AC Milan recorded a much-needed win in beating Genoa 1-0 to move into the top half of Italy’s Serie A on Saturday.
Stephan El Shaarawy’s sixth league goal of the season on his 20th birthday handed Milan only their third win in nine matches.
The young striker refused to celebrate and left the field at the end of the game with tears in his eyes. El Shaarawy spent almost his entire youth career at Genoa, where he also made his Serie A debut.
Milan also had two decent penalty claims turned down in an otherwise dull match at San Siro.
There is still plenty to worry about for coach Massimiliano Allegri, not least in defence, which again looked shaky.
Genoa remain mired in difficulty as new coach Luigi Del Neri’s reign got off to a miserable start. It is their fifth game without a win.
Earlier, strugglers Siena and Palermo played out a dull goalless draw.
Alexandre Pato made his first start in eight months, but Milan’s injury problems continued as Kevin-Prince Boateng had a knee problem and joined Robinho, Mattia De Sciglio, Djamel Mesbah and Sulley Muntari on the sidelines. Luca Antonini was also forced off at the end of the first half with a thigh injury.
Milan almost gifted Genoa the lead in the 17th minute, when Luca Antonelli intercepted Cristian Zapata’s dreadful clearance and crossed into the area.
Milan goalkeeper Marco Amelia got a hand to the ball but punched it off Ciro Immobile and was fortunate to see it fly narrowly wide of his right post.
Milan’s only bright light was El Shaarawy. He was everywhere, even rescuing Milan in defence.
El Shaarawy put a low cross into the area in the 38th, but the ball rolled across the face of goal and no one in a crowd was able to connect.
Milan had penalty appeals turned down either side of half-time as first Alexandre Pato was brought down by Cesare Bovo before Andreas Granqvist barged into Nigel de Jong.
Milan broke the deadlock when Ignazio Abate collected the ball in what looked to be offside before crossing in for El Shaarawy to tap into the back of the net.
Elsewhere, Siena and Palermo also struggled to carve out goalscoring opportunities. Palermo fared the better in the second half but failed to score for the sixth time this season.
Siena’s best chance came in the 28th minute as Francesco Bolzoni’s 30-yard drive flew narrowly wide. In the build-up, Emanuele Calaio called for a penalty after being pushed by Palermo midfielder Massimo Donati.
Fabrizio Miccoli missed a glorious chance for Palermo. He beat the offside trap to collect a delightful throughball from Donati but, one-on-one with onrushing Siena goalkeeper Gianluca Pegolo, he blazed over.
It was Siena coach Serse Cosmi’s first match against Palermo since the Sicilian club sacked him after just four matches in charge.