Empoli 1 AC Milan 4: Lapadula and Suso inspire second-half thrashing

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Gianluca Lapadula scored twice and Suso continued his impressive form as the duo stepped up in Carlos Bacca's absence to inspire AC Milan to a 4-1 defeat of Empoli on Saturday.

Bacca missed out with a thigh strain, but Lapadula - deputising in the absence of the injured Colombian - was in fine form in attack, while Suso scored for the third Serie A match in a row and also claimed two assists.

The visitors went ahead early in a thrilling first half thanks to a clinical finish from Lapadula, but Empoli hit back soon after through former Milan midfielder Riccardo Saponara, who punished an uncharacteristic Gianluigi Donnarumma error to score their first home league goal since September 12.

Saponara was a constant nuisance for Empoli, inspiring numerous chances and spurning a glorious opportunity just before the break.

But Empoli were made to rue not making the most of their chances, with Suso - who scored twice in last week's Milan derby against Inter - and a Giacomo Bonaventura-inspired Andrea Costa own goal effectively ending their chances just after the hour.

Lapadula wrapped things up towards the end to justify Vincenzo Montella's faith in his selection as Milan moved second and within four points of leaders Juventus, who play Genoa on Sunday.

The unfancied hosts started the match well and had Milan on the back foot from the off.

Mattia De Sciglio was robbed deep into his own half by Saponara, who cut the ball back towards the penalty spot for Massimo Maccarone, but Gustavo Gomez got a crucial touch on the eventual shot to deflect it wide.

Milan made the most of that let-off in the 15th minute, though, as Lapadula steered Suso's low cross into the bottom-left corner.

But the lead lasted just two minutes. Donnarumma flapped at a cross on the edge of the box and palmed it straight to Saponara, who drilled a fierce half-volley past the stranded goalkeeper.

Milan nearly restored their lead just after the half-hour mark, but Ignazio Abate's left-footed strike went just wide of the left-hand post.

Empoli remained just as potent going forward and Saponara should have sent the visitors into half-time with the lead as he volleyed Maccarone's right-wing ball over the crossbar when unmarked in the area.

Milan retained possession much better in the second half and managed to gain some control of proceedings, affording Empoli significantly less opportunities to attack and a quick-fire double just after the hour mark took the game away from the hosts.

Suso initially put the visitors back in front with a neat finish into the bottom-left corner from 12 yards after a fine cut-back from Abate and Bonaventura inspired their third with a brilliant driving run up the left flank before his low cross was directed into the goal by unfortunate Empoli defender Costa.

Montella's men then put the game beyond all doubt 13 minutes from time when Lapadula collected Suso's pass in from the right flank and coolly found the bottom-left corner.