El Shaarawy inspires AC Milan to their first victory at home
Milan: Massimiliano Allegri got the better of former team Cagliari, as his AC Milan side went onto record a 2-0 victory over the Sardinians on Wednesday.
Stephan El Shaarawy was the star of the evening as he bagged a double on a night when the Rossoneri were aiming not just for their first win at home, but also their first goal.
The forward came close to opening the scoring for the hosts after just seven minutes when he evaded several challenges inside the penalty area, but a heavy touch at the death gave opposition goalkeeper Michael Agazzi the opportunity to pounce on the ball before a shot could be made.
However, El Shaarawy eventually did make the breakthrough for Milan ten minutes later when he broke the Cagliari offside trap to latch onto a neat through pass from Riccardo Montolivo, before coolly slotting into the bottom right corner for his side’s first league goal at San Siro this season.
Massimo Ficcadenti’s charges were unlucky not to equalise on the 23rdminute when Daniele Conti picked out Thiago Ribeiro with a pinpoint pass over the top of the Milan defence to the left-hand side, and Brazilian lashed a strike towards goal on the half-volley, only to see his effort excellently turned round the post by Christian Abbiati.
As the first half progressed, Cagliari grew in confidence, and came within inches of finding the net in the 34th minute when Victor Ibarbo impressively collected the ball in midfield and turned sharply before drilling a left-footed shot towards goal that went a whisker by the right-hand post.
Despite the ascendancy of the away side, Milan almost doubled their lead four minutes before half-time when El Shaarawy shot towards goal from the edge of the area, only to see his deflected effort crash off the crossbar, with Giampaolo Pazzini unable to find the net with the follow up.
The first quarter of an hour of the second half saw a plethora of excellent opportunities for Cagliari, with Mauricio Pinilla in particular guilty of being wasteful for the away side.
His first chance came just two minutes into the second half when he woefully headed over the bar after getting in the position to attack a fine cross from Ibarbo. This was followed by a misjudged shot from 15 yards that went wide, despite the Chilean having a good portion of the goal to aim at.
Ibarbo was next up to squander an opportunity for the visitors, albeit unluckily, when he found space inside the area to glance a header towards goal from Conti’s free kick, but much like his attempt in the first half, it went agonisingly wide.
However, Cagliari’s task was made that bit more difficult on 65 minutes when Conti, who had been superb all evening, caught Pazzini with an elbow as Milan mounted a counterattack, and was subsequently sent off.
The points were sealed for the hosts with seven minutes remaining when Massimo Ambrosini slid a pass through the middle for El Shaarawy, who smashed the ball past Agazzi to earn his brace.
It was by no means a comfortable victory for Milan, with Cagliari having plenty of opportunities to find the net, but the three points sees at least some of the pressure taken off coach Allegri.