunately for him he often found himself stranded out wide with the front three creating the majority of the chances.
In fairness to the Italian his afternoon was ended early when a shoulder injury forced him to be substitutes just after the hour mark, but it will go down as an evening to forget for the defender.
Starting XI: Gomis (5); Bonifazi (6), Cionek (7), Felipe (6), Costa (5); Dickmann (5), Schiattarella (6), Kurtic (6), Missiroli (6); Antenucci (6), Petagna (7).
Substitutes: Vicari (6), Fares (6), Valdifiori (6).
Milan will head into the winter break having finally broken their winless run, and will be keen to make it back-to-back wins when they return to action and face Sampdoria in their next outing, whilst SPAL will try and take the positives from what was a narrow defeat as they look forward to hosting Bologna.