Sassuolo's teenage star Domenico Berardi netted an incredible four goals as the relegation strugglers came from behind to beat AC Milan 4-3 on Sunday. The Emilians roared into a two-goal advantage after finding themselves 2-0 down, and survived a late barrage to hang on for all three points. The provisionally move outside of the bottom three, while Milan stay firmly in mid-table.
Making Sassuolo's excellent win all of the more surprising is how quickly Milan breezed into a two-goal lead. Robinho opened the scoring after only ten minutes, with Mario Balotelli making the neroverdi defence look equally pathetic by adding a second three minutes later. Sassuolo were left fearing the worst, and desperately needed a quick response.
They got one.
Just a couple of minutes after Balo had seemingly killed the game, young striker Domenico Berardi made a brilliant dart in behind the Milan defence to meet Jasmin Kurtić's ambitious through-ball; rounding Christian Abbiati and pulling a goal back.
A pulsating end-to-end game ensued, with both sides creating scoring opportunities. However, it took a moment of brilliance from Berardi for him to beat Abbiati a second time, as Sassuolo incredibly drew level on the half-hour. Some poor defending from Daniele Bonera allowed the teenager to spin and strike the ball on the turn, beating the goalkeeper at his near post.
Unsurprisingly Sassuolo were playing with all of the confidence; quickly forgetting their shaky start. Milan had crumbled, and struggled to cope with the swarming neroverdi shirts.
Roared on through the mist, Sassuolo managed to edge ahead inside the final five minutes of the half, with left-back Alessandro Longhi's deep cross prodded in by Berardi -- with the teenager becoming the first-half hat-trick hero*.
*Sadly, ladies and gents, he's spoken for. Juventus snaffled him in a co-ownership deal in the summer.
Milan were left hoping that the halftime interval would break Sassuolo's -- and Berardi's -- momentum. They were sadly mistaken. It took just two minutes of the second half before the striker netted his fourth goal of the match, as he slid to prod Kurtić's low cross beyond Abbiati to double the neroverdi's advantage.
In a bid to reel the rampant Sassuolo in, rossoneri coach Massimiliano Allegri quickly made his three changes, including handing Keisuke Honda his debut just past the hour. Unfortunately for the midfielder, with the exception of striking the post with five minutes remaining, it was a debut to forget.
Riccardo Montolivo pulled a goal back in the dying moments as Milan poured players forward, and substitute Giampaolo Pazzini should've levelled the game when he nodded against the crossbar from point-blank range seconds later.
It was an agonising end for the home fans, but Sassuolo just about hung on to pick up their first Serie A win in five and condemn Milan to their fifth away defeat of the Serie A season. Phew.
Sassuolo: Pegolo; Longhi, Ariaudo, Antei, Gazzola; Kurtić (Marzorati 87'), Magnanelli, Chibsah; Ziegler, Zaza (Floro Flores 84'), Berardi (Schelotto 78').
Goals: Berardi (15', 28', 41', 47').
AC Milan: Abbiati; Emanuelson, Zapata, Bonera, De Sciglio; Nocerino (Pazzini 55'), De Jong, Cristante (Montolivo 55'); Robinho (Honda 65'), Kaká; Balotelli.
Goals: Robinho (9'), Balotelli (13'), Montolivo (86').