Milan started the new year in the best way possible, beating Benevento by two goals to nil away from home. However, it was far from easy for Stefano Pioli’s side as they were down to ten men after just 35 minutes of play. Fortunately, they were able to claim the three points and regain first place in the standings.
As if it wasn’t enough that Inter managed to beat Crotone earlier today, Sandro Tonali got sent off for Milan after a very silly and dangerous foul early on. In other words, the pressure was on the Rossoneri to continue their good run of form and remarkably, they got through the whole game without even conceding.
Franck Kessie scored the opening goal from the spot, prior to the red card, and Rafael Leao doubled the lead with a lovely strike in the second half. Milan could have had more, despite being just ten men, as they hit the post twice this evening. Down below are three things we learned from the game.
1. Defensive display on point
Although Benevento had more than one good chance to get on target, Milan kept a clean sheet and the defenders deserve a lot of praise for this. Gigio Donnarumma was a true leader at the back as he constantly motivated his teammates to better, while Alessio Romagnoli took care of many offences from the home side.
As said, Pippo Inzaghi’s side did have chances to score (including a penalty), but on a majority of these chances the Milan defenders arrived at the last second to save the day. A sacrificing performance, in other words, which the Rossoneri should be recognised for even though the opponents aren’t the best.
2. Leao is at his best when given a free role
The Portuguese youngster looked very impressive in the second half after what was a quiet first 45 minutes. Pioli deployed him on the right flank when Tonali got sent off and this role seemed to fit him better, as he was allowed to dribble and tests a few moves he perhaps normally wouldn’t do (with 11 men, that is).
His goal was simply fantastic and the work-rate was there today as well, although he can still do a bit better in the final third. Overall, though, he should be very pleased with the performance and he just needs to keep his head down to continue like this.
3. Strong message ahead of Juve
This Milan team never gives up, that we have learned at this point. The injury struggles remain but so do the positive results, as the replacements step up and do what is required of them. Tonali will miss the game against Juventus – which will be played on Wednesday – and it’s another tough situation for Pioli.
As Ismael Bennacer won’t recover before them, he will most likely field Kessie and Rade Krunic in the midfield tandem. But perhaps that won’t matter, as Milan have proved so many times before. Tonight’s win was certainly a message ahead of the Juventus clash; a message of strenght.
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