Kessie, Castillejo clinch gritty win for leaders Milan

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Milan strengthened their grip on top spot in the Serie A with a 2-1 win over Sampdoria on Monday (AEDT) thanks to goals from Franck Kessie and Samu Castillejo.

Ivory Coast midfielder Kessie gave the Rossoneri the lead from the penalty spot after Jakub Jankto handled inside the area.

Spaniard Castillejo scored with his first touch of the game to notch Milan's second before Albin Ekdal ensured a tense finish when he bundled in from a corner.

Milan are now five points clear of second-placed Inter after 10 games, with Napoli and Juventus a further point behind in third and fourth.

Gianluigi Donnarumma was called into action early on when a Sampdoria corner presented Lorenzo Tonelli with a header from close range, which the Milan goalkeeper pushed over the crossbar.

Milan slowly discovered their rhythm and Sandro Tonali sent Brahim Diaz clear, but he hesitated in a good position and instead teed up Ante Rebic whose finish was weak.

Without the injured Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Milan often lacked spark in attack, although only a brilliant piece of defending kept out Rebic. The Croatian chased a high ball over the top into the box and nudged it beyond goalkeeper Emil Audero, only for Tonelli to slide back and hook off the line.

Milan were awarded a penalty on the stroke of half-time when the referee deemed Jankto's arm had been away from his body as he attempted to block a Theo Hernandez header, and Kessie duly converted from the spot.

Stefano Pioli's side struck the woodwork just after the interval when Tonali finished off a slick passing move with a shot against the post which Audero recovered to gather.

Sampdoria eventually sparked into life and pinned Milan in their own half, but despite forcing three corners the Blucerchiati were unable to seriously trouble Donnarumma.

Tonali did well not to react to provocation from Antonio Candreva, who twisted his ear in a bizarre incident on the hour from which the on-loan Inter midfielder was fortunate not to have been booked.

Pioli threw on Castillejo for Alexis Saelemaekers with 13 minutes left and the Spaniard made an immediate impact as he fired home from Rebic's cross.

Sampdoria pulled a goal back when Ekdal managed to scramble the ball in from a corner, deemed to have crossed the line by goal-line technology despite Donnarumma's efforts to haul it out.

Ekdal had a chance to equalise at the death when he met Candreva's cross but could only plant his header wide from close range.

Source Omnisport