20:45 at San Siro e inizia il primo tempo! Formazione 3-5-2 being played more like a 3-4-1-2 with Gianluigi Donnaruma protecting the goal line, a three-man line lead by captain Leonardo Bonucci, Alessio Romagnoli and Cristian Zapata replacing Mateo Mussachio. Lucas Biglia and Franck Kessie as our interiors, with Ricardo Rodriguez and Ignazio Abate as wing-backs. Hakan Calhanoglu slotted in the hole just behind Andre Silva, who earned his first Serie A start in rossonero, and the tall Croatian, Nikola Kalinic.
At first, Milan demonstrated the “fighting spirit” that Montella wants to be shown at every second of the match against a fearless SPAL giving all their best. But, even so, they were really lacking ideas on how to break down Milan’s strong fortress. Stabilized by Biglia and Kessie, these are the two best midfielders Milan has employed, in my opinion, since the departures of Pirlo and Gattuso.
The first shot that made the fans scream was by Abate at 18’, when he almost scored a golazo at the right top corner, but was well covered and stopped by SPAL keeper Alfred Gomis who saw some action later on.
The Rossoneri were really dominating every aspect of the game, but lacked the killer instinct in the final third to break the deadlock. Eventually, in the 24th minute of play, the first real scoring chance would come as Gomis tripped up Kalinic inside the box, giving PK expert Ricardo Rodriguez his first goal of the season.
With a few close shots on goal and others off the post mostly by Silva and Kessie, a very calm, almost boring first half was over.
The second half started with 15 slow minutes, with Milan maintaining the right amount of possession, tight defending, control in the ‘centrocampo’, yet no killer passes or clear shots. It wasn’t long before the fans started to fall asleep, but in an instant, Kessie woke the home crowd. Approaching SPAL’s area, Kessie was taken down in the box to earn another spot kick, which the Ivorian himself buried with power.
Later in the game, with Suso coming in for Kalinic and our 100 match boy Giacomo Bonaventura coming in for Hakan, more goals and magic were expected, but didn’t really arrive. Montella also gave Locatelli some minutes after a VERY impressive game from Biglia.
And so, for the second time in three days, Milan got the necessary three points. After the 4-1 defeat to Lazio which left a bad taste in our mouths, there is confidence being built on the back of a three-match win streak in all competitions. At the end of the day, the sum of points is what’s gonna give us the much wanted Champions League spot.
Milan performed well in the midfield and at the back, with Bonucci making a save off the line. The attack failed to score on a very few number of shots taken in the second half, which exposes, to an extent, that Milan hasn’t quite reached top form yet. It also tells us they might be in for some trouble against sides who don’t concede free penalties like SPAL. Montella needs to work on pre-made plays using the dynamism of the likes of Hakan, Suso, Bonaventura, and awesome positioning by Silva.
We can all agree that what’s really worrying was the lack of chances created and our forwards not scoring, But, if this is Milan playing at 70%, giving us a great display by our midfielders and our defense, we can really expect greater things when all the team tunes on the same track.
Average display and winning? I’ll take it. Give the players a chance to evolve properly. Remember, we have many young individuals who will only improve with time, reps and confidence gained on the pitch. If they continue improving like this, clinching a Champions League spot for next season will come.
Words: Héctor Morales (@hectorisme)