It was a crucial moment in a vital game for AC Milan, who saw a 13 match unbeaten run halted at home by an out of form Arsenal in the Europa League with a 2-0 defeat.
Gennaro Gattuso’s men had struggled to break down a resolute Genoa rearguard on Monday morning and at times all three points had appeared to be up for the hosts to claim, with the score locked at 0-0.
A trademark cutback onto his favoured left foot gave winger Suso the time and space he needed to whip a cross into the box for one of Milan’s attacking players.
Then it happened.
With the last touch of the game, Andre Silva diverted the Spaniard’s delivery with his head beyond the reach of Mattia Perin and into the back of the net, earning the Rossoneri an indispensable victory and confidence boost.
Many feel this is the moment where the Portuguese striker truly grew into the prestigious No.9 jersey of AC Milan.
But why had it taken so long?
Silva arrived at Casa Milan over the European summer amid much fanfare, following a reported €38 million move from FC Porto.
The 22-year-old was a regular for the Dragons, hitting the back of the net 16 times from 28 starts last season in the Primeira Liga. As well as this, he slotted home four efforts from eight showings in Porto’s 2016-17 UEFA Champions League campaign.
Since arriving at the Stadio San Siro, Silva has recorded six Europa League goals in the nine matches he has featured in, seven of which were from the first whistle. To add to these impressive scoring exploits, the baby-faced striker currently has 11 goals to his name from 18 caps with the Portuguese national team.
Such is the No.9’s immense quality, that Cristiano Ronaldo feels his national team side can continue to achieve greatness following his retirement.
“When I retire, Portugal is still in good hands. We have a great forward in Andre Silva,” he has previously told the media.
So why has Silva not featured more prominently for the Rossoneri?
The former Porto man currently contests for the lone striker’s role with academy graduate Patrick Cutrone, plus another summer arrival in the shape of the experienced Nikola Kalinic.
Already a difficult environment to thrive in, previous Milan coach Vincenzo Montella did little to aid Silva’s cause, consigning the Portuguese to the bench behind the likes of Cutrone and the underwhelming Kalinic.
Silva started just four league games under the Italian, as the season began in promising fashion for the side who recorded four wins from five, but then spiralled tumultuously. Montella was eventually sacked, with the Rossoneri languishing in mid-table and Portugal’s frontman left bereft of game time, confidence and service.
Following Gattuso’s installment at the helm of the Serie A giants, Milan’s form has picked up dramatically and their style of play completely revamped in a positive sense.
A real beneficiary of this has been fan favourite Cutrone. The 20-year-old has emerged as a key cog in the side’s new system and is keeping the likes of Silva and Kalinic out of the team with some impressive goal scoring exploits of his own.
Gattuso’s persistent inclusion of the youngster is completely justified. However, when Cutrone has been rested, the former World Cup winner seemingly prefers Kalinic in the lone striker’s role – much like Montella.
The Croatian arrived from Fiorentina with a reputation of being one of the league’s most proficient poachers. This season, however, the nomadic striker’s tally of four goals in 16 league starts is not enough to continually justify his place ahead of the Portuguese international.
At the age of 30, and appearing to be in decline, Kalinic’s time in the first team should be culled immediately in order to make way for the more enthusiastic and youthful Silva, who has plenty more to offer and develop yet.
With a first league goal to show for his efforts – and a ringing endorsement by who some believe to be the best player in the world to boot – Portugal’s baby-faced assassin can truly kick-start his AC Milan career under Gattuso from hereon out.
All Silva needs is more minutes on the pitch for the Rossoneri, with that he may well become the player many believe he can be.