After a hard-fought match on the road against Roma last week, Milan returned back to the comforts of the San Siro where they took on Champions League hopeful Fiorentina for Matchday 20.
Luca Antonelli once again started for Siniša Mihajlović in his usual left-back role. In recent weeks, Antonelli has jockeyed with Mattia De Sciglio for the starting role, for reasons few can understand. Antonelli has easily been the rossoneri’s most consistent, stable and fundamentally sound option at fullback since his arrival last January from Genoa. On Sunday night against Paulo Sousa’s led viola, the Azzurri defender turned in yet another solid performance and like many matches, his efforts didn’t go unnoticed.
So, to the round 20 battle we go.
Milan defeated Fiorentina 2-0 at home in front of a less than packed San Siro crowd. In the first half, Milan came out of the tunnel and immediately applied pressure to their opponent. Giacomo Bonaventura and M’Baye Niang were continuing to dominate the left flank, leaving the Fiorentina defence scrambling for a remedy to combat the Milan attack. In the 4th minute, three players formed the attacking chance Milan were searching for. With a perfectly executed through ball behind Nenad Tomovic by Bonaventura, Carlos Bacca retrieved the ball in stride and capped off the counter attack by scoring the first goal. Although Milan controlled the first half tempo, they could not tack on the important insurance goal before the break.
In the second half, the Rossoneri maintained their form and were organized from top to bottom. Gianluigi Donnarumma was vocal in net all game and never seemed fazed by the amount of corner attempts Fiorentina had continued to accumulate. Alessio Romagnoli and Alex anchored down the defensive back four, however the efforts of Luca Antonelli stood out most. Riccardo Montolivo turned in an above-average performance, captaining the midfield and covering his ground throughout.
With Milan holding to a narrow 1-0 lead, Mihajlović summoned Kevin Prince-Boateng from his bench, replacing Niang; and it did not take long for “The Prince” to impact the match. In the 88th minute of play, Juraj Kucka, who was also stellar in relief of Montolivo, delivered a flawless, left-footed long ball into Boateng who controlled it and made easy work of keeper Ciprian Tatarusanu for the second goal. Unlike last week, Milan played a more consistent 90 minutes and were rewarded for it with a 2-0 victory.
As we often make note of, consistency has been a major concern for Milan all season long. Sometimes, we get caught up in who to blame rather than praising those who continue to do their job week in and week out.
Luca Antonelli has been one of the more underrated defenders in Serie A for some time now. He isn’t the flashiest or most exciting player to watch each weekend. He doesn’t make it into those Vine clips either, but what he does goes a long way. In an era of football when it’s quite difficult to put a price on being consistent at your job, Antonelli makes it easier for us to do so. It’s almost like he punches in for his weekend shift, does a standup job on the pitch, then punches out. Fans of calcio, seeing as we have a certain appreciation for the art of defending, love these types of players. We tend to notice the defensive efforts of an individual more than fans of other leagues do.
It was just another day on the job for Antonelli on Sunday. The former Milan youth held it down for the entire 90 minutes on the left side. Fiorentina’s young starlet Federico Bernardeschi, who was highlighted by Serie A Scouted in pre-match coverage, was held in check the entire match. Antonelli made sure the 21-year old did not impact the outcome.
Below, you can see the involvement of Antonelli down the left side, via FourFourTwo Stats Zone:
Antonelli passed to a 73.1% conversion (19/26), with five of them coming in the final third. On defense, notice the green “x” which indicates his success in tackling at 100%. The diamonds show his two interceptions. The grey dashes in the penalty area to the left show that Antonelli cut down two attempts in a threatening position. These numbers prove how important Antonelli was in helping Milan come away with all three points.
The attack of Fiorentina has been known to score in bunches as they bagged four against Inter earlier this season. However, give credit to Mihajlović who made sure his defense was organized and on their toes. Luca Antonelli and his steadiness were key in deciding the outcome, making him our focus for this fixture’s Performance Evaluation.
For more performance evaluations like this, follow us on Twitter or like our page on Facebook. This post is our second this weekend in collaboration with Serie A Scouted. For a tactical analysis on Milan-Fiorentina, visit serieascouted.wordpress.com.