After a hard-fought 1-1 draw against Atalanta, AC Milan traveled to Sampdoria on Wednesday and took care of business against Claudio Ranieri’s 15th-placed side. The Rossoneri’s backline was again diminished, with Matteo Gabbia and Davide Calabria featuring in the starting eleven for a second consecutive match. Samu Castillejo was also noticeably absent for Milan, and Alexis Saelemaekers appeared in his place on the right wing.
The match began with a bang for Milan when Zlatan Ibrahimovic netted his eighth goal of the season from six yards out. Ante Rebić did well to create the chance, dribbling to Sampdoria’s goal line before gently crossing a lofted ball to the unmarked Swede. While the play was well-worked from Milan, Sampdoria’s defense was far too lazy and failed to step to either Rebić or Ibrahimovic.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the first player to score 5️⃣0️⃣ Serie A goals for both of the Milan clubs— Goal (@goal) July 29, 2020
The King of Milan pic.twitter.com/Q9i7HScESH
Minutes later, Milan cut through the Sampdoria backline once again, forcing goalkeeper Wladimiro Falcone to make two great saves against Davide Calabria and Théo Hernandez. Combination play between Hernandez and Rebić was especially good early on and resulted in several chances for the Rossoneri.
As the match progressed, Sampdoria settled down and began to look more and more competent, taking several shots, though none were able to challenge Gianluigi Donnarumma. Milan’s offense also slowed down and began to look to build more structured attacks rather than the fast-paced combination play that had destroyed Sampdoria in the first ten minutes.
Ibrahimovic nearly secured a brace after the cooling break, as five of Milan’s players created a well-worked, tiki-taka style chance, with Zlatan releasing Théo Hernandez out wide from inside the box. The Frenchman then immediately crossed the ball back to Zlatan, but the Swede’s one-touch shot from 10 yards went directly to Falcone, who deflected it wide for a corner kick. The first half ended 1-0, but Milan absolutely dominated Sampdoria, and won the possession battle 60%-40%.
The second half began with a near goal for Sampdoria after Gabbia committed a foul just outside the 18-yard box. The ensuing free kick was saved by Donnarumma and nearly headed home by Omar Colley, but the centre back missed high on the wide open net.
This miss proved to be a real turning point for Milan, as the Rossoneri doubled their lead on the ensuing attack. A beautiful cross from Davide Calabria was headed by Ibrahimovic back into open space in the box, where it took a bounce and was immediately volleyed into goal by a jumping, acrobatic Çalhanoğlu. Initially, the goal was disallowed due to a foul by Turkish midfielder on Colley, but a VAR review determined that the centre back had slipped and overturned the call.
Milan made it 3-0 in the 58th minute, again via superb play from Zlatan Ibrahimovic. This goal was started when a great tackle by Matteo Gabbia released an AC Milan counter attack into space. Hakan Çalhanoğlu, running into space in the attacking third, easily slotted a through ball to the unmarked Zlatan. The forward put the ball past Falcone, whose fist was not strong enough to stop the shot.
Two goals and an assist for Zlatan.— ESPN (@espn) July 29, 2020
The 38-year-old does it again! pic.twitter.com/C4gvy8pnTU
The match was all but over after the third goal, and Milan spent the last 30 minutes almost exclusively in Sampdoria’s defensive third. Samu Castillejo, Jack Bonaventura and Rafa Leão were all substituted on, with Saelemaekers sliding into right back in place of Calabria.
As time was winding down, a questionable foul in the box by Simon Kjær resulted in a penalty to the home side, giving Sampdoria a glimmer of hope. However, it was poorly taken by Gonzalo Maroni, and Donnarumma came up big with a leg save to preserve the clean sheet for the Rossoneri. The goal really summed up the day for Sampdoria, which had its fair share of chances, but was never able to threaten Milan.
Sampdoria finally cut the lead to two in the 87th minute. Milan’s defense failed to close down 19-year-old substitute Kristoffer Askildsen, and the young Norwegian hit a beautiful strike from outside the box that sailed into the upper right corner. The goal came far too late for the home side though, which fell 1-4 to AC Milan after a stoppage time goal from Leão. The Rossoneri will return to the San Siro and finish the season against Cagliari, which has greatly struggled in its most recent matches.
Two huge story lines will dominate Serie A’s matchday 38. Of course, one is the second-place race, with Atalanta and Inter playing head-to-head, while Lazio will face off with 7th-place Napoli. The other is the relegation battle between Lecce, which upset Udinese today, and Genoa, which was beaten 5-0 by Sassuolo. Lecce will play Parma, while Genoa draws the inconsistent Hellas Verona, with both matches likely to go down to the wire.