Homegrown striker Patrick Cutrone stole the headlines for big-spending AC Milan as they eased to a 3-0 win over 10-man Crotone in Sunday's Serie A opener.
Pre-match talk surrounded Milan's influx of fresh talent and Vincenzo Montella handed out starts to seven new faces, but it was academy product Cutrone who spearheaded the Rossoneri's first-half blitz.
The powerful 19-year-old had a hand in all three goals inside the first 23 minutes, winning the penalty for Franck Kessie's opener before scoring the second and assisting Suso in putting the result beyond doubt before the break.
Milan's task was made easier by the third-minute dismissal of Crotone's Federico Ceccherini, the referee issuing a straight red card after consulting with the video assistant referee (VAR).
Montella's side looked set to make it a rout after half-time, but their attacking momentum began to disappear following Cutrone's withdrawal, although Leonardo Bonucci helped ensure there would be few concerns at the other end.
Portuguese prospect Andre Silva had to wait until after the hour for his Serie A debut and the damage was well and truly done by then as Montella's men settled for an untroubled victory.
Crotone, in their second Serie A season, made a terrible start as defender Ceccherini was dismissed for dragging down Cutrone in the area and conceding a penalty.
Ceccherini was initially shown a yellow card, but the referee instead brandished a straight red after consulting the VAR – leaving the hosts a man down with just three minutes played.
Kessie duly stepped up and dispatched his spot-kick low and hard to put Milan ahead.
Andrea Conti let a chance for a second slip when he dallied over a shot, although the Rossoneri did not have to wait long to double their advantage as Cutrone headed in Suso's firm right-sided cross after 18 minutes.
Alex Cordaz produced an excellent reaction save to deny Kessie a second at close-range, but it mattered little with Cutrone quickly turning provider for Suso, the Spaniard sweeping a left-footed finish into the bottom far corner.
Cutrone saw appeals for another penalty waved away late in the half as the home side survived to the break without further damage.
Bonucci, wearing the armband after his €42million move from Juventus, proved his value within 10 minutes of the restart by snuffing out a rare Crotone chance.
Davide Nicola's side continued to battle and almost found another opening from a long ball into the area, only for Bonucci to again intervene.
Silva came off the bench with just under half an hour remaining and the former Porto attacker almost joined Kessie in netting a debut goal, his header acrobatically pushed away from goal by Cordaz.
The goalkeeper's efforts were ultimately in vain, though, as Milan's lightning start proved to be the height of the action.
Key Opta stats:
- Milan have won on matchday one in three of the last four Serie A campaigns, while this is the first time since 2010 (Siena-Milan 1-2) they begin the new season with an away win.
- Franck Kessie scored on his Serie A debut with AC Milan – he did the same last season with Atalanta scoring a brace against Lazio on matchday one.
- Cutrone scored his very first Serie A goal on his second appearance in the competition, the first as a starter.
- Cutrone and Suso are two of the four players to have both scored and assisted a goal on matchday one (Birsa and Perisic are the other two).
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