Cagliari’s Daniele Dessena and Daniele Conti simply could not keep up. Gabriele Perico was turned inside out and Luca Rossettini could only fall to his knees. Milan starlet Stephan El Shaarawy had single-handedly slalomed past the entire right flank of the Sardinian side, a mere five minutes into Wednesday evening’s make-or-break clash at San Siro.
Unfortunately for the 19-year-old, the timid strike that followed was never going to trouble Michael Agazzi in between the posts for Massimo Ficcadenti’s men. It was a statement of intent that the forward did not let up on, however. In fact the Little Pharaoh went on to score a brace and secure the Rossoneri’s first victory at home this season.
The Italian international opened the scoring 10 minutes after his aforementioned run, latching on to a through ball and calmly slotting past Agazzi to the delight of the Milanese faithful. It was also his finish that wrapped up proceedings late in the second half, as he once again remained composed from a similar distance to complete a 2-0 victory.
The man of the match performance followed up a spectacular strike against Udinese on Sunday, meaning El Shaarawy has now scored more goals in five games than he did in 28 appearances in Serie A last term. Hard-hitting departures from Via Turati over the summer, particularly in the attacking department, have left the youngster with no choice but to take control upfront.
Burly Swede Zlatan Ibrahimovic can no longer be relied on to produce on every occasion, having moved to Paris Saint-Germain, and the loss of Antonio Cassano to city rivals Inter has also been hard to swallow. That is coupled with the experience of Pippo Inzaghi moving into a coaching capacity and yet another injury issue for Alexandre Pato.
The Italian-Egyptian has previously been criticised for a severe lack of muscle and confidence in the final third, but instead he demonstrated a different side to his game. While he successfully completed the most dribbles in midweek, he also returned to aid his teammates in defence and even saw off the imposing Victor Ibarbo and clinical Mauricio Pinilla at times. “I like El Shaarawy because he runs like a madman. It is that dedication that warrants the jersey,” stated Milan Vice-President Adriano Galliani in the aftermath of the stuttering win.
Massimiliano Allegri could not have afforded a loss against his former club, and El Shaarawy must be credited for repaying the faith he put in him last year. The youngster has also remained loyal to the club’s dedicated supporters and insists they will turn the dire campaign around for them. “I have a great relationship with the Curva. I’m the type of player who sacrifices himself and I think that the fans like that.”
Having been recently capped by Cesare Prandelli, the former Padova man will be eager to return to the senior set-up. Comparisons with Samuel Eto’o and links to Manchester United may be premature, but the youngster has the chance to build a legacy at a club in serious need of a leader upfront.