Just days after an encouraging 4-1 win over Sampdoria, Milan quickly turned their attention to Serie B title chasers Crotone in round 4 of Coppa Italia. What appeared to be a one sided, favorable fixture leaning in the Rossoneri’s corner turned into a 90+ minute battle.
Milan went on to defeat Crotone 3-1 but it took more than the ninety minutes to do. After heading into the break scoreless, it was Andrea Poli who served Luiz Adriano for the go-ahead goal just minutes after the second 45 began. Before the 70th minute, the Calabrian side, who had nearly 5000 in attendance at the San Siro supporting their club, drew level thanks to Ante Budimir who embarrassed Cristian Zapata before putting one past Christian Abbiati.
What seemed to be a day off for Giacomo Bonaventura and M’baye Niang turned into a cry for help by Mihajlović. The Italian midfielder and French striker came off the bench in the 71st minute, relieving the disappointing Antonio Nocerino and Suso. Jack scored via a perfectly executed free-kick, while the 20-year old calmly tucked away his own with the help of a Riccardo Montolivo pass through the penalty area.
Even if you could not watch this Tuesday afternoon (or evening) match, you knew from the Milan supporters on Twitter that the win was anything but a quality one.
Mihajlović decided to rest many of his starters despite noting the significance of the Coppa Italia fixture.The Milan boss started not a single player from the starting XI that defeated Sampdoria and for the most part, many agreed with this decision. It allowed a breather for some of the regulars in the squad while also being able to give some others a chance to prove themselves worthy of being involved in the manager’s rotation.
According to Goal.com, here is a star rating of how each starter performed:
Calabria was the team’s best defender on Tuesday and to be honest, it was nothing to boast about. The centre-back tandem of Cristian Zapata and Philippe Mexes were awfully shaky, looking dysfunctional on several occasions.
The Colombian defender was turned inside out by Budimir on the goal and allowed the tall Croatian to leap up for a few free headers, while the former Roma man looked rusty, like he hasn’t played all season. Suso, Honda, Poli and De Sciglio each had their struggles. Let’s just keep it at that.
Crotone really made things uncomfortable for Milan and what this match showed us (as if it wasn’t somewhat clear already) is that after say a dozen players, the depth tails off dramatically. The list is short of quality with this club and if you are to compete in both Serie A and Coppa Italia simultaneously, those non-starters need to show up in matches like these and prove something that can’t otherwise be shown in training.
After the suspect performance, Mihajlović spoke about the squad and how they performed. (via acmilan.com):
Tonight was the right occasion to rotate the squad and the players that come into the side have to take their chance. Some of those players did well tonight and others less so. It was a difficult match, but it’s winning and the result that counts in the end. Some players perhaps didn’t have the right approach tonight, but they all did what they had to do. I understand it’s not easy to come into the side every now and then, but I got the answers I needed and I know who I can rely on more and who I can count on less.
The former Blucerchiati boss also went on to praise the second-place Serie B club for their efforts but I can assure you, he was not pleased with how his men approached this match. We all thought that some of the others battling for playing time would bring a little extra to the pitch, but that simply was not the case.
After the loss to Juventus, when Milan were without a handful of players due to injury, we spoke about the lack of depth needed to fight for European qualification next season. Yes, the bounce-back victory over Sampdoria was pleasing but supporters of the Rossoneri are fully aware of the question marks surrounding the bench. Because of this, Milanisti are not convinced that they can achieve their objectives for this season if they stand pat.
The absence of many of the starters against Crotone further proved that this club is not capable of sustaining consistent form without renovation next month. This match should be a warning to Galliani and Berlusconi that if they aren’t diligent in their January strategic plan to improve, it could cost them quite a bit in 15/16.