There were few interesting match-ups in this round and, while Napoli-Roma had the most magnitude, Milan vs Sampdoria had the highest entertainment value.
The Rossoneri came into the game looking to bounce back after two tough losses in the past four days in the Derby della Madonnina and against Real Betis in Europa League. The Blucerchiati were coming off a nil-nil tie against Sassuolo and are enjoying a nice start of the season, sustained by a rock-solid defense.
Gennaro Gattuso chose Diego Laxalt and Patrick Cutrone to replace the regular starters Giacomo Bonaventura and Hakan Calhanoglu, both dealing with some nagging injuries, and tilted his usual scheme to a regular 4-4-2. On the other hand, Marco Giampaolo picked Riccardo Saponara over Gaston Ramirez in the hole and Karol Linetty over Edgar Barreto in the midfield.
The team’s stats coming into the game led to believe this would be a low-scoring affair but it turned out to be quite the opposite, with four goals in the first half alone. Milan started off more bellicosely and deservedly got the lead after 17minutes, as Suso found Cutrone on the far post with a long cross and the centre-forward had no troubles heading it into the net as the opposing back-line was discombobulated and left him almost unguarded.
Sampdoria’s equalizer four minutes later came out of the blue: Fabio Quagliarella led a fast-break down the right flank, fed Saponara on the other wing and the trequartista waltzed past Davide Calabria too easily and slotted it home with a potent cross-shot. He had not scored in a year and a half.
The Genoa-based club went up in the score ten minutes later, again with the same combination but with opposite roles: Saponara provided the assist, a lovely ball over the top, and Quagliarella bagged it with a pinpoint lefty volley after beating the offside trap.
Few minutes later, Gonzalo Higuain had a dangerous shot palmed away by Emil Audero, but his goal was just a matter of time. At the 36th minute, he shook free in the box completing a gorgeous triangle with Cutrone and easily finished from close range in the one-on-one.
Milan tried to play more attentively in the second half, but still pulling the strings. Higuain and Suso challenged Audero with two shots from distance and the goalie was able to parry them both, but bent at the third one, again by the Spaniard, who glided past Jacopo Sala on the flank and uncorked a deft lefty strike that died in the bottom right corner.
The guests were unable to respond this time, as the substitutes Dawid Kownacki and Ramirez did not make an impact and they lacked intensity and quickness of execution in the second half. Diego Laxalt had the biggest chance in the remaining portion of the game attacking the far post on a cross, but he hit the woodwork and did not manage to knock the rebound on goal.
Thanks to this result, the Devil reached Fiorentina, Sampdoria, Roma and Sassuolo in the standings and surpassed Torino and Genoa, against which they will play in a make-up game on Wednesday. It was a ripe game fantasy-wise, as Cutrone, Suso, Saponara and Quagliarella brought home six points because they all had a goal and an assist, while Higuain amassed four and Ricardo Rodriguez one.
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