AC Milan made a winning start to their 2021/22 Serie A season, edging past Sampdoria by a goal to nil in a closely fought contest at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris.
It was an opportunity for one of Milan's several new signings to make a good first impression, with French goalkeeper Mike Maignan impressing the most out of the new faces thanks to the shot-stopping and passing skills in his armoury.
One of Maignan's long passes actually led to Milan opening the scoring within the first ten minutes, as Tommaso Augello struggled to deal with it, thus allowing Davide Calabria to seize the ball and pull it back to Brahim Diaz.
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Diaz, who had his loan from Real Madrid extended this summer, took aim with a low shot that trickled into the net after the Sampdoria goalkeeper Emil Audero got a hand to it.
However, despite plenty of opportunities on both ends the scoreline somehow remained 1-0 in the away side's favour.
Sampdoria's best chances came in the first half through the lively duo of Mikkel Damsgaard and Manolo Gabbiadini.
The aforementioned duo almost combined for a goal just over a quarter of an hour into the game when a far out free-kick won by Damsgaard was struck towards the top corner by Gabbiadini, but it was tipped over by Maignan, who never really looked like conceding.
His compatriot Olivier Giroud had a much more uneventful debut, effectively being marked out of the game by Sampdoria's defence.
Milan's next game is at home to Cagliari on Sunday, while Sampdoria travel to play Sassuolo that same day.

TALKING POINT - CAN MILAN MOUNT ANOTHER TITLE CHALLENGE?

Although Milan fans would've been relieved to be back in the Champions League spots last season after finishing between 5th and 10th in Serie A for seven seasons prior, the fact that they were still twelve points adrift of fierce rivals, Inter, would have left a sour taste in their mouths.
However, many think the balance of power could've shifted in the city thanks to the departures of Inter stars Romelu Lukaku and Achraf Hakimi as well as their manager Antonio Conte, while in contrast, the Rossoneri appear to have strengthened significantly.
A lot of that depends on whether Zlatan Ibrahimovic can continue his rich vein of scoring once he finally returns from injury and if Giroud can rediscover his best form.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the team, their youthful midfield will have to continue their progression and shoulder more responsibility this season.

MAN OF THE MATCH - Davide Calabria (AC Milan)

It was a dominant performance on both ends of the pitch for the Milan right-back and stand-in captain in place of the benched Alessio Romagnoli. He constantly caused the Sampdoria left back Augello problems throughout the game, including in the run-up to him assisting the goal, and looked unfazed by any threats that came his way. If he continues to play like that, then new signing Alessandro Florenzi will hardly get a look in!

AC Milan's Spanish midfielder Brahim Diaz (L) celebrates after scoring during the Italian Serie A football match between Sampdoria and AC Milan at the Luigi Ferraris stadium in Genova on August 23, 2021

Image credit: Getty Images

PLAYER RATINGS

Sampdoria: Audero 5, Augello 5, Bereszynski 7, Colley 7, Yoshida 8, Ekdal 7, Thorsby 6, Candreva 6, Gabbiadini 6, Damsgaard 6, Quagliarella 5...Subs: Murru 6, Verre 5, Silva N/A
AC Milan: Maignan 8, Calabria 9, Hernandez 8, Tomori 8, Kjaer 7, Tonali 7, Krunic 7, Diaz 8, Leao 6, Saelemaekers 6, Giroud 5...Subs: Rebic 5, Bennacer 6, Florenzi N/A, Romagnoli N/A

KEY MOMENTS

5' - SAVED!! Maignan picks out Leao loose with a fantastic goal-kick. He finds himself one-on-one with the Sampdoria 'keeper Audero, who pushes his curling effort wide.
9' - GOAL!!! Audero goes from zero to hero! Minutes after producing a great save to deny Leao, Audero takes the sting out of Diaz's low shot but it trickles into the goal to open the scoring. It was another wonderful long pass from Maignan that instigated that attack too!
17' - SAVED!! Damsgaard is brought down and it looks maybe a tad too far out to have a shot from the resulting free-kick but Gabbiadini goes for it anyway and forces Maignan to make a save to stop it heading into the top corner!
18' - SAVED AGAIN!! The subsequent corner is cleared but only as far as Damsgaard, who puts it back into the mixer and Maignan is forced into a save from the deflection before having to re-adjust quickly and stop Colley's follow-up effort. Maignan is enjoying a busy but impressive start to his Serie A debut!
26' - CLOSE!! Milan should be 2-0 up for sure! Sampdoria's clearance rolls to Tonali, whose drilled effort is palmed into the path of Krunic. However, the unmarked Krunic somehow shoots the ball off-balance into the side netting.
52' - SAVED!! Maignan gets called to action once more. This time he does well to make a save at his near post after Colley finds Gabbiadini with a well-placed lofted pass.
87' - CHANCE!! Two big chances for Sampdoria! The first of those sees Quagliarella receive the ball near the edge of the box and have his shot on the turn blocked by a sea of bodies. Sampdoria regain possession and the ball ends up with Candreva, who powerfully drives it back into the box, but no one is able to get a touch on it to send it goalbound.

KEY STATS

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