Chievo 1 AC Milan 4: Suso stars to ease pressure on Montella
Suso eased the immediate pressure on his coach Vincenzo Montella with a magnificent individual performance as AC Milan got back to winning ways with an impressive 4-1 Serie A win at Chievo on Wednesday.
A run of just one win in six games across all competitions, including a derby defeat to arch-rivals Inter, has led to questions surrounding Montella's future after a big-spending transfer window.
But talk of his departure was put to bed, at least for now, as Suso ensured Milan did not suffer a fourth consecutive away Serie A defeat and extended their unbeaten run against Chievo to 22 matches.
Milan started the game in 12th following Atalanta's 3-0 win over Verona, with Chievo two points ahead in seventh, but the Rossoneri leapfrogged their hosts with a fine display at the Stadio Marc'Antonio Bentegodi.
Suso opened the scoring with a brilliant strike and it was his cross that was turned into the Chievo net by unfortunate defender Bostjan Cesar as Milan scored two goals in six first-half minutes to take command.
Hakan Calhanoglu capped a quick Milan break to make it 3-0 in the 55th minute and, though Valter Birsa scored against his former club for the second time in three meetings to pull one back, Suso ensured Milan had the final say by setting up Nikola Kalinic.
Milan, who cruised to victory despite the absence through suspension of defender Leonardo Bonucci, move up to eighth place but are still nine points adrift of the top four going into Saturday's huge game at San Siro against champions Juventus.
Chievo were the first to really threaten an opening goal, captain Sergio Pellissier meeting Fabrizio Cacciatore's cross with a looping header that Alessio Romagnoli cleared off the line with Gianluigi Donnarumma scrambling.
Donnarumma was then called into action moments later to keep out Ivan Radovanovic's drive from just outside the area, while Milan were reduced largely to long-range efforts early on.
They should have paid the price from some poor marking at the other end midway through the first half when Nenad Tomovic was left free at a corner, but the left-back failed to hit the target as he headed over.
Suso had been Milan's only attacking outlet in the opening 45 minutes and it was he who broke the deadlock in stunning fashion in the 36th minute.
The former Liverpool attacking midfielder made it four goals in nine league games as he curled a wonderful 20-yard effort into the bottom-left corner beyond the dive of Stefano Sorrentino.
And Sorrentino was left helpless as Milan doubled their lead in fortuitous fashion three minutes before the break.
Suso sent an in-swinging cross into the box and, with just one Milan player in the area, it was inadvertently headed into his own net by Cesar.
The result was all but assured 10 minutes into the second half as Milan caught Chievo on the counter, Franck Kessie laying the ball off for Calhanoglu to rifle in his first Serie A goal.
Birsa threatened a response when he fired narrowly wide from long range and he made no mistake second time around, beating Donnarumma with a low 61st-minute effort after Kessie had carelessly conceded possession.
However, Milan's position of dominance was reasserted just three minutes later as Kalinic coolly converted from close range with the outside of his boot after a superb throughball from Suso.
Donnarumma turned a Tomovic header against the bar to stop Chievo from making the scoreline look more respectable, and a similar kind of ruthlessness at both ends of the field will be required for Milan to get the better of Juve, though they may have to try to do so without Davide Calabria after he was taken off on a stretcher with a head injury in added time.