Milan: AC Milan striker Carlos Bacca came off the bench to win the ‘Battle of the Colombians’ with a late strike in a 1-0 win at Sampdoria on Friday.
Bacca started on the bench amid reports of a midweek spat with Rossoneri coach Vincenzo Montella.
But amid the ever-present danger of a Sampdoria goal from friend and compatriot Luis Muriel, Montella introduced the Colombian on the hour — and Bacca didn’t disappoint.
Samp striker Muriel was a threat throughout the first half and emulated his Colombian compatriot by almost breaking the deadlock with a second-half strike that hit the woodwork.
But five minutes from the end Bacca produced some great skills to flick the ball past Emiliano Viviano in the Samp goal after collecting Suso’s perfectly-weighted pass following a Milan Skriniar error.
Sampdoria, though, had reason to feel aggrieved after dominating the first half.
Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma ran frantically across his goal to produce a fine, one-handed flying save from Lucas Torreira’s goal-bound drive after just 11 minutes.
In Bacca’s absence, Gianluca Lapadula was given a rare start but after being sent through by Davide Calabria’s smart chip, he fired over on the half-volley.
But Muriel was soon into his stride. He deftly skipped past three Milan players on his way to firing his follow-up over Donnarumma’s crossbar.
Some nice link-up play with Karol Linetty then set up Edgar Barreto for a drive that a diving Donnarumma palmed out for a corner.
The match was scoreless, but Milan were left with a worrying statistic — for the first time since October 2015 they had failed to produce a shot on target during the first half in successive league games.
Milan’s woes initially continued after the restart, until Bacca came to the rescue.
Midfielder Giacomo Bonaventura was cautioned three minutes in for a late challenge on Torreira.
Montella replaced midfielder Jose Sosa with Manuel Locatelli just before the hour and two minutes later the visitors hit the target for the first time, although Viviano had no trouble with Suso’s long-range effort.
Minutes after Bacca’s arrival he glanced a header well wide of the target. But the Colombian was unlucky to be denied a spectacular opener when he turned on M’Baye Niang’s pass amid a crowded area to force a great parry from Viviano that the ‘keeper pushed onto the far post.
At the other end Donnarumma somehow pushed Muriel’s superbly-hit low strike off the base of the post.
Muriel finally beat the towering goalkeeper but he had handled on his way to goal and was cautioned for his efforts.
When Skriniar gave possession away deep in Samp territory, Suso pounced.
The Spaniard waited and found Bacca with a superb pass that the Colombian took with the outside of his boot, before flicking it past the onrushing Viviano and into the far corner of the net.