Gonzalo Higuain’s first goal in 865 minutes of football was enough for AC Milan to beat SPAL 2-1 at the Stadio San Siro on Saturday evening.
Christmas cheer looked to have deserted the Rossoneri who were winless and goalless in four matches, their joint-worst run since 1930.
And it looked like the run would continue when Andrea Petagna netted against his former employers, but Samu Castillejo and Higuain made sure of victory as 2018 came to an end.
A bright start from the Rossoneri saw Suso have a go with a cross come shot, which Gomis touched onto the post. Before Milan had a goal ruled out when Romagnoli got onto a Bakayoko rebound, but he was in an offside position.
Things took a turn against the home side as Petagna beat Romagnoli and fired past Donnarumma thanks to a wicked deflection off the Rossoneri captain, to give SPAL the lead just 13 minutes in.
Not that it lasted long as Castillejo levelled the score three minutes later, getting on the end of a Suso cross to smash into he top corner, ending a run of 395 minutes in which Milan had failed to find the back of the net.
From there Milan were dominant without creating too many clear cut chances.
It was more of the same after the break, and the Rossoneri’s second came just after the hour. A brilliant ball from Hakan Calhanoglu found Higuain who blasted past Gomis and into the net.
Suso found himself free in the area, and with all the time in the world Calhanoglu was unable to find his teammates, while Bakayoko also fired just over from range.
As the time ticked down, SPAL started to find space in the Milan half, with Cionek headed just wide, then Petagna hit Romagnoli with a vicious strike and the ball deflected wide.
Then in the final moments, Suso was sent off for a foul on Valdifiori which earned him a second yellow card, and Donnarumma made a stunning save from a close-range Faris header.
REPREIVE FOR GATTUSO
Before the match there had been speculation that the Milan coach would be fired should he not beat SPAL. He did and he lives to fight another day. Whether or not Gattuso sees much of 2019 remains to be see, but an improved Milan performance albeit over a SPAL side who are winless in their last 10 Serie A games doesn’t scream confidence. But Gattuso has two weeks to get his squad together before Italian football resumes after the winter break.
HIGUAIN IS BACK
Thirty one Serie A shots, 865 minutes of football, and almost two months since his last goal – October against Sampdoria – Higuain found the net for the Rossoneri, and a decisive goal at that. Higuaín has scored all his last five Serie A goals in San Siro as well, and the importance of it may not be felt until May. Brought in to lead the line, the Argentine has cut a maligned figure, and could well find himself out the door by February. Nevertheless, that strike could well be the one which sparks Higuain into life for the rest of the campaign.