Keisuke Honda inspires AC Milan to crucial win over Genoa
After slipping up at home to Udinese last weekend, AC Milan had to produce the perfect response against Genoa at the San Siro on Sunday. They did just that in a 2-1 win over Gian Piero Gasperini's side, as they continue to apply pressure on their rivals for the third and final Champions League qualification spot.
Sinisa Mihajlovic's men got off to a great start as Carlos Bacca scored his 13th goal of the Serie A season to hand them the lead in the early stages, before Keisuke Honda produced a piece of magic to double their advantage after the break.
In turn, the Rossoneri moved back to within four points of third-placed Roma, and with Fiorentina and Inter clashing in the final fixture of the weekend, they are guaranteed to be within striking distance of their rivals in the weeks ahead.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Gianluigi Donnarumma, 6 -- The youngster was untroubled for the most part, but there is an argument to suggest that he should have better with the initial save that ultimately led to Alessio Cerci's late goal.
DF Mattia De Sciglio, 6 -- The Italian's best performance in some time despite fading as the game went on, as he broke forward consistently and dealt with any danger in a much-improved display.
DF Alex, 6 -- The Brazilian centre-half is a calming influence in the Milan backline, as his positional sense and assured play on the ball compliments his defensive partner well.
DF Alessio Romagnoli, 7 -- A commanding display from the youngster as he was first to the ball on numerous occasions and snuffed out any danger posed by Genoa while breaking forward to attack, showing a different side to his game.
DF Luca Antonelli, 7 -- After making countless runs down the left flank, Antonelli was still able to produce a solid defensive display as he was another standout performer on Sunday.
MF Keisuke Honda, 7 -- The 29-year-old has faced a lot of criticism from supporters this season, but he has continued to go about his business on the pitch. Now successfully combining his tireless defensive work with decisive contributions in the final third, he is quickly becoming one of Mihajlovic's most important players.
MF Riccardo Montolivo, 7 -- Similarly to Honda, the veteran midfielder hasn't been the most popular of men with the San Siro faithful. However, he has continued to turn things around as he won the middle battle on Sunday with a commanding display.
MF Andrea Bertolacci, 6 -- It remains to be seen whether or not he does enough to keep Juraj Kucka out of the team, but he combined well with Montolivo to dominate Genoa in midfield. Perhaps slightly sloppy on the ball at times, his general distribution and ability to drive forward were key for Milan.
MF Giacomo Bonaventura, 6 -- Having returned from injury, the Italian wasn't as decisive as he has been this season. Nevertheless, he adds balance to the team and his trickery and partnership with Antonelli always poses a threat to the opposition.
FW M'baye Niang, 5 -- It was a disappointing performance from the 21-year-old, as he surrendered possession on countless occasions in the first half. Through making the wrong decisions and trying too much on the ball, he will have to be careful he doesn't lose his place in the starting lineup with Jeremy Menez returning.
FW Carlos Bacca, 6 -- The former Sevilla striker was as prolific as ever as his early goal set the tone for Milan early on. His goals are going to be crucial for the team moving forward, and his effort off the ball is equally as important.
FW Jeremy Menez, NR -- A welcomed boost to see the Frenchman back from a long injury lay-off, but will need to continue to build his fitness.
FW Mario Balotelli, NR -- Scolded by Mihajlovic for his lack of defensive effort in the final few minutes, and so will need to do better if he wants to break back into the starting lineup.
MF Andrea Poli, NR -- Not enough time to make an impact as he was restricted to helping Milan keep their shape and defensive intensity.
Sumeet Paul covers AC Milan for ESPN FC. Twitter: @SP_Calcio.