AC Milan blanked by Sampdoria on Zlatan’s return

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic made his return to AC Milan, coming off the bench with over a half-hour to play, but it ultimately proved in vain as the home side was blanked at the San Siro in a 0-0 draw with Sampdoria.

The former LA Galaxy striker, wearing an AC Milan kit for the first time since leaving for Paris Saint-Germain in 2012, came on to thunderous applause and chanting in the 55th minute as he replaced fellow striker Krzysztof Piatek, but could not find the back of the net. He produced just one shot, failing to hit the target, but was dangerous throughout, winning three of four aerial duels in the attacking third, creating a chance, and generally getting himself involved in attacking play.

Still, the attacking display from AC Milan was a disappointing one, although Sampdoria is known for its goalless encounters. Even before Zlatan came on, the performance up front was a complete dud for the home side. They managed eight shots on target out of 19 total and racked up 1.72 xG, but the finishing left much to be desired, hitting the post twice and seeing big chances by Rade Krunic and Rafael Leao go begging.

Milan head coach Stefano Pioli believed that Zlatan performed well on his debut, but the team is not used to playing with a striker of his skill set, and so the service to him was not of the proper variety. “As far as I am concerned, it was a positive impact,” Pioli said after the match. “He brought character, support and presence to the squad. I think the team isn’t accustomed to having someone of such physicality in the box, so didn’t put enough crosses in for him, especially towards the end of the match.”

“We all need to get to know each other and what we require. It’s not just quality of passing I mean, but also choosing the right passes for the players you are trying to reach. When we brought in the substitutes, we should’ve realised that it was necessary to change the way we were playing.”

A large part of the problem for AC Milan, who has now been blanked for a three consecutive Serie A matches, is Piatek who remains mired in an awful slump with just a single league goal in his last 10 appearances. The 24-year-old has just four goals this campaign, following the torrid start to his AC Milan career he produced in the second half of last season. He was invisible again against Sampdoria, producing just a single shot and receiving just 12 passes, including just four in the attacking third.

The draw left Milan still 12th in the league table, now level with Hellas Verona on points and 13 back of a Champions League spot.