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Milan 2-1 Empoli: Milan Fails to Impress as Saponara Scores in Return to San Siro

Milan managed to hold off Empoli Saturday at the San Siro, but it was far from a spectacular performance from the Rossoneri entering the international break.

Carlos Bacca netted his first goal for Milan Saturday against Empoli, beating two defenders on the counter attack in the first half.
Carlos Bacca netted his first goal for Milan Saturday against Empoli, beating two defenders on the counter attack in the first half.
Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

Following a loss to Fiorentina, and with the international break looming before the first Milan Derby of 2015-16, Milan needed to beat Empoli in Saturday's home opener.

The Rossoneri got the three points, defeating Empoli 2-1, but, once again, Milan failed to inspire much hope.

The good news is Sinisa Mihajlovic knows Milan played horribly. Unlike other Milan managers in recent years, he does not seem to be struck with a case of delusion. Milan was disastrous at times Saturday, and the new boss knows it.

One of the glaring issues against Fiorentina, despite going down to 10 men, was the inability to get a single shot on goal. In the early going, that was the case again. In the first 15 minutes, Milan had chances to go forward, but there was no getting to goal.

It took 106 minutes, but Milan finally put a shot on goal. It even went in. Carlos Bacca did a fantastic job to win the ball in the midfield. Then, finally, he showed the strength and speed that made him nigh unstoppable at Sevilla. He destroyed Empoli's defense and left Lukasz Skorupski watching helplessly as the ball rolled past him into the net.

Of course, when Milan finally gets things going, something bad has to happen. Saturday, it was the one thing all Milan fans dreaded as a possibility.

Riccardo Saponara equalized for Empoli four minutes after Bacca's goal. For the second game in row, he was Empoli's top player. Saponara has a fantastic career ahead of him. The 23-year-old Italian seems to have settled back in for his original club. After hardly seeing the light of day at Milan, Saponara returned to the San Siro and fired a goal past Diego Lopez. Until he started cramping up late in the match, he was arguably the best player on the pitch.

After a decent attempt with his head in the first half, Luiz Adriano opened his Milan scoring account in the 69th minute on a great header off a corner kick. Skorupski came out too aggressively for the ball, and Adriano had an open net to score in.

The corner came in from Giacomo Bonaventura, who entered the game for surprise-starter Suso in the 56th minute. Suso was underwhelming in a rare appearance for Milan. Bonaventura came in and immediately changed the game.

Before Bonaventura came in, Mihajlovic turned to Juraj Kucka, who made his Milan debut a day after his move from Genoa became official. Kucka was brutally underwhelming for Milan. He did nothing to improve Milan's midfield on the left side after he replaced Antonio Nocerino.

Nocerino should not have been the midfielder taken out at halftime. Andrea Bertolacci has been an overwhelming disappointment through two Serie A matches with Milan. It is a small sampling, sure, but for 20 million euros, Bertolacci should not be so frustratingly woeful in a midfield that needs improvement.

Mario Balotelli did not feature for Milan in his first game available after returning from Liverpool. He may have, had Bertolacci not come off with a shoulder injury late in the second half. Despite Bacca and Adriano's goals, Milan's attack was quiet overall. It would have been nice to see Balotelli get in there with Bonaventura and see what he could do alongside Bacca.

Three points is three points, and Milan will be happy to get into the win column for the first time this season, but the Rossoneri left a lot to be desired. Coming out of the break, Milan has a critical match against Inter. With a couple days left in the transfer window, Milan needs to go after another midfielder. Kucka is not enough, nor is he even close to an answer for the Rossoneri's midfield woes. Axel Witsel is still at Zenit, and the club president has given his blessing to Witsel to leave the club. Milan has to beat Juventus to the Belgian. They cannot lose him again.