Post-Higuain era looking good for AC Milan with Piatek
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AC Milan feared for the worst after Gonzalo Higuain abruptly ended his 12-month sabbatical from Juventus in January. The faithful anticipated further holes in the attack. Higuain didn't necessarily fill them, albeit offered optimism. It took Krzysztof Piatek only 10 minutes to clear those doubts.
Gennaro Gattuso had three major New year resolutions. While he sort to bolster his squad, the maverick manager must completely shut down the treatment room. Injuries had crippled his squad. No fewer than 10 players visited and never returned. Above all, though, holding on to Higuain was key.
The Rossoneri parted with nearly £18million to rent clinical boots that converted 55 goals in 105 appearances during two seasons at Juventus. Nikola Kalinic and Andre Silva fell short, leaving Milan with no option than do business with Atletico Madrid and Sevilla respectively. Although Patrick Cutrone showed promise last term, it will be burdensome.
By his usually high standards, Higuain underwhelmed in San Siro. He notched just six Serie A goals in 15 matches, enduring a 10-game scoreless patch. He casts a frustrated figure. When not arguing with referees, the Argentine is remonstrating with his younger teammates, baffled with his isolation.
Still, his departure was dreaded. Gattuso's men went five games without hitting the target. They struck just four times in December, one from the penalty spot. Cutrone occasionally helped, with three strikes. But it was grossly inadequate. Higuain's exit to Chelsea left the door open for Piatek.
Genoa made an almost £25m profit on the 23-year-old in less than six months. He had a reputation as a rescue expert in Eastern Europe. Lechia Dzierzaniow. Zaglebie Lubin. Cracovia Krakow. His influence was quick. Last season, he was directly involved in 25 goals in 36 matches.
In Italy, Piatek is already known as debut king. He needed just a little over one minute to announce himself to Lega Calcio. Piatek struck four times against Lecce in the Italian Cup and left the field to a standing ovation. His didn't disappoint in full Milan debut against Napoli with two strikes in under 20 minutes.
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Nikola Maksimovic allowed a long ball from Diego Laxalt to bounce and Piatek ran into the area and drilled it into the bottom right corner. His second was even better as he controlled the ball on his chest, cut inside Kalidou Koulibaly and curled a shot between the defender and Maksimovic, into that same far bottom corner. Piatek anticipated such glorious première.
“I expected a night like this. I said that I was ready and I scored a brace. It’s only the beginning. Both goals were great but different. Before the match, I spoke with [Diego] Laxalt and [Fabio] Borini and I asked them to play some long balls because I prefer them. I had [Kalidou] Koulibaly in front of me for the second goal, but things went well. Today was great, but I am already thinking about Roma.”
Piatek started the season with 10 goals in his first eight Serie A matches for Genoa. A surprise change in management led to a five-match run without a goal, but the Pole scored six in his last eight in all competitions and is just one off leading marksmen Cristiano Ronaldo, Fabio Quagliarella and Duvan Zapata on 13.
Piatek to score against Roma
The odds will be on Piatek to open his Serie A account against AS Roma on Sunday. The 23-year-old netted on his first league start for Genoa in the 2-1 victory over Empoli in August. He was on the scoresheet when the Old Fool narrowly lost 3-2 at the Olimpico.