Dismal Milan beaten at home by Sampdoria
MILAN - AC Milan, hit by a flurry of close season departures, fully justified their fans' trepidation over the new season by losing 1-0 at home to promoted Sampdoria in their opening Serie A match on Sunday.
Andrea Costa headed the only goal for the visitors just before the hour to stun a half-empty San Siro on a hot, summer's evening, making it painfully obvious that the 18-times Italian champions are in for a long, difficult season.
Inter Milan and Napoli had no such problems, starting with 3-0 wins at Pescara and Palermo respectively.
Dutchman Wesley Sneijder and Argentine forward Diego Milito scored twice in two minutes early on for Inter before Brazilian Philippe Coutinho added the third in the 81st minute on an unhappy Serie A return for Pescara after a 19-year absence.
Antonio Cassano, who joined Inter from neighbours Milan in a swap with Giampaolo Pazzini, set up the second goal.
Marek Hamsik put Napoli ahead in first-half stoppage time and Christian Maggio and Edinson Cavani added two late goals as they made light of Ezequiel Lavezzi's absence after the Argentine forward was sold to Paris St Germain.
Eighteen-year-old Uruguayan Nicolas Lopez scored a stoppage time equaliser, five minutes after coming on as a substitute to give AS Roma a 2-2 draw at home to Catania. Brazilian midfielder Hernanes gave Roma's neighbours Lazio a 1-0 win at Atalanta.
Milan were disjointed and sluggish before Sampdoria's goal, although they greatly improved after striker Robinho was substituted immediately afterwards.
In the final half hour, Mario Yepes and Kevin-Prince Boateng both hit the post for Milan and Urby Emanuelson had a shot headed off the line in stoppage time while Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero performed heroics for the visitors.
The win left Sampdoria on two points after they had a point deducted over their involvement in the Calcioscomesse match-fixing scandal before the season started.
Robinho reacted angrily to his substitution although coach Massimiliano Allegri had little choice after the Brazilian wasted several good openings with his inability to pass to better-placed team mates.
"We mustn't get discouraged or drop our heads, we have to improve and we will do so little by little," said coach Massimiliano Allegri. "We have all the ingredients to do well."
"I understand the discontent of the fans and we're also unhappy," said Riccardo Montolivo, who made his Serie A debut for the team after his move from Fiorentina. "We reacted well in the second half and deserved a different result."
Milan suffered a host of departures in the close season, headed by talismanic striker Zlatan Ibrahomivic and defender Thiago Silva who headed for wealthy Paris St Germain.
Cassano, Alessandro Nesta and Clarence Seedorf were among others to leave the club.
They also had injury-plagued Brazilian striker Alexandre Pato once again on the sidelines.
The first half contained almost no real openings although Sampdoria striker Eder tested goalkeeper Christian Abbiati with a snapshot.
Robinho wasted three good attacks at the start of the second half before Sampdoria went ahead when Costa headed in almost unchallenged from a corner in the 58th minute.
Although Milan's attacks had an air of desperation around them, they at least began creating chances after Robinho went off.
A Yepes header was pushed onto the post by Romero, who also managed to grab the ball off the rebound even though he was still on the ground.
Boateng fired a curling effort against the post from 25-metres and was also denied by Romero as was substitute Kevin Constant.
When Romero was beaten in stoppage time by Emanuelson's shot, one of his defenders was on hand to head the ball off the line and leave Milan to face the inevitable barrage of criticism.
(Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne; Editing by John Mehaffey)