Milan ended a three-game winless run at home with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Serie A’s bottom club Salernitana on Saturday.
First-half goals from Franck Kessie and Alexis Saelemaekers eased the league leaders to three points at San Siro.
It should have been a more one-sided scoreline, the Rossoneri spurning a host of second-half chances through Brahim Diaz and Junior Messias to extend their lead.
The contest was firmly in Milan’s control almost from the off. Kessie squeezed a left-foot shot into the bottom-right corner with just five minutes played, and both Saelemaekers and Brahim were whiskers away from adding a second.
Milan suffered a blow when Pietro Pellegri was forced off injured after a quarter of an hour, but a deserved second goal soon followed, Saelemaekers given time to consider a cross before placing a fine finish beyond Vid Belec’s reach from just inside the box.
Rade Krunic was denied by Belec and Kessie side-footed wide just before the interval, with Alessio Romagnoli heading wide just after the restart.
It began to look a case of when rather than if Milan would score again: Fikayo Tomori nodded wide and Messias was denied by a fine one-handed save from Belec, who also smothered the ball at the feet of the lively Brahim.
Messias stung the palms of Belec from the edge of the box and both Brahim and Sandro Tonali prodded wide with the goal at their mercy, but the risk of a Salernitana comeback was never on the cards.
What does it mean? Rossoneri put pressure on chasing pack
Having lost 11 of their first 15 league games this season, few expected Salernitana to spring a surprise at San Siro and the contest looked over as soon as Kessie broke the deadlock.
The result leaves Stefano Colantuono’s side bottom, while Milan’s lead at the top is at two points ahead of Inter’s tricky trip to Jose Mourinho’s Roma and Napoli’s home game with Atalanta.
A fitting tribute
Saelemaekers celebrated his goal by holding up a Simon Kjaer shirt in support of the centre-back, whose season has been ended by injury.
It was a moment to cap a lively overall performance. Saelemaekers attempted the most opposition-half passes (41) and open-play crosses (three) from the right of the Milan attack.
Nadir Zortea tested Mike Maignan late in the first half, after which Salernitana failed to trouble the Milan keeper with a shot on target.
It is hard to see how they will haul themselves out of trouble if their attacking play does not improve.
Key Opta Stats: Fast start for Milan
– Milan have gained 38 points in their first 16 games this season, their best return since 2003-04.
– Kessie scored an open play Serie A goal for the first time since April against Parma.
– Saelemaekers scored after going 35 Serie A games without a goal.
– Milan have 14 different scorers in the league in this season, only Chelsea (16) have more in the top five European divisions.
– Pellegri started a league game for the first time since September 2017, against Bologna with Genoa.
– Milan attempted 14 shots in the first half, their highest tally in a Serie A first half this season.
Milan host Udinese next Saturday but, before then, there is the small matter of a home Champions League clash with Liverpool on Tuesday that offers the chance to qualify for the last 16.