El Shaarawy inspires Milan

Posted by Sumeet Paul

Comfortably sat in an Italian eatery turned bar in north London with a multi-screen set-up to satisfy my Serie A needs, I partook in watching Milan-Cagliari, with a sly eye on Napoli's clash with Lazio. Surrounded by Neapolitans vehemently supporting their side as they moved level with Juventus at the top, it saddened me to see the contrast in ability and execution.

However, when the full-time whistle sounded, none of that mattered. The Rossoneri ended the "San Zero" hoodoo with a hard-fought 2-0 win, with Stephan El Shaarawy aka "the little Pharaoh" taking center stage. Upon departure, and after sharing a "Forza Milan" rendition with a group of supporters, I went home content with three points.

It was neither convincing, nor enjoyable at the best of times. Aside from El Shaarawy dancing his way through the Cagliari defence and notching another two goals, there was little else to suggest the troubles are over. Just 28,000 were in attendance at the San Siro of which 23,765 were season ticket holders, meaning just over 4,000 extra spectators paid to see the game.

The relief of El Shaarawy's first-half goal slowly dissipated as Cagliari began to control proceedings after the break and carved out multiple chances. The lack of composure and technical ability was striking, with Milan surrendering possession on numerous occasions and inviting pressure. However, the wait for both goals and a win at home were finally ended when El Shaarawy slid in his second of the game, paving the way for the banned Massimiliano Allegri to leave his seat in the Milan Channel box and for Adriano Galliani to wiggle his fingers in delight. The nightmare is over; well, at least it's being slowly eroded.

Next up it's a familiar face as Roberto Donadoni's Parma host Milan at the Tardini on Saturday evening. While Allegri made several changes to the line-up, it would be nice to see a few more. A central defensive pairing of Daniele Bonera-Philippe Mexes has the calmest of fans clutching their chest in anticipation of heart failure, as the duo conspire to leave us in suspense awaiting the next mistake. Would a Cristian Zapata-Francesco Acerbi combination be so terrible?

In contrast, it was positive to see Mattia De Sciglio given a chance on the left side of defence, a spot he hopefully holds on to. Urby Emanuelson produced a spirited, hard-working but limited performance; the Dutchman used his pace to great effect throughout the game but lacked that quality final ball. The problem was never more evident when Milan broke three-on-two only for Emanuelson to go it alone and sky his shot over the bar.

It was important that Milan secured the three points and while it may not have been aesthetically pleasing, the win is all that counts. Managers and players alike are always keen to stress good results breed confidence; let us hope that this is the start of a good run of form and Allegri returns to the touchline to lead them to another victory at Parma.

What did you make of Milan’s performance? Relieved to have finally ended the barren run at home?

For all the latest Milan and Serie A news, you can follow me on Twitter @italiafooty

ESPN Conversations