AC Milan moved into the top three in Serie A after a 1-0 victory over Pescara courtesy of Giacomo Bonaventura’s second-half free-kick on Sunday, but Vincenzo Montella’s men were made to work hard for the win by their dogged visitors.
After a first half in which Pescara looked the better of the two teams, Bonaventura won a free-kick that he drilled low into the net to soothe a nervous San Siro crowd, Milan’s fans having expected nothing less than all three points to boost their side’s Champions League qualification challenge.
Any hopes Montella had of an easier ride after his side took the lead were misplaced, as Pescara refused to roll over and tested Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma throughout the game.
The young shot-stopper made a brilliant double save to deny Ledian Memushaj and Pescara had the ball in the net twice but were denied on both occasions by the offside flag.
Milan held out for a result that takes them above Napoli and Atalanta but they will need to improve in all areas if they are to challenge Roma and champions Juventus.
Montella’s men came into the game keen to bounce back from a 3-0 defeat at Genoa in midweek and return to the kind of form that saw them beat Juve and Lazio during a seven-match unbeaten run during September and October.
Pescara, winless in their previous eight Serie A matches, enjoyed a good spell of possession in the opening 10 minutes but failed to muster anything more than a Gianluca Caprari shot that the 23-year-old dragged wide of Donnarumma’s post.
The keeper then had to block a dangerous Alberto Aquilani cross as the promoted side continued to press for an unexpected lead, and the crowd grew impatient as the Rossoneri struggled to feed Carlos Bacca in attack.
Mattia De Sciglio drew a good save from Albano Bizzarri with his low shot from inside the penalty area and M’Baye Niang headed a shot onto the post, but there were groans and boos around San Siro at half-time after a tepid first half from the out-of-sorts home team.
Bonaventura quickly settled Milan’s nerves in the second half, firing a low free-kick into the net after he was brought down on the edge of the box by Alexandru Mitrita.
Pescara responded immediately with a fine strike from Ahmad Benali but the referee ruled the goal out for offside and Milan pushed for a second.
Niang showed his pace and skill down the left flank and his cross reached Bacca, who slid in and hit the post from point-blank range.
The visitors suffered another blow when two players attacked the same cross and clashed heads, leaving Memushaj requiring a head bandage, while Aquilani had to be stretchered off.
Donnarumma made a wonderful one-handed save from a swerving Memushaj shot and moments later showed lightning fast reactions to save a header from the same player when Mitrita’s cross split the Milan defence.
Pescara had the ball in the net again in the final 10 minutes when substitute Rey Manaj stroked a close-range finish home on the rebound from a Donnarumma save, but the offside flag was raised again and Milan breathed a sigh of relief before closing out a hard-earned victory with some determined defending in a lengthy period of injury time.