AC Milan continued their resurgence with a comfortable 2-0 win at Palermo, with strike partners Carlos Bacca and M’Baye Niang again on the scoresheet.
In-form Bacca put Milan – fresh from the 3-0 derby triumph over Inter – into an early lead, converting a low cross from Christian Abate to score his 12th Serie A goal of the season.
Milan were utterly dominant and doubled their lead in the 32nd minute, Niang converting a penalty after a handball by Palermo defender Edoardo Goldaniga.
Palermo’s former Milan striker Alberto Gilardino missed a great chance shortly before half-time and Juraj Kucka and Bacca could both have added a third goal.
Mario Balotelli made a late cameo as a substitute against his hometown club, but could not make a positive impact in his 15 minutes on the pitch, though Milan are now unbeaten in seven matches in all competitions.
Sinisa Mihajlovic made one change from the derby win, with Cristian Zapata replacing Alex in defence, while Palermo were unchanged from a 1-1 draw with Carpi.
Palermo goalkeeper Stefano Sorrentino was in the thick of the action from the first whistle, clawing a cross away from his goalline and blocking a whipped free-kick from Keisuke Honda.
Bacca, who had scored in his previous four appearances, almost netted a glorious opening goal after 15 minutes. The Colombia international beat two Palermo defenders on a powerful run into the box, but Sorrentino smothered his shot.
Milan continued to press hard and got the goal their fine start deserved three minutes later.
Abate’s delivery evaded Niang, but Bacca, scorer of the winning goal in September’s reverse fixture, was perfectly placed to slot home from six yards.
Milan were dominating possession and when Honda let fly from 30 yards, Sorrentino pulled off a superb flying save to his right to deny the Japan international, only for the referee to give a penalty for handball against Goldaniga in the ensuing melee.
Niang stepped up to beat Sorrentino from 12 yards, although the goalkeeper dived the right way, to put Mihajlovic’s men completely in control, with Niang scoring in back-to-back Serie A games for the first time in his career.
Palermo’s first chance of the match finally arrived seven minutes before the interval, but Gilardino somehow headed wide at the far post with the goal at his mercy.
Milan should have added a third goal after 50 minutes, but Kucka shot over the crossbar after Bacca jinked into the area and pulled the ball back for the onrushing midfielder.
Giovanni Tedesco made three changes in a bid to turn the match around and record his first win as Palermo’s coach and one of the substitutes, Aleksandar Trajkovski, saw his strike tipped over the crossbar by Gianluigi Donnarumma just past the hour.
Palermo grew into the contest as the second half progressed, but could not find a way through Milan’s resolute defence and the visitors’ victory closed the gap on fifth-placed Roma to just two points.