MILAN: AC Milan avoided a Halloween scare by beating Serie A strugglers SPAL 1-0 at the San Siro on Thursday to give coach Stefano Pioli his first win since replacing the sacked Marco Giampaolo.
The victory lifted Milan into the top 10 with 13 points from 10 games while Ferrara-based SPAL, who have only beaten Milan once away from home, remained second-bottom with seven.
After a first half short on incident, winger Suso came off the bench in the 57th and scored six minutes later with a curling free kick into the top corner from the edge of the area after Krzysztof Piatek was brought down.
The strike ended a goal drought dating back to May for the Spaniard, who has drawn the ire of fans after a poor start to the season.
Milan defender Theo Hernandez had earlier netted off a pass from Lucas Paqueta two minutes after the break but it was ruled offside, while winger Samu Castillejo hit the bar from close range in the 13th.
Paqueta came close in the 79th when he was thwarted at close range by SPAL’s Albania goalkeeper Etrit Berisha.
Pioli had collected only one point from his first two games after replacing Giampaolo on Oct. 9 and he made four changes from the side that lost 2-1 to AS Roma at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday.
“I’m happy for the players, for the fans and for the club,” Pioli told Sky Italia.
“I asked the team to show spirit and they did... We gave little away. It’s a shame we kept the result in the balance until the end. Now we need to concentrate on the next game.”
Milan are at home to fifth-placed Lazio on Sunday. --Reuters