Empoli vs Milan 2-4: Kessié Awakens as Florenzi Strikes Back

People at the Carlo Castellani Stadium in Empoli were treated with a six-goal football fest as Milan outclassed the Toscani 2-4 to put themselves back on track after their San Siro setback against Napoli on Sunday.

Powered by a Frank Kessié brace, Alessandro Florenzi’s first goal in two years, and a sumptuous performance from Alexis Saelemaekers, the Rossoneri thus closed 2021 in the second position, taking advantage of the Partenopei‘s slipover against Spezia to remain the only pursuer of top-ranked Inter.

For the game at the Castellani, Stefano Pioli recovered Theo Hernandez at left back. With Zlatan Ibrahimovic kept at bay by yet another injury, it fell on Olivier Giroud’s shoulders to spearhead the attack. Pioli’s most interesting move, however, was advancing Kessié from the midfield and placing him behind Giroud, with Alexis Saelemaekers and Junior Messias supporting from the flanks.

Aurelio Andreazzoli changed four men from his 1-1 draw at Spezia this past weekend. Former Rossonero Patrick Cutrone came back from the start, joining Andrea Pinamonti upfront as Nedim Bajrami supported the two from the back.

Fun fact from the game, both captains were a Romagnoli: Simone for Empoli and Alessio for Milan. There is no relationship between the two, though.

Kessié Bags First Half Brace for Milan

Kessié opened the scoring for the visitors 12 minutes into the game. The Ivorian took advantage of some good work from Giroud in the box, who turned a Saelemaekers cross into a golden chance for the Presidente. Kessié fired the ball past Guglielmo Vicario to put Milan in the driving seat.

But Milan’s lead lasted only five minutes. That’s all it took for Nedim Bajrami to pounce on a ball cleared by Kessié and catch Mike Maignan by surprise with a tricky right-foot shot that found the bottom right corner of the net.

Empoli showed that they had no fear and were in control for most of the first half, even though the match pace progressively slowed down. On 36 minutes, Pinamonti was caught behind the Milan defensive line and volleyed the ball to the far corner but this time Maignan was alert.

His counterpart Vicario surely did worse than him on 43 minutes, when Kessié received the ball from Saelemaekers in the box and nutmegged the Empoli keeper from a tight angle to bring the Rossoneri ahead again. 

The first half ended with Saelemaekers going for a tricky shot from outside the box, missing the target by a few inches.

Florenzi’s First Goal in Two Years Wraps It

The game restarted with one change for Empoli as Riccardo Marchizza replaced Petar Stojanovic. The Toscani seemed to have what it takes to rebalance the game. Bajrami was quick to burst into the Rossoneri‘s box and made Maignan’s crossbar rattle with a right-foot screamer that heralded Empoli’s intentions for the second half.

The Azzurri‘s good intentions, however, suffered a heavy blow when Alessandro Florenzi made it three for Milan from a set piece. As Sebastiano Luperto fouled Saelemaekers on the edge of the box, the former Roma man good a chance to make it to the scoresheet for the first time in two years, taking advantage of the Empoli defense’s dreadful positioning.

Pioli was just about to replace Florenzi with Pierre Kalulu but decided to delay his change to after the free kick delivery. That’s what you call a good decision.

On 69 minutes, Milan had their fourth. Saelemaekers went to pick Hernandez with yet another clinical cross, causing Filippo Bandinelli’s handball in the box. It was already a crystal clear penalty, but there was no need for that as Milan’s left back promptly whipped the ball into the back of the net to make it 1-4.

Empoli could still pull one back before full time, courtesy of a Pinamonti converted penalty. The Inter youth academy product was sent to the spot by a Tiemoué Bakayoko handball. It was a heavy loss for the home Toscani, who still hold a comfortable ninth position in the league table, however.

What’s Next for Empoli and Milan

Both sides will face Roman clubs in their next campionato tests. Empoli will face Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico while Milan will receive Roma at the San Siro, both games taking place on January 6 after the year-end break.

Milan will also have to keep an eye on the transfer market. With Simon Kjaer out of play for the rest of the season and both Ibrahimovic and Giroud only having limited playing time in their legs, the Rossoneri have two key positions to fill as they continue their chase to table leader Inter. 



December 22, 2021 – Serie A 2021-2022 Round 19

SCORERS: 12′ Kessié (M), 18′ Bajrami (E), 42′ Kessié (M), 63′ Florenzi (M), 69′ Hernandez (M), 84′ Pinamonti (E, pen.)

EMPOLI (4-3-1-2): Vicario; Stojanovic (46′ Marchizza), S. Romagnoli, Luperto, Parisi; Zurkowski (68′ Bandinelli), Ricci (85′ Stulac), Henderson (85′ Asslani); Bajrami; Pinamonti, Cutrone (68′ La Mantia) (Ujkani, Furlan, Tonelli, Viti, Di Francesco, Mancuso) Coach: Andreazzoli
MILAN (4-2-3-1): Maignan; Florenzi (65′ Kalulu), Tomori, A. Romagnoli, Hernandez; Tonali (65′ Bakayoko), Bennacer (81′ Krunic); Messias (81′ Brahim Diaz), Kessié, Saelemaekers; Giroud (Tatarusanu, Mirante, Ballo-Toure, Gabbia, Castillejo, Maldini) Coach: Pioli

REFEREE: Mr. Di Bello from Brindisi
NOTES: Yellow Cards: S. Romagnoli (E), Tonali, Bennacer (M); Added Time: 1st Half: 1′, 2nd Half: 5′