Higuain’s AC Milan replacement continues to leave Chelsea fans wallowing in regret

Chelsea fans will have to look away now as Poland international Krzysztof Piatek continued his hot streak for AC Milan, helping Gennaro Gattuso’s side close the gap on their city rivals Inter Milan with a dominant 3-0 win over Serie A strugglers Empoli at the San Siro on Friday night. After a frustrating first-half performance, in which Lucas Paqueta had a goal ruled out by the Video Assistant Referee, Gattuso’s side put Empoli out of sight with two goals in as many minutes.

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Piatek got things started in the 49th minute, netting his seventh Milan goal in just his sixth appearance, moments after Rade Krunic wasted a gilt-edged chance at the other end. His form would have Chelsea fans wondering what could have been if their darling club went after the Polish man instead of Higuain, whose loan deal with Milan from Juventus had to be ended prematurely just so he could be on his way to Chelsea. Since Higuain became a Blues player, he has scored just two goals, ahead of Maurizio Sarri’s side taking on Manchester City for the Carabao Cup final.

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And Empoli’s misery was immediately compounded by Franck Kessie’s delicate chip, with Samu Castillejo’s deft finish adding further gloss as Milan moved to within one point of third-placed Inter. The visitors defended well in the first half but collapsed as soon as Piatek opened the scoring. Giuseppe Iachini’s side have yet to win an away game in the league this term and must rely on their home form if they are to avoid relegation.

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For Milan, Paqueta thought he had put the home side ahead with a close-range header 10 minutes in, only for VAR to disallow the goal for offside. Piatek then had a penalty claim dismissed soon after, before Castillejo forced Bartlomiej Dragowski into a pair of fine saves. Krunic struck wide from inside Milan’s area following the restart, but Piatek showed no such profligacy when he tucked home from Hakan Calhanoglu’s cut-back two minutes later.

Empoli’s hopes of a comeback were all-but ended from Milan’s next attack, Castillejo threading a neat pass into Kessie, who dinked a sublime finish over Dragowski. Castillejo turned from provider to scorer with a sharp prod from Andrea Conti’s cross, before substitute Fabio Borini had a late effort harshly cancelled out by VAR as Milan prepared for their Coppa Italia semi-final clash with SS Lazio in the best manner possible.