Downing buoyed by Reds display

Downing buoyed by Reds display

Published Jan. 14, 2013 7:15 a.m. ET

AC Milan head coach Massimiliano Allegri took some comfort from a rare clean sheet despite his side's failure to beat a spirited Sampdoria on Sunday night.

Milan were perhaps lucky to avoid defeat at the Marassi as a rejuvenated Samp dominated proceedings, with Mauro Icardi, Andrea Poli and Daniele Gastaldello all spurning clear-cut chances to complete a first league double over the Diavolo since the 1996-97 season.

Following last night's stalemate, seventh-placed Milan have only kept four clean sheets in the current Serie A campaign, but Allegri believes his side still have an excellent chance of qualifying for Europe.

He told "We didn't concede and it's been a while since that happened.


"It's true that we didn't score but we're in a good position in the league, we have to keep on working to achieve decent results before the end of the campaign.

"This year, the league is much more balanced and there are a lot of teams trying to get into the European places.

"Considering our disastrous start to the season, we've improved a lot and we're on an average of two points per game.

"We have to continue to improve, starting from the match against Bologna. The young players all did well."

French striker M'Baye Niang, signed from Caen in the summer, struggled to make an impact in the first half but posed Milan's greatest threat after the break.

The 18-year-old said: "The whole team did well and we didn't concede. We have to improve and win against Bologna.

"I'm happy with my performance both in attack and defensively. The played a tight game and it was very difficult."

Samp look a different outfit under Delio Rossi, who replaced Ciro Ferrara last month, and the ex-Fiorentina boss feels his charges will soon climb away from danger.

"Survive? Of course I believe we can survive," he told "I didn't just come here to steal six months of wages.

"After last week's great performance in Turin (2-1 win over Juventus) we needed to prove ourselves against another big team.

"We matched Milan for 70 minutes and played a great game. Then we dropped off a bit, especially on the wings, and started to suffer for it.

"This is a great Sampdoria side. The lads are all behind me and we can get even better. There's a great will to fight and to improve here."

McLoughlin linked up with the Saddlers on Sunday and made his full debut for the Dons' League One rivals later that day as they beat Preston 3-1 at Deepdale.

The 21-year-old was drafted in by Walsall after Nottingham Forest recalled Karl Darlow from his loan spell at the Banks's Stadium and he will remain with Dean Smith's side until February 9.

McLoughlin made two appearances as a substitute for the Dons last season and made his full debut for the Milton Keynes club earlier this campaign when he started in the Capital One Cup against Sunderland.

The former Republic of Ireland Under-21 international had loans spells at Lowestoft Town and Stockport earlier in his career.

First-half goals from former Manchester United striker Febian Brandy and Paul Downing set Walsall on their way before James Baxendale made it 3-0 shortly after the break.

Wright scored little more than a consolation for Preston in injury time with North End now winless in three games and winless at home in the league in nine.

"We're not happy. It's not nice. A performance like that, whether it's home or away, is not good enough," said Wright. "It wasn't a good afternoon for us as a team and we are not happy with it. It's got to be better.

"They've turned us over twice and it doesn't feel good at all. We've only got ourselves to blame. They are a good side but probably because we let them look a good side.

"As nice as it is getting the goal, losing 3-1 is the biggest thought in my head at the moment. We are better away from home.

"We're a great club with great fans and it's a great stadium to play in. I don't know why we're not giving that back and getting the win.

"For me, I'm just concentrating on the game. Of course you're going to hear booing. That's going to happen in football because people are going to voice opinions.

"It's not nice, but if we're playing like that and not getting the wins then it's going to happen. It's not nice getting knocked out of the cups, so the league is the priority now and we've got to get that right."

After an insipid opening period, the Reds found themselves 2-0 down 10 minutes after the break as Nemanja Vidic doubled the lead given to United by Robin van Persie's 21st goal of the season.

However, Sturridge, a half-time substitute, made an immediate impact and scored his second in as many matches since joining for ?12million from Chelsea to spark a revival.

Downing believes that gives them hope after giving United far too much respect in the early stages.

"We probably let them control it in the first half. We sat back too much and just let them have the ball too much," he told the Liverpool Echo.

"The manager stressed at half-time that we needed to push on and put them under pressure more when they had the ball.

"Sturridge coming on maybe pushed us a bit further forward.

"We got support for Luis (Suarez) up there, who was probably getting frustrated before that.

"That's what Sturridge gives you. He can get in behind people, and he's got pace and power - you saw that with the way he took his goal.

"I thought in the second half our performance was really good. Certainly for the last 20 minutes we had them pegged right back.

"You could sense that their fans were getting edgy and Alex Ferguson was shouting a lot of instructions.

"We had them rattled a bit and created plenty of chances."