MILAN (Reuters) - AC Milan’s visit to bottom-of-the-table Benevento on Sunday was supposed to be all about Gennaro Gattuso as the famously combative former midfielder made his debut as coach of the seven-times European champions.
Instead, Gattuso’s thunder was stolen by a 26-year-old goalkeeper who has spent the last two years being shunted around clubs on loan and struggling to hold down a first-team place.
Alberto Brignoli caused a sensation when he scored with a 95th minute header to give Benevento a 2-2 draw -- their first-ever point in Serie A after they had begun their debut season in the top flight with a record-breaking 14 consecutive defeats.
”I‘m not just happy for me but for everyone,“ he said. ”We’ve lost so many games undeservedly with goals in the 90th minute but now it’s our turn to celebrate.
“It’s a dream to be in Serie A although we hoped that it would have turned out better than this,” he added. “There was nothing to lose. I just closed my eyes and jumped. It was a goalkeeper’s goal, not a forward’s goal.”
Brignoli himself has had a frustrating time over the last two seasons.
He was the regular goalkeeper for second tier Ternana until he joined Italian champions Juventus in July 2015.
They immediately loaned him to Sampdoria for 2015/16, where he made only one Serie A appearance, and then to Spanish club Leganes for 2016/17, where he also made a single appearance.
In January this year, he stepped back down to Serie B to play for Perugia in another loan move before moving to Benevento in the summer.
There was more frustration as he started as second choice behind Vid Belec but he performed well when he was given a chance against Verona and has kept his place since.
“Brignoli has been harshly criticised for some mistakes,” said Benevento coach Roberto De Zerbi. “If you believe until the very end, luck does not always turn it’s back on you.”
Despite the point, Benevento remained eight points adrift at the bottom of the table and are still firm favourites to go straight back down.
“In terms of the standings, it doesn’t change anything but in terms of morale, it’s a real boost,” said De Zerbi.
“The lads deserved it. There have been other games where we had deserved a point but this time, we went looking for it with more conviction and more anger.”
Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Toby Davis