AC Milan have been better known for older players of late so Thursday's 1-0 Serie A victory at Cagliari Calcio, courtesy of a goal scored by 20-year-old Rodney Strasser, was something a bit different.
The Sierra Leone midfielder joined Milan in 2007 from Kallon FC, the club owned by, and named after, former FC Internazionale Milano forward Mohamed Kallon. Strasser made his Milan debut as a substitute against Udinese Calcio in 2008/09, but when he came off the bench at Cagliari, it was only his fourth senior appearance. His goal with five minutes left sealed a vital win for the leaders as the Serie A season resumed, banishing memories of the home loss against AS Roma that ended 2010.
Rodney's goal gives great satisfaction to the club and the people working in our youth system," said Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri after the victory against his former side. "The new year has certainly started better than last year ended. It was a special game for me against my [Sardinian] people and my former players."
Milan were missing several players due to injury and Allegri started with 18-year-old Alexander Merkel in midfield. With five minutes remaining and the score still 0-0, Strasser – who had earlier replaced Gennaro Gattuso – controlled a pass by new signing Antonio Cassano and found the far corner with a precise right-footed shot.
"I saw where the Cagliari goalkeeper was before receiving Cassano's pass," Strasser said. "Fortunately the ball went in. We won but this is already history. I'm young and I must only focus on the future.
Cassano gave me plenty of advice even before the game. I don't really understand the way he speaks but we are already good friends."
Cassano's Bari dialect is indeed distinctive, but so was the former UC Sampdoria player's assist for his fellow substitute. "Cassano is not yet in top physical condition," Allegri explained. "That's clear just by taking a look at him and it's normal because he has not played for a long time. However, he just needs to keep working hard during the week and be ready when he is called to play as he was today."
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