AC Milan preserved their healthy five-point lead at the top of Serie A table with a hard-fought 3-1 win over UC Sampdoria on Sunday, at Stadio Luigi Ferraris.

The visitors were without their best defender, midfielder and attacker heading into this game, so they missed usual dominance and sharpness which has been evident throughout the campaign. Yet, they were the better side during the first few phases of the game, even though the Rossoneri were somewhat lucky to be awarded a penalty just before half-time.

Franck Kessie made no mistake in converting the spot-kick, giving his team a vital lead. Sampdoria weren’t exactly threatening much and Milan did dominate possession in the second half. Things looked even more comfortable when substitute Samu Castillejo doubled the visitors’ lead in the 77th minute.

Unfortunately for Stefano Pioli’s men, an 81st minute header from Albin Ekdal helped Sampdoria pull one back, thus leading to a nervy end to the proceedings for the league leaders, even though they did manage to preserve their slender one-goal lead. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over the AC Milan players following the win over Sampdoria.

Gianluigi Donnarumma: 7/10

Gianluigi Donnarumma made a fantastic early save to deny Lorenzo Tonelli from breaking the deadlock. He was confident in the box throughout the course of the game, but could not keep out Ekdal’s header as goal-line system revealed that the ball had gone way over the line.

FLORENCE, ITALY - MAY 11: Gianluigi Donnarumma of AC Milan in action during the Serie A match between ACF Fiorentina and AC Milan at Stadio Artemio Franchi on May 11, 2019 in Florence, Italy. (Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images)

Donnarumma made an important early save. (Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images)

Davide Calabria: 7.5/10

Davide Calabria was always an obstacle for Sampdoria wingers on the right flank. The Italian’s solidity in one-on-one duels meant he was given the deeper role in defence as he aided the two centre-backs. So naturally, the right-back could not provide much quality or support going forward.

Matteo Gabbia: 8/10

Filling in for the injured Simon Kjaer, Matteo Gabbia took the responsibility with aplomb. His imposing presence in the air, in particular, made things difficult for the Sampdoria forwards including Fabio Quagliarella. In fact, the youngster won seven headed duels throughout the game – more than any other player.

Alessio Romagnoli: 7.5/10

With Kjaer absent, the onus was on Alessio Romagnoli to provide more leadership and discipline in the Milan backline. The Italian international did not disappoint either, putting in a good bit of defensive display. Much like Gabbia, he was strong in dealing with the Sampdoria long balls, notably registering four wins headed duels.

Theo Hernandez: 7.5/10

Theo Hernandez provided a sumptuous long ball that led to an excellent opportunity for Ante Rebic. It would have found the back of the net had it not been for an incredible goalline clearance from Tonelli.

Nevertheless, it was yet another impressive display from the ex-Real Madrid man. Hernandez’s positional sense and tactical awareness made him a key outlet in Milan’s build-up play.

Sandro Tonali: 6.5/10

Filling in for Ismael Bennacer, Sandro Tonali struggled a bit in imposing his authority during the early stages of the game. His overall passing was not as fluid as one would expect, but the youngster at least kept things ticking in the middle of the park. He also got close to scoring once in the second half, but his effort hit the post.

Franck Kessie: 7.5/10

The absence of Bennacer put additional pressure on Kessie, but the Ivorian once again revelled with yet another impressive display in midfield. The former Atalanta man imposed his presence in the middle of the park with some good tackles and an even better ball distribution. Not to mention, it was his composed penalty that led to the all-important opener.

Alexis Saelemaekers: 6/10

It was not the best of games for Alexis Saelemaekers, who provided very little creativity going forward. There was also a lack of penetration as the young Belgian found it difficult to get past the Sampdoria defenders. He was eventually subbed off during the final phase of the game as he made way for goalscorer Castillejo.

Brahim Diaz: 5/10

Another Milan attacker who failed to impress against Sampdoria, Brahim Diaz was completely ineffective in the final third. The on-loan Real Madrid playmaker found it difficult to pull the strings in the opposition half, often getting isolated by the press. Overall, he was not involved enough, notably mustering a total of just 18 passes before being subbed off at half-time.

Hakan Calhanoglu: 6.5/10

Hakan Calhanoglu was certainly more of a threat for Sampdoria when compared to Diaz due to his set-piece prowess and an ability to create chances in the final third even from tight situations. Unfortunately, those moments came few and far between in what was a rather dry game for the Milan attackers.

Ante Rebic: 7/10

Rebic was somewhat of a lone bright spark in an otherwise dire Milan attack against Sampdoria. It was particularly due to his intimidating physical presence that made life difficult for the likes of Tonelli and Ferrari. The Croat also worked hard and link up well with his teammates. He might even consider himself to be unlucky to not find the back of the net, though he did assist the goal for Castillejo.

Substitutes

Jens Petter Hauge: 7.5/10

Replaced the ineffective Diaz at half-time as Pioli opted for more dynamism and directness in Milan’s attack. The move paid off for the Italian tactician as the young Jens Petter Hauge proved to be a menace for the Sampdoria defence. His silky footwork and trickery on the flanks even initiated the attack that led to Milan’s second goal.

Samu Castillejo: 7/10

Made an immediate impact after coming on for Saelemaekers as the ex-Villarreal forward doubled Milan’s lead with a simple tap-in with just 13 minutes remaining on the clock.

Rade Krunic: N/A

A late replacement for the tiring Calhanoglu. Did not play enough to warrant a rating.

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