Milan moved to within four points of Roma -- albeit temporarily -- in Serie A as they were unremitting in a 4-1 rout of Sampdoria at the Giuseppe Meazza.
Giacomo Bonaventura began the onslaught with a quarter of an hour played before M'Baye Niang, who dovetailed magically with Carlos Bacca throughout, grabbed a brace. The Frenchman's replacement, Luiz Adriano, provided a fourth with a sumptous volley before Eder added a consolation from 12 yards.
Hosts start purposefully
The contest began on a knife-edge when Gigi Donnarumma almost gifted the visitors an opener inside 30 seconds. Dawdling in possession, the 16-year-old cleared straight to Roberto Soriano but was up swiftly to foil the midfielder’s volley.
Signs of a blossoming understanding between M’Baye Niang and Carlos Bacca were manifest when the former delivered an inviting centre into the penalty area. Bacca, though, could not connect.
Few could discount the hosts’ superiority during the opening exchanges and they could gave credence to their early pressure when Alessio Cerci rifled home with seven minutes gone. But the linesman was swift to curtail his celebrations after he had strayed offside when Bacca pulled the trigger.
Sampdoria’s excursions into Milan territory were scarce but they could have profited from Ignazio Abate’s lapse of concentration. Djamel Mesbah ghosted down the right and, when he was threaded through, it took a vital intervention from Cerci to thwart a potential opener.
He would be left to rue that chance as, within minutes, Milan edged infront. Cerci, an ever-present throughout the first-half, surged forward before finding Niang. The forward, with Vasco Regini on close guard, swivelled away from the defender and drove his shot across goal for Giacomo Bonaventura to tap into an empty net.
Samp were provided with a glimmer of hope when Soriano jinxed past Luca Antonelli at the byline. The midfielder’s cut-back, however, was intercepted and Milan survived.
Cerci continued to pose a problem down the right-hand side but his end product was often lacking.
Niang, contrastingly, was burgeoning. The forward drove a tantalising cross into Bonaventura on the half hour mark but the Italian, darting infront of Lorenzo De Silvestre for the second time in the half, blasted over.
But minutes later, stemming from yet another cross from the right, De Silvestre was punished for his complacency. As the ball ricocheted through to Bonaventura, the full-back tugged his jersey and sent him tumbling. The referee pointed to the penalty spot.
Niang stepped up and rifled his spot-kick high into the roof of the net while Vincenzo Montella, in his second outing as Blucerchiati coach, watched on in disbelief.
The second period began in similar vain to the first, with Niang’s improvised flick from a Cerci delivery almost fooling Emiliano Viviano at his near post.
But the goalkeeper was culpable for Milan’s third — a goal which effectively suppressed hopes of a comeback for the visitors — when his pass to Fernando was woefully underhit. Niang, who dispatched from 12 yards just before the interval, latched onto the loose ball and finished with admirable sangfroid.
Eder almost provided a consolation on the hour mark when Milan were cut open for the first time on the evening. Soriano collected the ball on the edge of the area and, after the midfielder’s effort was foiled, Eder unleashed an attempt that looped up off Alex and onto the roof of the net.
Bonaventura prompted fingertips from Viviano shortly afterwards after clipping Abate’s cross towards goal.
Niang merited his ovation as he departed the field with 17 minutes remaining. Luiz Adriano replaced the livewire and the Brazilian could have compounded the visitors misery when Antonelli slid a delightful cross into the penalty area.
It meant little, however, as Adriano added sheen to the scoreline with an exquisite volley seconds later. Cerci, whose final pass had proved elusive for most of the evening, clipped a lovely centre into the forward and, with his back to goal, he swivelled and sent his volley under a hapless Viviano.
A fifth seemed imminent when Keisuke Honda teed up Bacca in acres of space inside the penalty area, but the Colombian's strike was straight down the throat of Viviano.
A consolation did arrive in the form of a spot-kick when Eder was upended by Andrea Poli.