Teenager Jan-Carlo Simic announced himself with a goal on his Serie A debut as AC Milan eased to victory over Monza.
The 18-year-old, a first-half replacement for the injured Tomasso Pobega, scored from close range after Tijjani Reijnders had given the home side a third-minute lead at San Siro on Sunday.
Fellow substitute Noah Okafor rounded off a slick team move late on to cement a 3-0 win four days after Milan had come from behind at Newcastle to secure a Europa League berth.Victory, just a third in eight attempts in the league, will have come as a relief to under-pressure head coach Stefano Pioli, whose side are now five points adrift of second-placed Juventus in the table, but as many clear of Napoli in fourth.
Buoyed by their success on Tyneside in midweek, the Rossoneri set off in determined fashion and had already seen Olivier Giroud head wastefully over when they took a third-minute lead.
Netherlands international Reijnders took matters into his own hands as he surged through three challenges and into the penalty area before shooting through keeper Michele Di Gregorio’s legs.
Di Gregorio then had to get down well to keep out Theo Hernandez’s eighth-minute strike after Rafael Leao had made good ground down the left.The visitors responded and on-loan Milan man Lorenzo Colombo fired into the sidenetting on the turn with Roberto Gagliardini perhaps better-placed, but Ruben Loftus-Cheek saw a deflected attempt loop just over Di Gregorio’s crossbar before the keeper palmed away Alessandro Florenzi’s long-range effort.
It took a fine save by Di Gregorio to keep out Florenzi’s 40th-minute drive, but he was beaten seconds later when substitute Simic applied the finishing touch after Leao had turned smartly away from Matteo Pessina and crossed, before the crossbar denied Christian Pulisic an eye-catching third.
Leao returned seemingly intent on enjoying himself as he embarked upon a series of enterprising runs deep into enemy territory, but it was Simic who went close when he headed wide from a 53rd-minute corner.
Substitute Patrick Ciurria sent a long-range shot over Mike Maignan’s crossbar, but the France international had to make a solid save to keep out Andrea Colpani’s strike.
However, the home side increased their lead in style with 13 minutes remaining when Giroud produced a sublime lay-off from Reijnders’ pass to set up Okafor to score.
Giroud might have got his name on the scoresheet at the end but he failed to make the most of a pacy counter-attack as the visitors were spared further punishment.