Ten-man AC Milan survived a late rally from Bologna to win 2-1 at the Stadio San Siro on Monday evening.
The match started well for Milan who went ahead through Suso 37 minutes in, then Fabio Borini doubled the lead just after the hour mark.
However, a Mattia Destro equaliser five minutes later, and a red card for Lucas Paqueta made life difficult for the Rossoneri, but they held on, as the visitors were also reduced to ten men when Nicola Sansone was given his marching orders late on.
As a result, Milan move up into fifth spot, level on points with Roma and three behind Atalanta, who occupy the final Champions League qualification spot.
Desperately in need of a win, Milan came racing out of the blocks with Hakan Calhanoglu firing a wicked effort from 25 yards which needed a touch from Lukasz Skorupski to tip it over the bar.
Moments later, Mateo Musacchio headed inches wide from a corner, as Milan had Bologna rattled.
That said, it should have been Bologna who went 1-0 up when Riccardo Orsolini got in behind Ricardo Rodriguez and went racing down the right, but put his shot straight at Gianluigi Donnarumma.
More injury problems came the way of Milan, who were already missing their captain Alessio Romagnoli, as well as Davide Calabria, when Lucas Biglia had to go off. Sensationally, Rossoneri boss Gennaro Gattuso called on Tiemoue Bakayoko to replace the Argentine, but he wasn’t ready in time and Jose Mauri was thrown on instead, much to the Frenchman’s ire.
Immediately after the restart of play, Bologna had the ball in the back of the net through Rodrigo Palacio, but it was ruled out for offside.
Then just before the break, Suso got free of Lyanco and drilled into the bottom right corner from the edge of the box. His first goal for 12 matches.
Both teams went close early in the second half as Calhanoglu curled one over the bar, and Eric Pulgar blasted wide at the other end.
Milan’s second came just after the hour when Lucas Paqueta shot from 25 yards out, and Skorupski parried into the path of Borini who tapped in from close range.
It looked like the game was all but over until Destro pulled a goal back for Bologna. A well worked corner saw Nicola Sansone loft a ball over the defence into the No.22, who had completely lost Franck Kessie, and he fired home.
Things went from bad to worse for Milan when Paqueta was given two yellow cards in quick succession, first for an aggressive reaction to a foul by Pulgar, then for protesting his initial booking.
Palacio fired over, then Simone Edera forced a brilliant save from Donnarumma as Bologna went searching for an equaliser which never came. Sansone was also sent off in the final moments of the game for the away side, and after the final whistle Mitchell Dijks was also shown a red card.
TEMPERS ON SHOW
While Milan got the three points, no doubt the main takeaway from the match was the altercation between Gattuso and Bakayoko. There were certainly tensions as the Frenchman was benched for turning up late to training, and when Gattuso chose to substitute Mauri for Biglia, his annoyance boiled over. Whether or not it leads to further issues and more time on the bench remains to be seen, though it could also put his entire Milan future in doubt.
A moment of madness from Paqueta could cost his side a place in next season’s Champions League, it’s as simple as that. The Brazilian has been a revelation for Milan since arriving in January, and is their main creative outlet, and the one player who can do the unexpected. The Rossoneri need to win their final three fixtures to have any hope of making it into Europe’s premier club competition, and it will be all the more difficult with Paqueta. All for an overreaction.