Following the overly dramatic clash against Rio Ave on Thursday, Milan were keen on bouncing back with a confident performance this evening. And that is exactly what they did, beating Spezia after scoring three goals in the second half, also preserving the now three-game clean sheet.
Stefano Pioli’s men looked confident from the start, owning the possession, but failed to create many dangerous chances in the first half. The right intentions were there, with Brahim Diaz showing just how good he is in the attacking phase, albeit lacking the final touch this evening.
Before the start of the second half, Pioli decided to bring on Hakan Calhanoglu, who was given some rest after playing the full game against Rio Ave – just like several other usual starters. Instantly, he made a difference and linked up well with his teammates, picking out Rafael Leao for the first goal with a lovely free-kick (57th minute).
With just over 20 minutes to go, Jens Petter Hauge was brought on and thus made his debut for the Rossoneri. Eight minutes later, Milan had added two more goals to their tally through Theo Hernandez and Rafael Leao, and although the Norwegian wasn’t involved in them his display was promising.
Hernandez took matters into his own hands and crowned a lovely solo run from the half-way line with a powerful effort into the back of the net. Leao followed that up with his brace, pouncing on Franck Kessie’s header into a dangerous area. Down below are three things we learned from the game.
1. The rotations paid off
Pioli decided, as mentioned, to rest many of his key players for tonight’s encounter due to the tight schedule. The midfield tandem was replaced by Rade Krunic and Sandro Tonali, who both did very well before leaving the pitch in the 58th minute, once again giving the floor to Ismael Bennacer and Franck Kessie.
Brahim Diaz got the chance from start and certainly repaid the trust, involved in almost everything Milan did attacking-wise in the first half. Although he couldn’t get on the scoresheet, his performance sure was impressive and it would be strange not to see him from the first minute next time out.
2. Leao responded with two important goals
The Portuguese youngster has been criticised as of late, not looking particularly good against Rio Ave, but tonight was a different story. The first half was abysmal, one must admit, but once he moved to the striker’s position everything changed. He was where he needed to be, resulting in the brace.
Ante Rebic and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are both hoping to return for the derby after the international break, meaning Leao could be forced to sit on the bench. That being said, tonight’s performance was a nice indication of his qualities.
3. Defence remains strong despite lack of depth
It’s not exactly a secret that Milan desperately need to sign a centre-back before the window closes. With Leo Duarte, Mateo Musacchio and Alessio Romagnoli unavailable, Pioli currently only has Simon Kjaer and Matteo Gabbia to rely on. Anyone can tell that this isn’t enough, even if the duo has performed well.
In fact, the Rossoneri haven’t conceded a goal in the league yet, preserving their clean sheet in the first three games. This hasn’t happened since the 1971/72 season, as reported by Opta, which is a testament to how well organised the team is despite the depth emergency.
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