MILAN, ITALY – Teenage striker Domenico Berardi scored four goals for Sassuolo in a 4-3 win over AC Milan on Sunday to steal the limelight from new Rossoneri midfielder Keisuke Honda.
Japan international Honda, signed on a free transfer from CSKA Moscow, came off the bench for Massimiliano Allegri’s side 20 minutes into the second half.
By that time, the damage had been done although Honda came close to helping reduce arrears for the struggling Serie A giant when a header came off the post late in the second half.
Robinho gave Milan a ninth-minute lead when he ran on to Nigel De Jong’s ball after the Dutch midfielder and Bryan Cristante had dispossessed Raman Chibsah to beat Gianluca Pegolo with a low angled strike at the ‘keeper’s far post.
The visitors were 2-0 up only four minutes later when Mario Balotelli beat Pegolo with an angled strike to send Milan on its way to what appeared to be an easy three points.
Sassuolo, however, had other ideas.
Eusebio Di Francesco’s side had succumbed to a 7-0 reverse at home to Inter Milan early in the season but showed great resolve to reduce its two-goal deficit within 13 minutes.
There was a hint of offside about Berardi’s opener when he ran in behind the defense on the quarter hour to beat Christian Abbiati from a tight angle.
However Berardi’s second was a fine demonstration of individual skills and sheer determination.
The striker collected the ball in midfield, shook off one challenge, and then dismissed another in the area to turn and beat Abbiati with a sharp, angled strike.
Berardi completed his hat-trick on 41 minutes, nicking in ahead of Urby Emanuelson to leave Abbiati with no chance by first-timing Reto Ziegler’s pacy cross from the left past the ‘keeper.
The Sassuolo striker stunned Milan with his fourth of the game and 11th of the season two minutes after the restart when he bundled home from close range.
Allegri saw the warning signs and made a double substitution, Honda replacing Robinho and Riccardo Montolivo replacing Antonio Nocernino.
Honda found himself in a scoring position moments later but was spurned and then saw a header from a cross on the left blocked by Pegolo.
Seven minutes from time, Honda struck the post with a first-time curling effort from the edge of the area, and although the rebound fell to Giampaolo Pazzini, Pegolo did well to block the striker from close range.
Win sends City top
Manchester City moved provisionally top of the Premier League with a controversial 2-0 victory at Newcastle while Liverpool stayed in contention with a 5-3 win at Stoke as both teams benefited Sunday from contentious refereeing decisions.
Goals from Edin Dzeko and Alvaro Negredo secured City’s 10th consecutive win over the Magpies as Manuel Pellegrini’s high-scoring team extended its unbeaten run in all competitions to 15 games.
But the result did not reflect the intensity of a game overshadowed by referee Mike Jones’ decision to disallow Cheikh Tiote’s apparent equalizer, ruling that Yoan Gouffran interfered with play in an offside position.
Negredo secured City’s win in added time while league top scorer Luis Suarez scored twice for Liverpool and Steven Gerrard converted a disputed penalty.