Once Domenico Berardi scores, it is easy to give up on Milan in a match against Sassuolo.
But Milan showed fight and spirit, characteristics lacking for most of the 2015-16 season to this point. After Berardi's equalizer, Luiz Adriano fired home a game-winning goal with four minutes to play as Milan earned all three points in a 2-1 win at the San Siro Sunday.
The headline entering the match was the debut of Gianluigi Donnarumma. Milan's 16-year-old goalkeeping prospect earned his first Serie A start Sunday, replacing No. 1 keeper Diego Lopez. The Spanish veteran has allowed 14 goals so far this season, only stopping about half the shots he has faced.
In front of Donnarumma, the defense was superb. Sassuolo only managed four shots with only two going on goal. One of those shots on goal was Berardi's free-kick goal in the 53rd minute. The Milan killer would not be denied from the dead ball, but Donnarumma still nearly kept the shot out.
Alessio Romagnoli was especially stellar today. He paired up well with Alex in the center.
Milan started the match with control, but could not find the breakthrough early. It took 30 minutes, but Milan finally got a legitimate threat in on goal. Alessio Cerci, who was named the man of the match, rightfully, played a perfect, beautiful, sublime through ball to Carlos Bacca. Cerci split the defense and Bacca used his speed to get in on Andrea Consigli. Whether Consigli made contact or not is up for debate, but Bacca went to ground, earning both a penalty and a red card for Consigli. Bacca fired the penalty kick in to give Milan the lead at the half..
The second half did not start well for Milan. To no one's surprise, Berardi scored, as he curled his shot into the far corner and froze Donnarumma, who took a step to his left before diving to his right, coming up just short.
After the Berardi goal, Sassuolo parked 10 men behind the ball and looked determined to leave the San Siro with at least one point. Milan was visibly frustrated as it struggled to break down Sassuolo, but Cerci and Bonaventura gave Milan some hope, as they caused problems for Sassuolo with their intelligent passing and running down their respective flanks.
Mihajlovic made two key substitutions which changed the course of the match when he put on Andrea Bertolacci and Luiz Adriano. In his limited minutes, Bertolacci put in arguably his best performance as a Milan player. He showcased his penetrating runs—with and without the ball—and really drove Milan forward as it looked to take the lead.
Milan threw the kitchen sink at Sassuolo, and somehow managed not to score in a scramble in front of the net that looked a lot like a fire drill. In the span of 10 seconds, Pegolo parried away a dangerous shot, Luiz Adriano's goal-bound header was blocked and Bertolacci's goal-bound scissor kick was blocked. It looked like it was not going to be Milan's day as it kept falling just short in front of goal.
The breakthrough came in the 86th minute, when Bonaventura whipped in an excellent corner that fell to the wide open Luiz Adriano. The Brazilian didn't even have to jump, as he headed his shot past Pegolo to secure the three points for Milan.
Four points from Torino away and Sassuolo at home has gifted Milan with some momentum, it's now up to the Rossoneri to move up the table. Wednesday will provide another tough test against Chievo.