MILAN, Italy ● Stephan El Shaarawy scored on his 20th birthday as AC Milan picked up only their third Serie A win of the season at home to Genoa at the San Siro.
The Egyptian-Italian applied the finishing touch to a classy move in an otherwise-scrappy contest between two out-of-form sides, though Ignazio Abate’s assist was shrouded by suggestions of offside as he collected Urby Emanuelson’s supreme through ball on the right.
Nonetheless, three points was a must for a Milan side found wanting on home soil thus far in 2012/13 and buys manager Massimiliano Allegri some additional time in charge of the Italian giants.
Though the home side enjoyed almost two thirds of possession throughout, their lack of self-belief was evident as they struggled to break down a stubborn Genoa defence.
The first serious chance of the match came the way of the visitors when Mario Yepes fouled Andrea Bertolacci 30 yards out, leading to a Bosko Jankovic free-kick which kept Marco Amelia’s hands warm.
On 17 minutes a mistake from Cristian Zapata almost spelled disaster for Milan, but after Luca Antonelli capitalised with a driven cross which Amelia flapped at, the ball ricocheted off the feet of an unsuspecting Ciro Immobile and wide of the upright.
Abate was a constant threat for the rossoneri with his tantalising crosses from the right, and both El Shaarawy and Emanuelson kept Genoa busy, but a killer final ball was distinctly lacking in a stadium rife with empty seats.
Nigel de Jong had a fierce strike after a clever corner routine blocked on the half hour mark and El Shaarawy’s low cross on 38 came inches from being poked over the line by a team-mate, but the score remained blank heading into the interval.
De Jong went down in the Genoa box 10 minutes into the second period but was deemed by the official to have done so far too easily.
With time running out, Allegri replaced Pato with Giampaolo Pazzini in hope of finding the attacking spark needed to snatch the two extra points and while that did happen five minutes after the switch, it was his starters who were able to provide it.
In a combination of their three best performers on an otherwise-abject evening, Emanuelson split the defence with a ball to Abate on the right, and his low delivery finally gave him the assist his showing deserved and El Shaarawy a first birthday goal for a Milan player in 12 years.
Though Genoa will be frustrated at the lack of an offside goal, their performance wasn’t becoming of much of a result, nor was their reaction to going behind: outside of Immobile’s touch letting him down in stoppage time, they simply did not look like equalising.
And it could have finished 2-0, had substitute Kevin Constant’s square pass been driven the right side of the crossbar by Emanuelson from 20 yards with five to play.