Luiz Adriano’s late header salvaged a vital Serie A victory for AC Milan as Sinisa Mihajlovic’s men overcame 10-man Sassuolo 2-1 at San Siro.
The pressure has mounted on Milan coach Mihajlovic over recent weeks, with his side having only won three of their opening eight league fixtures prior to Sunday’s game.
That poor form looked set to continue when Domenico Berardi’s outstanding free-kick levelled proceedings shortly after the interval, with Carlos Bacca’s penalty having given Milan the lead on the half-hour mark.
It was a controversial opener as Bacca in winning the spot-kick appeared to dive at the feet of Sassuolo goalkeeper Andrea Consigli, who received a red card for his troubles.
And, after missing a hosts of chances, Milan finally made their numerical advantage count in the 86th minute, with substitute Adriano the hero as he nodded home to secure a first win in three Serie A games.
Mihajlovic made a number of changes to his Milan side that drew 1-1 with Torino last time out, the most notable being handing a start to 16-year-old goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.
It was another of those changes, Bacca, who should have got through on goal in the game’s first chance of note, but a heavy touch from the Colombian allowed Paolo Cannavaro to intercept.
Cannavaro almost turned from hero to villain for the visitors a few moments later, his header falling straight to Giacomo Bonaventura, whose venomous volley rippled the side-netting.
Milan were rewarded for their promising play just prior to the half-hour mark, referee Gianluca Rocchi awarding the hosts a penalty after he deemed that Bacca had been fouled by Consigli, who was dismissed despite his pleas of innocence.
And Bacca made no mistake from the resulting spot-kick, with substitute stopper Gianluca Pegolo unable to prevent the strike from nestling into the left-corner.
Despite a bright start to the second half from Milan, Sassuolo drew level when Berardi curled a sublime free-kick into the top-left corner from 35 yards out, leaving Donnarumma helpless.
Mihajlovic introduced Luiz Adriano on the hour mark, and the Brazil striker almost made an immediate impact, linking up with Alessio Cerci, who slipped in Bacca, whose shot was smothered by Pegolo.
Cerci was the architect again a few moments after, his drilled cross resulting in a goal-mouth scramble, but Francesco Acerbi managed to scrape it clear after blocking Adriano’s effort.
All hope of a victory appeared lost for Milan after Luca Antonelli blasted over from close range, but Adriano was on hand to spare Mihajlovic’s blushes as he headed in at the back post from Cerci’s corner.