First half goals from Carlos Bacca and M'baye Niang were enough to give AC Milan a 2-1 victory over Carpi in the quarter-final of the Coppa Italia. Milan's victory will be welcomed by under pressure coach Sinisa Mihajlovic, who is now one step closer to achieving his main season objective of winning the cup.
Milan had started the match brilliantly, dominating possession and bombarding Carpi's defense with a number of goalscoring chances. Cristian Zapata came close to opening the scoring in the eighth minute after he headed a Niang corner wide of Zeljko Brkic's left post. Moments later, a free kick from Keisuke Honda forced Brkic into action, but his shot was scrambled away.
Carpi eventually succumbed to Milan's dominance after a pass from Honda found Bacca, who then ran around Simone Romagnoli to beat Brkic with a sublime rabona in the 14th minute. Milan were denied a second goal after Juraj Kucka's powerful shot was saved by Brkic and the rebound cleared by Cristian Zaccardo.
Bacca was again decisive in Milan's second goal when he found Niang in the penalty box after a menacing run down the left flank in the 28th minute. Bacca's cross evaded Niang who left Brkic helpless. The Colombian has now been involved in Milan's last four goals with two assists and two goals.
If Milan dominated the first half, then Carpi bossed the second 45 minutes. The visitors were a much improved side after coach Fabrizio Castori made a double substitution-bringing on Matteo Mancuso and Marco Crimi for Cristian Zaccardo and Raffaele Bianco. Mancuso immediately made the difference for Carpi. After a dreadful Milan corner, Kevin Lasagna led an inspired counterattack and found Mancuso who slotted past veteran goalkeeper Christian Abbiati to pull back a goal.
The visitors looked more likely to score a second goal, especially through attacks orchestrated by Lasagna who created havoc in Milan's defence and forced multiple errors. Lasagna could have scored an equaliser for Carpi in the 68th minute after a promising attack, but his shot sailed well wide above Abbiati.
Towards the last ten minutes of the match, however, Milan tried to find a way to a decisive third goal to put the game beyond the reach of Carpi. Giacomo Bonaventura's freekick sailed desperately over the bar, while Antonelli's charge into the penalty box led to an uneventful corner. Bacca can consider himself unlucky not to have been awarded a penalty after he looked to have been fouled by Gaetano Letizia.
Milan's second half performance should be a cause for concern for Mihajlovic. Kucka was selfish and wasteful in the second half, squandering a brilliant opportunity to take the game away from Carpi. Instead of squaring the ball to Bacca-who had a clear path to goal-the Slovakian opted for a wayward shot. Montolivo, once again, looked weak and uninterested, while Alessio Romagnoli was particularly poor in defence. One of the few positives for Milan in the second period was Luca Antonelli who impressed both defensively and offensively. Luckily, in the end Milan hung on for a victory that will see the Serie A side face either Spezia or Alessandria in the semi-final.
Starting XI: Christian Abbiati; Mattia De Sciglio, Cristian Zapata, Alessio Romagnoli, Luca Antonelli; Keisuke Honda, Juraj Kucka (Andrea Bertolacci 72'), Riccardo Montolivo, Giacomo Bonaventura; M'baye Niang (Kevin-Prince Boateng 58'), Carlos Bacca
Starting XI: Zeljko Brkic; Gaetano Letizia, Cristian Zaccardo (Matteo Mancosu 46'), Riccardo Gagliolo, Simone Romagnoli; Raffaele Bianco (Marco Crimi 46'), Lorenzo Pasciuti, Gabriel Silva, Luca Marrone; Lorenzo Lollo (Raphael Martinho 78'); Kevin Lasagna
Halftime Score: 2-0
Final Score: 2-1
Goal Scorers: Carlos Bacca 14', M'baye Niang 28'; Matteo Mancosu 50'