Zlatan Ibrahimovic made his comeback off the bench, but it wasn’t enough for Milan to push their way past a solid Sampdoria.
Around 60,000 fans flocked to San Siro for the return of Zlatan Ibrahimovic after seven years away, but the 38-year-old Swede was initially on the bench. Lucas Biglia and Leo Duarte were injured, but Theo Hernandez returned from suspension after 2019 ended with a 5-0 defeat to Atalanta. Samp had Gianluca Caprari suspended, with Andrea Bertolacci, Alex Ferrari and Edgar Barreto sidelined.
Theo Hernandez is Milan’s joint top scorer this season with four goals and it showed, as he created most of their dangerous opportunities down the left.
There was a double chance on a corner, as Theo Hernandez’s glancing header was cleared as far as Jack Bonaventura, whose follow-up was charged down by Omar Colley.
Samp lost Gaston Ramirez to a knee injury and Theo Hernandez almost scored an unusual goal when his cross-shot surprised Emil Audero, clipping the crossbar.
Julian Chabot made a decisive tackle on Suso, who hesitated from six yards when he seemed certain to score.
In an extraordinary piece of bad luck, Samp lost substitute Fabio Depaoli to injury just 13 minutes after coming on, as he hurt his ankle during a bookable tackle on Theo Hernandez.
Nonetheless, Jakub Jankto thought he’d given Sampdoria the lead on the stroke of half-time, but Manolo Gabbiadini was already offside when rolling across for the tap-in.
There was a similar scare after the restart, but this time no offside flag. Gabbiadini pounced on an Ismael Bennacer error, Gianluigi Donnarumma came tearing out to parry with his body and then Theo Hernandez had to clear the rebound off the line.
Ibrahimovic and Rafael Leao came on for a move to 4-2-3-1, but it was Samp who started to make more of an impact with several wasted opportunities.
Donnarumma again bravely rushed off his line to keep out Karol Linetty, then Gabbiadini pounced on a poor Davide Calabria back-pass only to lose his nerve and blast over an empty net.
Milan started to make more of an impact as the game wore on and with their change of strike partners. Rafael Leao tested Audero from a tight angle at the near post, but then prodded over the bar when he got to a Mateo Musacchio knock-down first.
Ibra couldn’t quite get enough contact on his header to trouble Audero, but the game ended goalless amid the now familiar San Siro jeers.
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