AC Milan’s winless streak stretches to 4 matches
ROME (AP) — AC Milan’s winless streak stretched to four matches following a 2-2 draw at third-place Sampdoria in Serie A on Saturday, although the Rossoneri could at least celebrate promising young forward Stephan El Shaarawy breaking his scoring drought.
El Shaarawy put Milan ahead in the 10th minute with his first goal in two seasons. Stefano Okaka scored for Sampdoria just before halftime and Brazilian forward Eder put the hosts ahead in the 51st. Jeremy Menez equalized for Milan with a penalty in the 65th.
“My legs felt good tonight,” El Shaarawy said. “I was happy to score a goal but I would have preferred a victory. That would have boosted our confidence and put us back on track. But at least we were able to come back in the second half. So it’s a solid point earned. We’ll take the positives and move on.”
Milan ended with 10 men after defender Daniele Bonera picked up a second yellow card in the 85th.
“It was a great game. Both squads played to win,” said Sampdoria coach Sinisa Mihajlovic, who used to do battle with Milan counterpart Filippo Inzaghi when the pair played for the two Milan clubs.
Sampdoria, which has lost just once this season, moved within two points of second-place Roma, which hosts Torino on Sunday. Juventus, which meets Parma, leads Roma by three points.
Milan, which has won just four of 11 matches, is eight points off the lead in seventh.
Up next for Milan is the derby with Inter in two weeks.
“I’m very, very satisfied. I’m only disappointed because we deserved to win,” Inzaghi said. “We need to focus on improving match by match.”
Earlier, Sassuolo stretched its unbeaten streak to five matches by drawing 0-0 with visiting Atalanta in a matchup of two squads in the lower half of the table.
Milan was coming off a devastating 2-0 loss at home to Palermo and things were looking up when El Shaarawy finished off a counterattack by firing in an angled shot from just beyond the area inside the far post and beyond the reach of Argentina’s World Cup final goalkeeper Sergio Romero.
The 22-year-old El Shaarawy last scored in February 2013, in the Milan derby, having been slowed by injuries last season.
The son of an Egyptian father and an Italian mother, El Shaarawy scored a league-best 14 goals in the first half of 2012-13, then struggled once Mario Balotelli arrived midway through that campaign and became Milan’s focal point in attack.
Now healthy again and with Balotelli having departed to Liverpool, El Shaarawy is returning to form — and could be called up for Italy’s key European Championship qualifier against Croatia next weekend.
El Shaarawy was a member of Italy’s squad at last year’s Confederations Cup then didn’t make the World Cup squad.
“There’s no discussing his talent,” Inzaghi said. “Tonight he scored a great goal.”
Okaka, a 25-year-old son of Nigerian immigrants who played for Italy’s youth squads, also put himself on display for Azzurri coach Antonio Conte, who attended the match at Luigi Ferraris stadium.
Showing off his athleticism, Okaka used the tip of his foot to beat Bonera to a cross and redirect the ball past Milan goalkeeper Diego Lopez.
Shortly into the second half, Eder tapped in a rebound of a header from Pedro Obiang that bounced off the post following a corner.
It was a league-best eighth set-piece goal of the season for Sampdoria.
Inzaghi brought on Fernando Torres for the ineffective Keisuke Honda in the 59th and five minutes later Djamel Mesbah fouled Giacomo Bonaventura to set up Menez’s penalty.
Bonera picked up his second yellow for obstructing Okaka just outside the area and Lopez did well to stop a blistering effort from Roberto Soriano in the 90th.
Earlier in Reggio Emilia, the closest either side came to scoring was when Atalanta’s Cristian Raimondi headed off the post in the 72nd.
Sassuolo has won two and drawn three in its last five games, including a 1-1 draw with Juventus.
Atalanta has scored only four goals in 11 matches, the low mark in Europe’s five major leagues.
Andrew Dampf can be followed at www.twitter.com/asdampf