Feature Photo: Daniele Mascolo / Photoviews
The second round of this weekend’s city confrontation between Milano and Genova (the first one was played yesterday, with Inter losing to Genoa) saw the Lombard side prevailing this time. Milan beat Sampdoria with a lone goal by Giacomo Bonaventura to reach them in the 6th spot of Serie A at 41 points.
Gennaro Gattuso’s band caught their fifth win in the last six matches, avenged the defeat suffered in the first leg, and started to see again the possibility to qualify for Europe next year in the distance. A feat happening only three days after their convincing 3-0 win over Ludogorets, that enabled them to virtually book a ticket for this edition of Europa League Round of 16.
Marco Giampaolo’s Bluecerchiati were unexpectedly remissive last night, unable to pose any serious threat to the Rossoneri – for whom Bonaventura’s single goal proved to be enough.
In Gattuso’s starting eleven, Ricardo Rodriguez retook his spot as left back, with Riccardo Montolivo replacing disqualified Frank Kessié, and Patrick Cutrone acting as offensive terminal – well supported by Hakan Calhanoglu and Suso. No surprises among the starting lineup of Sampdoria, with Gastòn Ramirez positioning himself behind Fabio Quagliarella and Duvan Zapata.
The Bluecerchiati continued with their curious trend of dressing up their goalkeeper with a color pattern opposite than the other ten men: Emiliano Viviano looked like a volleyball libero…
Gianluigi Donnarumma’s tactic was a different one, as Milan goalie’s green outfit basically camouflaged him with the pitch – and anybody would have hardly noticed him indeed, if it wasn’t for a couple of timely exits that stopped the rare offences of Sampdoria.
Milan’s pressure from the start produced a shocker after just five minutes of play, with a cross from the right by Davide Calabria being deflected by Nicola Murru with his hand. Referee Daniele Doveri awarded a penalty to the home side, but Ricardo Rodriguez shot it in the worst possible way – slow and not too wide – giving Viviano the chance to save his third penalty in a row this season. Nice gesture on the part of Gattuso, who (bear)hugged his player to cheer him up.
In any case, the rendezvous with scoring was only slightly delayed for the Rossoneri, who broke the balance when Calabria, once again from his right side, crossed the ball in with a low pass that found “Jack” Bonaventura’s conversion. Viviano couldn’t stop it this time. The clock was striking minute 13 only.
In the 37th minute, Sampdoria called for a penalty themselves, with Calabria touching the ball with his hand in an attempt to anticipate Duvan Zapata. Doveri, after a consultation with his VAR, judged his touch unintentional.
With just two minutes to go before the break, the Rossoneri went close to make it two, with Hakan Calhanoglu serving a sharp pass for Leonardo Bonucci, this one from the left flank. The Captain pushed the ball in, but the VAR evidenced a clear offside position. Still, Sampdoria being caught unprepared just like in occasion of the first goal highlighted their vulnerability in the center of defense – with center backs Matias Silvestre and Gian Marco Ferrari once again anticipated.
Gattuso’s side limited themselves to preserve their lead in the second half, after a devastating progression by Calhanoglu in the 52nd minute ended with a shot that made Sampdoria’s woodwork rattle. The Turkish winger – a player literally regenerated since Gattuso took control of the Rossoneri boat – made himself dangerous again twenty minutes later, forcing Viviano to another difficult save.
Davide Calabria – whose last name curiously recalls the Region from which the Milan coach is from, and who also looks transformed since Ringhio trains the Rossoneri – called again Samp’s goalie to action with a striker-like conclusion three minutes before the end.
The only chance for Sampdoria came late in the game, when a cross by Fabio Quagliarella delivered the ball to substitute Gianluca Caprari. Samp’s number 9 hit it with his knee, narrowly missing Donnarumma’s goal. But it would have been a reward bigger than what his club deserved last night.
The three points rightfully went to Milan, still the battle for a Europa League spot next year between the two sides will continue at distance.
February 18, 2018 – Serie A 2017-18 Round 25
SCORER: 13’ Bonaventura (M)
|MILAN (4-3-3): G. Donnarumma; Calabria, Bonucci, Romagnoli, Rodriguez; Montolivo (85′ Locatelli), Biglia, Bonaventura; Suso, Cutrone (73′ André Silva), Calhanoglu (A. Donnarumma, Guarnone, Abate, Antonelli, Gomez, Musacchio, C. Zapata, Mauri, Borini, Tsadjout) Coach: Gattuso|
|SAMPDORIA (4-3-1-2): Viviano; Bereszynski, Silvestre, Ferrari, Murru; Barreto (54′ Verre), Torreira, Linetty; Ramirez (72′ Kownacki); D. Zapata (54′ Caprari), Quagliarella (Tozzo, Krapikas, Andersen, Regini, Strinic, Ercolano, Capezzi, Tessiore, Alvarez) Coach: Giampaolo|
REFEREE: Mr. Doveri from Roma
NOTES: Yellow cards: Bonaventura (M), Linetty, Ferrari, Verre (S).