Emanuele Giaccherini's 82nd-minute strike proved decisive as Milan slumped to a 1-0 defeat at the San Siro Wednesday, starting 2016 on the wrong foot. A win for Milan would have seen the Rossoneri only two points away from a European spot, as Roma was held away at Chievo.
In a scrappy game that saw referee Davide Massa produce 11 yellow cards, Milan dominated possession and created far more chances than Bologna. However, Antonio Mirante was the standout player. The Rossoblu goalkeeper denied Milan with four brilliant saves in the first half. In the 26th minute, Carlos Bacca found Keisuke Honda with a through ball but Mirante was there to prevent his shot and M'Baye Niang's rebound.
Milan applied more pressure toward the end of the half, causing Mirante to come to the rescue again for Bologna. In the 40th minute, Honda's low cross connected with Giacomo Bonaventura, who forced another brilliant save from Mirante. Two minutes later, Ignazio Abate found Bacca after he launched the ball from the halfway line, only for the Colombian to be brilliantly denied by Mirante.
Bologna, however, had the first clear chance of the match. After an uneventful first 15 minutes, a beautiful lob from Giaccherini found Mattia Destro who was in on goal until Alex made a critical interception. The away side lacked creativity in the first half and had few opportunities on goal.
Bologna coach Roberto Donadoni clearly had an inspired halftime chat with his team, as the Rossoblu were close to opening the scoring twice at the start of the second half after Giaccherini beat Gianluigi Donnarumma in the box with a left-footed shot across the face of the goal. A rocket from Diawara's right foot had Donnarumma beaten again, however it flew just wide of Milan's right post.
Alessio Cerci replaced Honda in the 65th minute as Sinisa Mihajlovic tried to inject more pace into Milan's game. Donadoni opted for a defensive change replacing Rossettini with Ferrari and substituting the hard-working Diawara for Pulgar.
Milan should have grabbed the opening goal in the 78th minute when Niang served Cerci the ball on a platter with an exquisite diagonal pass that cut through Bologna's entire defence. Cerci was clear on goal but hesitated to shoot, giving the Bologna defenders ample time to backtrack and avert the danger. A few seconds later, Bacca thought he had scored the winner but was deemed to have committed a foul.
Eight minutes from time, Mounier's brilliant cross from the right corner of the 6-yard box found Giaccherini who slotted in a right-footed shot past a desperate Donnarumma, securing a 1-0 away victory from Bologna.
Milan takes on Roma in the Stadio Olimpico in three days. Victory will be essential in the quest to qualify for European football.
Donnarumma; Abate, Mexes, Alex, De Sciglio; Honda, Montolivo, Bertolacci, Bonaventura; Niang, Bacca.
Bench: Abbiati, Livieri, Antonelli, Calabria, Zapata, Ely, De Jong, Poli, Kucka, J.Mauri, Cerci, Luiz Adriano.
Mirante; Rossettini, Maietta, Gastaldello, Masina; Taider, Diawara, Brighi; Mounier, Destro, Giaccherini.
Bench: Da Costa, Stojanovic, Ferrari, Krafth, Oikonomou, Morleo, Mbaye, Donsah, Pulgar, Zuculini, Acquafresca, Falco, Mancosu.