Shenzhen: Sinisa Mihajlovic showed Thursday his team was willing to put the fight back into AC Milan with a 1-0 result over fierce rivals Inter Milan at the Shenzhen Universiade Sports Centre.
Philippe Mexes relived a wonder strike against Anderlecht from the Champions League group stages back in 2012 with a stunning bicycle kick from the edge of the area, and there was plenty of promise from a squad the Serb manager has reading from his playbook, even at this early stage of his tenure.
He had called for increased intensity from the club before the match and he got it, in patches at least.
"The temperature and the conditions were very hard out there tonight so congratulations to our boys. I really think we are getting better every day," said Mihajlovic, brought in by AC Milan from Sampdoria last month after their disappointing 10th place finish in Serie A last season.
"We played well in the first half, fought hard and put them under pressure so I am very happy. The improvement I want is starting to show already."
Mihajlovic gave a start to midfielder Andrea Bertolacci, captured last month from Roma in four-year deal reportedly worth around 20 million euros ($22 million) after the 24-year-old impressed on loan at Genoa last season, scoring six times in 34 games.
His partnership with Nigel De Jong looked promising from the kick-off and the fact they will have Keisuke Honda playing off them looked likely to give the Milan engine room some firepower.
A rough and ready pitch, steamy conditions and an Inter outfit bereft of inspiration made it difficult to gauge how much could be taken from the first of the International Champions Cup.
But 20-year-old M`Baye Niang was another bright spark playing up front in the first half for the Rossoneri, and looks to have returned a more complete package following an end-of-last-season spell at Genoa where he netted five goals from 12 starts.
Both Mihajlovic and his opposite number Roberto Mancini rang the changes in a second half that was mostly chaotic as both teams lost their shape.
It also featured a red card for Milan`s Antonio Nocerino for a nasty sliding hack on Inter`s recent signing from French outfit Monaco Geoffrey Kondogbia.
Mancini has admitted he is in the market for a forward -- unconfirmed reports have Manchester City`s Stevan Jovetic primed for a medical -- and said after the match he was simply happy his players had tucked another game under their belts.
"The most important thing in this game is to improve and we can improve," said Mancini. "We did good things, we did bad things and that is normal in a game like this. It`s important to win but it also important to work, to run, and so I am happy with this performance."
Inter started their trip through China with a lacklustre 1-0 loss to Bayern Munich last Tuesday, a game where they managed just one shot on target, and next face Real Madrid -- the team to complete the International Champions Club China triangle -- in Guangzhou on Monday.
The tournament draws to a close with Real up against AC Milan in Shanghai on Thursday.