Milan extended their unbeaten run to 23 games this evening, beating Sparta Praha by three goals to nil in the second round of the Europa League group stage. The win was never in doubt for the Rossoneri, just like against Celtic, and several players really impressed this evening.
Brahim Diaz opened the scoring after just 24 minutes, having won the ball high up the pitch to start a counter-attack. Zlatan Ibrahimovic picked him out and the Spaniard made no mistakes with the finish, firing it through the legs of the goalkeeper. Another goal, in other words, for the Real Madrid loanee in Europa League.
Ibrahimovic could have doubled the lead in the 36th minute, as he was brought down in the box and awarded a penalty. However, instead of going bottom left as usual, he tried his luck with a high effort to the right but hit the bar. He was visible disappointed and was taken off at the interval.
Diogo Dalot and Rafael Leao added to the party in the second half. The Man Utd loanee gave his compatriot an easy tap-in goal thanks to a lovely outside-of-the-foot pass after 57 minutes, and the full-back himself got on target ten minutes later after a bursting run. He was set free by Ismael Bennacer and made no mistakes with the finish.
1. Bennacer is fundamental
The Algerian controlled the game with his constant movement and smart vision, successfully picking out his teammates no matter the circumstances. As if it wasn’t clear enough when he came on against Celtic, his importance certainly became clear tonight with was a staller performance.
He was behind the second and third goal, sending a long-ball to Dalot on both occasions. Sparta’s defence was arguably subpar, standing too high throughout the entire game, but the former Empoli man still managed to pick out his teammates perfectly. Above all, the second goal was a joy to watch.
2. Great game for the loanees
As already mentioned, Diaz and Dalot got on the scoresheet and although you would expect that from the No.21, it was a bit surprising to see the full-back perform so well on the left side. Many questioned if he would be good enough to replace Theo Hernandez when needed, but I think he proved that this evening.
Dalot was also very comfortable in defence and continuously stopped the opponents, using his strength just like Hernandez. Diaz, meanwhile, was fantastic especially in the counter-attacking phase, using his impressive technique to get past the defenders. All in all, very positive for the new arrivals.
3. Should Ibrahimovic stop taking penalties?
The Swede did well in the first 45 minutes but his performance was tainted by the penalty miss, and perhaps rightfully so. In fact, he has missed three of his last five penalties taken for the Rossoneri, more than any other top-5 European leagues player in all competitions since August 2020.
Franck Kessie, meanwhile, has always been very secure from the spot and was the designated penalty-taker before Ibrahimovic arrived. It might be time for Pioli to demote the 39-year-old, but it will most likely be very hard to convince the latter without creating a scene.
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