Suso was again the architect of AC Milan’s goals as his side beat Empoli 4-1 and moved into second spot in Serie A on Saturday.
Much of the talk this season has been about the coming of age of Milan’s young team, but it is the Rossoneri’s forgotten man who has been taking center stage.
Suso scored both of Milan’s goals in a 2-2 draw against Inter Milan last Sunday, the day after his 23rd birthday, and he added two assists and a goal against Empoli.
It is a far cry from last season, when the Spanish midfielder spent the second half of the league at Genoa after making just one appearance for Milan.
Gianluca Lapadula is also flourishing under Milan coach Vincenzo Montella and he netted his first brace in Serie A.
Lapadula, who was called up to the Italy squad this month, was playing in the third division two seasons ago. He joined Pescara in July 2015 and helped it win promotion to Serie A with 27 goals. He signed for Milan in June.
“I work every day to improve … I only want to show that I can do well then it’s up to the coach to choose,” Lapadula said.
“I have never set myself a target of goals. I’ve always vowed to go on the pitch with a lot of determination and through that score goals. Last year was my first real season as an out-and-out striker and I beat my record of goals.”
Lapadula scored Milan’s opener in the 15th minute, volleying Suso’s cross into the bottom left corner after Juraj Kucka stole the ball off Empoli midfielder Assane Diousse.
Empoli was back on level terms almost immediately following a rare mistake from teenage Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, who came for Guido Marilungo’s cross but succeeded only in pushing it straight at Riccardo Saponara, who scored against his old team. It was Empoli’s first goal at home in 501 minutes.
Milan took control just after the hour mark as Suso netted his fourth goal in three matches. Minutes later Empoli defender Andrea Costa turned into his own net after a brilliant run from Giacomo Bonaventura.
Suso set up the fourth for Lapadula, who cut inside and curled into the bottom left corner. The Rossoneri moved four points behind Juventus, which visits Genoa on Sunday. Roma can move back level with Milan with a win at home to relegation-threatened Pescara.
Milan forward Carlos Bacca was sidelined for the match against Empoli and took the opportunity to return to Spain to watch former team Sevilla host Valencia, fuelling speculation he will leave Italy in the January transfer window.
TORINO 2 CHIEVO VERONA 1
Iago Falque netted twice in three first-half minutes as Torino moved level on points with fourth-place Lazio and Atalanta, which visit Palermo and Bologna respectively on Sunday.
Italy forward Andrea Belotti scored two in both of his past two matches for Torino, but this time it was his teammate who stole the headlines.
Falque netted his first in the 35th minute, sprinting to the back post to head in Antonio Barreca’s cross from the left. The midfielder doubled his tally with a delightful curled effort into the top left corner for his sixth goal in the last five home games. Falque was given a standing ovation when he was substituted in the 69th.
Roberto Inglese headed in a corner five minutes from time, moments after a good save from Torino goalkeeper Joe Hart.
But any hope Chievo had of snatching a point evaporated minutes later when Fabrizio Cacciatore – who was still unhappy after being denied a penalty – was shown a straight red card for dissent.