AC Milan got themselves back to winning ways in fairly comfortable fashion as they ran out 3-0 winners against Genoa at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris on Wednesday night.
In truth it was a game that Milan won against a struggling Rossoblu side without too much hassle as an early Zlatan Ibrahimovic free-kick and a Junior Messias header put the away side firmly in command against Andriy Shevchenko’s men.
Messias got another goal in the second half to take his tally to three in his last three games and effectively kill the contest off, and though Mike Maignan made a couple of sensational saves to preserve his clean sheet it was a nice routine victory.
Inter had won against Spezia earlier in the evening to apply some pressure but Napoli squandered a two-goal lead late on against Sassuolo which congests the top of the table even more, with only two points now separating the top three.
Head coach Stefano Pioli made six changes to the starting line-up compared to the team that lost to Sassuolo on Sunday. Two came in defence as Pierre Kalulu and Fikayo Tomori took the place of Florenzi and Romagnoli, two were in midfield with Franck Kessie and Sandro Tonali coming back in for Ismael and Bakayoko, and two came in attack as Junior Messias and Rade Krunic allowed Leao and Saelemaekers some rest.
The home side started the brighter side and had the opening chance after exactly 60 seconds as Milan failed to stop a feed through and the ball eventually ricocheted into the path of Ekuban who fired a snapshot narrowly over the bar from 18 yards out.
There was an early problem for Pioli to deal with as Simon Kjaer had injured in the build up to the aforementioned chance and he went off on a stretcher with ice strapped around his knee, looking in serious pain, with Matteo Gabbia coming on to replace him.
In the 10th minute though, it would be Milan who got the first goal of the game and it came from Ibrahimovic who notched his 90th goal for the club. Having won a free-kick 25 yards out for a handball, the Swede took on the set piece and beat a stranded Sirigu with a perfectly placed shot.
Ibrahimovic could have doubled his tally not long after Theo Hernandez put in an inviting ball from the left that the 40-year-old got on the end of but failed to direct goalwards.
Had he netted that, he could have had a hat-trick within 18 minutes as some good pressure from Messias saw the ball cut into a dangerous area and only a heroic block kept Ibra’s near post attempt out.
The early goal and the injury seemed to make Milan try and settle things down a bit as the game became very cagey and full of niggling fouls up until the on-loan Juventus midfielder Rovella shot over from distance just after the half-hour mark.
The Rossoneri’s build-up play down both flanks continued to drag Genoa out of position defensively, and a nice interchange on the right between Ibrahimovic, Kessie and Messias saw the latter find space to let fly from the edge of the box but Sirigu caught easily.
Three minutes before the break Brahim Diaz almost made it 2-0 with an incredible solo run where he jinked between two players and got onto his right foot inside the box, though he fired narrowly over while aiming for the top left corner.
Right on the stroke of half-time, Milan did double their advantage as Junior Messias scored for the second time in three games. A shot from Ibrahimovic was blocked and ballooned up into the air, with Messias storming onto it inside the box and looping a header over Sirigu and in.
Pioli made a change at the break as Gabbia made way for Alessandro Florenzi. Although the Italian centre-back had been subbed on in the first half, he picked up a yellow card and was likely on a last warning, so it was a pre-emptive move from the Milan boss who moved Kalulu to right centre-back.
The Rossoneri had the first chance of the second half as a brilliant touch from Brahim Diaz was followed up by a feed to Messias whose cross found Ibrahimovic but he scuffed his effort straight at Sirigu.
Maignan was called into action for the first time as the Frenchman made a sprawling save to deny a header from a free-kick that was dipping in, and an acrobatic clearance on the line from Tomori followed it up.
In the 55th minute Krunic should have done better after seizing a loose pass from Badelj deep in the Genoa half but despite the space he had he dragged a shot wide of the far post.
As the clock ticked past 60 minutes, Milan scored a third goal that essentially put the game to bed. A darting run by Theo to the left byline resulted in a cut-back into the box that was flicked on by Krunic and reached Messias on the right side of the box, and the Brazilian got his second of the game with a measured finish inside the far post.
With the game beginning to wind down as the Rossoneri controlled the ball and the pace, Pioli opted to make a pair of changes as Alexis Saelemaekers and Tiemoue Bakayoko came on for Brahim Diaz and Tonali.
With just over 10 minutes left on the clock, Maignan made an incredible backpeddling save to prevent conceding a remarkable goal to Portanova, who had tried his luck from the centre-circle.
Bar a couple of late efforts from distance that would be the last major chance of the game as Milan saw out a comfortable win, just as news filtered from Sassuolo that Napoli had surrendered a two-goal lead late on.