After countless summer friendlies and endless training sessions it was finally time to see Sinisa Mihajlovic’s A.C. Milan squad in a match which actually meant something. Despite being the Coppa Italia in the middle of August, the Serbian coach set a precedent fielding a strong side for a competition which is traditionally not given as much importance in the calcio landscape. Carlos Bacca and Luiz Adriano led the line, while the defensive pairing of Alessio Romagnoli and Rodrigo Ely were relied on to restore some pride to a defense which was one of the biggest disappointments last season.
From the start an enhanced level of cohesiveness was apparent between the front two and Keisuke Honda who played just behind the two strikers. Milan looked comfortable attacking the Grifoni and it didn’t take long for them to breach the Perugia back line. After all of ten minutes a pass by Luca Antonelli into the Perugia penalty area was dummied by Luiz Adriano who drew a defender with him, opening up the Red Sea for Keisuke Honda to drive into the box, calmly converting his ninth goal for Milan in all competitions (transfermarkt.com).
A second goal was on the horizon as Milan continued to apply pressure to the newly promoted Serie B side. Honda and Luiz Adriano combined once again for the Rossoneri’s second goal, this time it was the Japanese who played the provider after a Bacca back heel allowed Honda to play in Luiz Adriano who made no mistake guiding the ball across Rosati and into the goal.
Mihajlovic’s side thought they had wrapped up the match just before the break when Carlos Bacca received a pass from Mattia De Sciglio and hammered the ball into the top corner past Rosati, however Luiz Adriano was judged to have interfered with play while standing in an offside position causing the goal to be disallowed.
After the half Milan continued to apply pressure to Perugia but the Serie B side showed some vigor testing the Milan defence early. Their game plan changed however when their captain Davide Lanzafame was sent off for a challenge on Andrea Bertolacci and drew a second yellow card from referee Iratti. Despite their numerical advantage for almost the entirety of the second half and the introduction of Menez and Cerci, the impetus for all out attack seemed to not interest the Rossoneri who preferred to control the game and allow time to tick away.
Despite their failure to put the Grifoni to the sword, it was a comfortable display from a side who barely made anything comfortable for their supporters last season. A certain chemistry and cohesion seems to be present especially after the entire squad converged upon Luiz Adriano after the first goal to celebrate, displaying a good show of togetherness. Despite the 2-0 victory and seeing a lot to be pleased about, the Milan coach was disappointed with his sides attitude following the expulsion of the Perugia captain.
Speaking with the Gazzetta after the match he praised his squad for their aggressive pressing, character and organization but conceded there was a lot still to work on.
“We need to play always to our maximum. Instead, we managed the 2-0 without sinking and that I did not like. But we did not risk anything.”
It was indeed a welcoming result for Rossoneri supporters who saw a composed performance from a squad which is still coming together. The defensive pairing of Rodrigo Ely and Alessio Romagnoli looked sturdy and seems to have earned the trust of Mihajlovic. It will be interesting to see if the Serbian coach will stick to his guns for their encounter with Fiorentina in less than a week.