Sampdoria 0, Milan 1: Re-entry

When you think about the launch of a rocket, there is a countdown and every calculation planned and checked again and again, until the launch becomes an explosive, fiery reality, thrusting the rocket with enough force to leave earth's atmosphere. Yet re-entry can actually be more dangerous for astronauts, with less control, more speed and more heat and pressure. This game had all of those things and more. Fans looking forward to the first match of the season were not disappointed, as Milan pulled us back into Serie A with force like gravity and all of the heat and intensity you would expect upon re-entry.


The team and fans coming back with intensity

This match launched three new Milan players, with both Giroud and Maignan starting and Florenzi getting about ten minutes on their collective debuts. Yes, please. While Giroud did not score, Sampdoria's entire defense had to play the game of their lives just to stop him. He already showed a tremendous understanding with our other attacking players, and was always where he needed to be for a scoring opportunity.


It took everything Samp had to contain our new No. 9

Florenzi, as we talked about on the last podcast, replaced Saelemaekers late in the game, and his role became more clear as Pioli subbed Romagnoli on for Calabria to create a three man backline to hold our lead for the final minutes. Tactical versatility? Yes, please. I look forward to seeing Florenzi's experience and motivation really kick in, and I did notice that a certain spindly Spanish winger looked visibly angry after the match as his hopes for playing time were virtually extinguished with the new signing.


We've got options

The most explosive debut was Maignan's. I can barely even find the words. He spends a lot of time well off of his line but is so incredibly fast it does not matter, definitely plays a lot with his feet, can send a goal kick up for a near assist, and save three attempts back to back in a matter of seconds. I am not going to lie, the only time I thought about Donnarumma was him sitting on the bench at PSG watching this match and probably just crying and wondering what he had done with his life. Maignan is a little rough around the edges, and learning Italian will help as well, but keeping a clean sheet against Sampdoria's Quagliarella, Damsgaard, Gabbiadini, and Candreva was no easy feat, even if he made it look like it was just Monday. 


Wow.

After a couple of early chances for Sampdoria, Maignan sent a goal kick all the way up to Leão, who had a fantastic shot on target, only to be denied by a great Audero save in the fifth minute. Kjaer and Yoshida clashed heads, but both recovered after a bit of treatment and our Viking played the full 90 minutes. The result was determined in only the ninth minute when Calabria's cross into Brahim Díaz ended up in the back of the net, 1-0 Milan. Sure, Audero should have been better in net, but that was one of many great Milan plays to watch in this match.

In the 14th minute, Maignan came well off his line while the wise Quagliarella looked to take advantage of him. While in many other situations, that would have been a goal for Sampdoria, Maignan played it perfectly and drew a foul from the striker instead. Heart stopping, yes, but so exciting and refreshing, too. Just a minute later, Maignan tipped a Gabbiadini free kick over, then defended first a shot from a corner, then a double save from Damsgaard and Colley in a flurry of day-glo yellow glory. I'm not going to lie, I have a new keeper crush. His boldness is bound to cause a problem at some point, but it was not on this day.


Our opening goal appropriately scored by our new no. 10

Theo Hernández launched a rocket in the 26th that Audero saved, and Krunić launched the rebound just wide, leaving me to lament the need for him to have started. However, he redeemed himself by blocking a shot point blank with his face in the 43rd, and provided the versatility to adjust when Bennacer was later subbed on, so I couldn't really begrudge Pioli's choice after all. Milan had more chances, Maignan made more clearances way off of his line, and Gabbiadini was awarded a yellow for bullying our tiny treasure, Brahim Díaz.

After a fiery and intense first half, the second half was a bit slower, but still a battle back and forth. In the 49th, Damsgaard took a free kick from almost the exact same spot as his Euro wondergoal, but Milan's wall blocked it. Maignan's heroics included point-blank saves, rescuing teammates' errors, and sliding out fearlessly against incoming attackers. The shot of Paolo Maldini biting his nails around the 60th minute expressed how most of us felt, I think. It was impossible not to feel heartbreak at Gabbiadini's injury, an apparent re-injury that looked to be very serious. Hope he recovers soon.


The fans bringing the heat and intensity back, too

Pioli brought in Bennacer and Rebić in the 69th, then Florenzi for his debut, and eventually Romagnoli. Maignan drew two more fouls, including a yellow card for Murru in the 74th. Kjaer earned the only yellow for Milan in the 86th for a tactical foul. Giroud never stopped fighting, and could have scored any number of times if it weren't for a very vigilant defense. Rebić got the final Milan shot off in stoppage time, only to see it go just wide. To look at the stats, though, the match was very even. Only the early goal made the difference. Milan did not play the perfect game by any means, but both teams battled with intensity and fire.

Milan return home from Genoa with the opening win, three points, and a clean sheet for our Man of the Match, Mike "Magic Eagle" Maignan. A lot of keepers wait and anticipate, but it is clear that Maignan plays very aggressively and proactively, which will make this season even more exciting. Particularly for a weekday match on a hot night in Genoa, this match had all of the intensity of re-entry.


This post inspired by the music of Peter Schilling's "Major Tom"


Our next match is 
Serie A Week 2
Milan vs. Cagliari
Sunday, August 29 • 20:45 CEST (2:45pm EDT)

Sampdoria 0, Milan 1: Re-entry Sampdoria 0, Milan 1: Re-entry Reviewed by Elaine on 11:30 PM Rating: 5
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