MILAN — Two of AC Milan's new forwards combined to give the Rossoneri a 2-1 win at Empoli on Saturday, but Mario Balotelli remained on the bench following his return from Liverpool last week.
It was Milan's first league win under new coach Sinisa Mihajlovic, following last week's 2-0 loss at Fiorentina. But the former Sampdoria coach was far from happy.
"The only thing to take away from this match is the result and nothing else," Mihajlovic said. "We did well until Empoli's goal and then it was total blackout. The players seemed to be too tense and scared. We would have lost this match last year, but this year we won it because we have two forwards who created their goals on their own."
Milan now has the international break to work on matters before its next match — against fierce rival Inter Milan. The derby will have added spice this year, as not only is Balotelli — who grew up at Inter Milan — likely to make his debut, but Mihajlovic also spent four years at Inter, first as a player and then as assistant coach — in current tactician Roberto Mancini's first spell in charge.
Carlos Bacca, who joined from Sevilla for 30 million euros ($33.5 million), put Milan in front in the 17th minute but the home side's lead lasted just four minutes before Riccardo Saponara leveled against his old club.
Milan was whistled off the pitch at halftime but Luiz Adriano, who had set up Bacca's opener, headed in what was to prove the winner in the 69th.
Milan moved provisionally 10th, while Empoli, which lost 3-1 at home to Chievo Verona last week, remained bottom.
Earlier, Sassuolo won 1-0 at newly-promoted Bologna to move top of Serie A for the first time in its history.
Antonio Floro Flores scored three minutes from time with a low, angled drive. It was the third goal in as many matches for Floro Flores, who scored in last weekend's opening 2-1 win over Napoli as well as in the Italian Cup.
Sassuolo, which played its first-ever Serie A match in 2013, could be pushed off the top of the standings as early as Sunday. Bologna still has no points.
Most of the talk before the match had been about the return of Balotelli after he completed a loan move back to Milan following a dismal year at Liverpool.
But it was Milan's other new forwards who helped the team open the scoring when Luiz Adriano found Bacca with a delightful through ball and the Colombia international showed pace and strength to burst past two defenders, round the goalkeeper and fire into an empty net.
It was Milan's first shot on target after 112 minutes of football.
However, Empoli leveled almost immediately when Massimo Maccarone's backheel flick freed Saponara to fire in at the near post.
Saponara joined Empoli on loan from Milan in January, and the move was made permanent at the end of last season.
Empoli had the better of the chances but Adriano secured a vital victory for Milan when he powerfully headed home a corner.
Balotelli had been warming up for a lot of the match, but was prevented from making an appearance when Andrea Bertolacci went off with a shoulder injury for the final substitution.