Cristian Brocchi won on his Milan debut at Marassi thanks to a Carlos Bacca strike, but Sampdoria protested a disallowed goal.
Sinisa Mihajlovic was fired this week and Brocchi promoted from the Primavera youth job, changing to President Silvio Berlusconi’s preferred 4-3-1-2 formation. M’Baye Niang was sidelined and Juraj Kucka shrugged off an ankle problem in the warm-up. Samp missed Antonio Cassano, Jacopo Sala, David Ivan, Carlos Carbonero and suspended Andrea Ranocchia.
Mario Balotelli and Carlos Bacca had early efforts off target, while Ricky Alvarez hit the side-netting and Fabio Quagliarella’s snapshot failed to make the most of a Kucka error.
A Balotelli free kick had a series of ricochets and Dodo crucially bundled it out for a corner before Kucka could pounce from a couple of yards.
Sampdoria were furious, as Dodo had the ball in the net with a disallowed goal on 25 minutes. Fernando’s overhead kick appeared to go past Quagliarella to meet Dodo, but if Quaglia did get a touch, then it would indeed have been offside.
It was a very intense match and Milan had a fantastic chance, but Emiliano Viviano performed a stunning reaction save from point-blank range on Bacca from Ignazio Abate’s cross.
Fernando’s half-volley from a tight angle also stung Donnarumma’s gloves just before half-time.
Balotelli turned another free kick over and Bacca confirmed his poor form by horribly wasting a promising counter with three Milan players.
Ignazio Abate got in front of Dodo for a decisive interception to stop him meeting Lorenzo De Silvestri’s cross at the back post.
Bacca sprung the offside trap on a Kucka assist and Viviano rushed off the line to get a touch to the rabona, deflecting it wide, but perhaps the Colombian should’ve just put his foot through it.
Moments later Quagliarella’s half-volley from the tightest of angles brought a fine save out of Donnarumma at the near post.
Bonaventura’s back-heel flick set up Kucka only to blast wide, then Milan wasted a three against one counter as Bacca hesitated and allowed Matias Silvestre to close him down.
Bacca made up for the errors by breaking the deadlock. Bonaventura burst down the right past two players and pulled back, so the Colombian flicked the ball up with his left foot and fired in a right-foot angled drive.
The tension was sky high and when Andrea Poli went into a crunching tackle on Fernando, a brawl broke out, but Balotelli of all people was instrumental in calming the situation down.
A long Samp free kick skimmed Silvestre’s head and Modibo Diakite failed to get the final touch at the back post. Balotelli was precious in the final stages by earning a series of free kicks to take the pressure off his teammates.
Sampdoria have not beaten Milan since a 1-0 result at San Siro in August 2012, managing three draws from eight meetings in all competition. The Rossoneri’s last defeat at Marassi was 2-1 in April 2010, followed by four wins and three draws between Serie A and the Coppa Italia.