Substitute Gianluca Lapadula salvaged a late 2-1 victory for AC Milan with his first goal for the club against Serie A strugglers Palermo at the Renzo Barbera.
In his sixth top-flight appearance since joining from Pescara, Lapadula replaced Carlos Bacca – whose run without a goal now stands at five matches – in the 79th minute and flicked home the winner three minutes later.
Suso had put Milan ahead in the 15th minute when he pounced on an error from Palermo goalkeeper Josip Posavec to drill home, but Vincenzo Montella’s side stepped off the gas and came under intense pressure.
Palermo deservedly restored parity in the 71st minute through Ilija Nestorovski, the Macedonian taking his tally for Serie A campaign to six – two thirds of his team’s total.
After Posavec atoned with a pair of stunning saves from Suso, Lapadula restored Milan’s advantage to deny Palermo a first point in front of their own fans this season.
The goal was all the more important as, with Juventus winning 2-1 away at Chievo, Montella’s team temporarily move into second and remain five points adrift of the Serie A leaders.
Milan passed well in the opening stages and, after Giacomo Bonaventura fired wide, a mistake from Posavec led to the opening goal. The Palermo keeper failed to gather Mattia De Sciglio’s deflected cross and Suso took full advantage.
With M’Baye Niang absent due to illness Mario Pasalic was handed his first Milan start since joining on loan from Chelsea. He was denied a maiden goal for the club when Sinisa Andjelkovic’s block stopped him converting the rebound after Posavec parried Bacca’s fierce 25-yard drive.
Palermo were by no means toothless, though. Bruno Henrique’s low 20-yard drive was kept out of the bottom-left corner by Gianluigi Donnarumma before Thiago Cionek headed narrowly wide from the resultant corner as Roberto De Zerbi’s side mounted a strong finish to the half.
Second-half substitute Alessandro Diamanti added further energy to Palermo’s attack and his surge down the right created an opportunity for Bruno Henrique, but the Brazilian was blocked from 12 yards by the sliding Gabriel Paletta.
Diamanti continued to cause Milan problems and he slid in Nestorovski, who guided a cool finish past the onrushing Donnarumma and into the bottom-left corner with 19 minutes remaining.
Milan reacted positively and Suso had a 25-yard free-kick palmed over by Posavec before the Croatian produced a sensational one-handed stop to deny the Spaniard from a similar distance off the resultant corner.
But the pressure soon told, with another Suso drive heading straight to Lapadula. The striker showed great instincts to wrongfoot Posavec by flicking the ball into the opposite corner as it rolled between his legs.
It will be a bitter defeat for Palermo who have now lost five Serie A matches in succession for the first time since March 2011, while Milan have won seven of their last nine outings.
Key Opta stats:
– Gianluca Lapadula scored with his first touch today against Palermo, two minutes and 26 seconds after coming on as a sub.
– Carlos Bacca was the player with the fewest touches in the AC Milan starting XI: 15 (none for the Colombian in the opposition box in this game).
– The Rossoneri have won each of the eight games in which they’ve been leading so far in this campaign.
– Palermo are the only team in the top five European Leagues to have lost all their home league games – this is the Sicilians’ worst ever start to a Serie A campaign.