Rafael Leao scored a sensational early goal as AC Milan moved to the top of the Serie A table with a win over Sampdoria.

AC Milan move on top of the Serie A standings with a narrow 1-0 victory over Sampdoria. The victory means the Rossoneri now move one point clear of their cross-town rivals at the top, though Inter do have a game in hand.

Coming on the back of a morale-boosting win over the defending champions, Milan approached the game in a cautious manner. They were aided by a moment of brilliance from Rafael Leao, who capitalised on an excellent long ball from goalkeeper Mike Maignan to score the opener in the eighth minute of the proceedings.

The early goal gave Milan the opportunity to assert more dominance in the game. In fact, the 1-0 scoreline does not do justice to their performance, as the hosts had created a plethora of goalscoring opportunities, only to be denied at the end by an inspiring Wladimiro Falcone in between the sticks.

In response, Sampdoria offered very little threat going forward and never really looked like levelling the scoring. It led to a nervy yet clinical three points for Milan. And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will take a look at how the Rossoneri players fared in their vital win over Sampdoria this weekend.

Mike Maignan: 8/10

Mike Maignan was one of the best performers for Milan in this crucial victory. The goalkeeper was alert in between the sticks despite the minimal threat provided by the opposition attack. However, it was his exceptional long ball that saw him bag an assist for Leao’s opener inside the eighth minute of the game. A clean sheet and an assist – nothing more a goalkeeper can possibly ask out of a game.

Davide Calabria: 7/10

Davide Calabria retained his role at right-back despite the absence of Theo Hernandez. Stefano Pioli certainly deserves credit for making the decision, as the defender enjoyed more freedom on the right flank. He occasionally moved forward, but more importantly, was a vital asset in Milan’s defensive game.

Fikayo Tomori: 7/10

Fikayo Tomori marked his return to the starting lineup with a relatively impressive display at the heart of Milan’s four-man backline. He was solid more often than not and did extremely well to keep the likes of Francesco Caputo and Stefano Sensi at bay.

Alessio Romagnoli: 7/10

Alessio Romagnoli’s leadership and experience at the back were vital in helping AC Milan maintain their solidity in defence. His physical and aerial prowess was also useful in giving the Rossoneri the upper hand in duels.

Alessandro Florenzi: 7/10

Filling in for the suspended Hernandez, Alessandro Florenzi deserves credit for doing well even while playing out of position. He offered constant threat with his forays down the flanks, and although one may expect a bit of improvement on the defensive front, it was an impressive display, nonetheless.

Sandro Tonali: 7/10

Sandro Tonali continued his good run of form with yet another solid display in the middle of the park. He was always a stable outlet in possession, while the youngster also did well in personal duels.

Ismael Bennacer: 7.5/10

Starting ahead of Franck Kessie, Ismael Bennacer showcased his quality by becoming a thorn in Sampdoria’s build-up play. Indeed, the former Arsenal man offered aggression, dynamism and speed to the second line of press, notably recovering a host of balls in dangerous areas. Some of them even led to goalscoring opportunities.

Junior Messias: 7/10

Junior Messias had a decent game as he offered a lot of dynamism and work ethic in the final third. He also got on the end of several opportunities but was unable to find the back of the net. A solid performance, nonetheless, from an attacker who continues to impress the Milan fans.

Brahim Diaz: 6/10

Brahim Diaz was meant to be the creative hub of the Milan side. The Spaniard, though, had occasional problems in imposing his authority in the final third. He got the ball forward well on multiple occasions but lacked the end product.

Rafael Leao: 8/10

Rafael Leao produced a moment of magic to score the early opener for Milan. It was truly an excellent goal that emphasised the attacker’s unmatched potential. Apart from the goal, the forward worked hard in the final third, though he was subbed off quite early on in the second half.

Olivier Giroud: 7.5/10

Olivier Giroud continued to impress with another hard-working display in the number nine role. He showcased his ability to sniff goalscoring opportunities to get on the end of a few chances. But he was denied by Falcone time and time again, including from a sensational overhead kick. He was quite unlucky not to find the back of the net.

SUBSTITUTES

Ante Rebic: 7/10

Ante Rebic offered more strength and dynamism in the Milan frontline after replacing Leao, just before the hour mark. He was deeply involved in the Rossoneri‘s attacking game.

Alexis Saelemaekers: 6.5/10

Alexis Saelemaekers was close to scoring one of the goals of the season in Europe when he took on at least four Sampdoria defenders. But in the end, the winger showed too much and the ball was cleared off the lines by the defenders.

Franck Kessie: 6/10

Franck Kessie’s energy and enthusiasm in the middle of the park came in handy when he replaced Diaz during the hour mark.

Rade Krunic: N/A

A late replacement for Bennacer. Did not play enough to warrant a rating.

Pierre Kalulu: N/A

A late replacement for Florenzi. Did not play enough to warrant a rating.

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