Ten-man AC Milan dropped points for the fourth time in five Serie A games as they were held to a turgid 0-0 draw by struggling Bologna, losing ground on third-place Inter.
Despite naming several creative players in his starting XI for Milan's first match since Europa League elimination at the hands of Olympiacos on Thursday, Gennaro Gattuso could only watch on as his side struggled to craft opportunities before Tiemoue Bakayoko was sent off for a second booking in the 76th minute.
Proceedings were extremely tepid in the first period, as neither side looked threatening and the action got bogged down in midfield.
Aside from a well-worked Hakan Calhanoglu chance, there was little improvement after the break and Bakayoko's dismissal effectively secured Filippo Inzaghi a point against his former club, who failed to go three points behind Inter with their game in hand.
In a first half devoid of excitement, Milan crafted the opening chance in the 24th minute, but Lukasz Skorupski got down well to keep Gonzalo Higuain's 20-yard strike out.
The hosts went close with a similar opportunity just before the half-hour mark – former Inter attacker Rodrigo Palacio forcing Gianluigi Donnarumma into a fine save from edge of the area.
Milan produced a hint of eye-catching football early in the second-half, when an incisive passing move saw Calhanoglu line up a shot from just outside the box, but his right-footed drive went wide of the left-hand post.
A shove on Federico Santander three minutes after fouling Blerim Dzemaili earned Bakayoko a second yellow card and that offered the hosts encouragement.
But aside from a goalmouth scramble after Palacio's free-kick that saw Donnarumma clash with Filip Helander, there were few opportunities for Bolgona to make the most of their advantage.
We're showing a lot of fighting spirit out there!Keep it up boys! 0-0 December 18, 2018
What does it mean? Milan's creative players sorely lacking
Given Bologna are in the relegation zone and were winless in their previous eight Serie A outings, Milan should have had the capability to engineer plenty of opportunities, but Suso, Calhanoglu, Patrick Cutrone and Samu Castillejo all had little impact.
Nagy a disruptive influence
A lack of quality on display made it difficult to highlight a single outstanding player, but Adam Nagy in the Bologna midfield did a good job of getting in the faces of Milan's creators. He made a team-high four tackles and five interceptions.
Calhanoglu flatters to deceive
Occasional flashes aside, playmaker Calhanoglu had little luck in trying to pick apart the Bologna defence before being replaced by Jose Mauri in the 78th minute.
Milan welcome fellow European hopefuls Fiorentina to San Siro on Saturday in their final game before Christmas, while Bologna travel to Parma on the same day.
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