AC Milan 0-0 Cagliari: Rossoneri freeze under the San Siro lights and fail to secure top four

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan missed a huge opportunity to secure their spot in the top four as they failed to beat an already-safe Cagliari at San Siro.

In what was a scrappy game littered with mistakes and poor execution in the final third, Milan were unable to breakdown a resolute away side who had learned that they have Serie A status for another season just a couple of hours before the game.

The best chances in a laboured performance probably fell to the away side as Leonardo Pavoletti saw a back post header saved well by Gianluigi Donnarumma, who then produced an even better save to deny Diego Godin’s towering header from a corner.

The draw means that Milan know they must beat Atalanta on the final day of the season to guarantee a return to the Champions League, but if Juve better their result then they will be resigned to the Europe League again.

Head coach Stefano Pioli made one change to his starting line-up from the team that beat Torino 7-0 as Alexis Saelemaekers returned from suspension to reclaim the right wing spot from Samu Castillejo. Ante Rebic remained up front with Zlatan Ibrahimovic out for the season.

The first effort of the game came inside four minutes for Milan as Brahim Diaz span his man well and turned towards goal, with Rebic picking up a feed from the Spaniard and dragging his shot narrowly wide of the far post.

Semplici set Cagliari up in what was on paper a 3-4-2-1 formation but very much functioned as a back five, packing the midfield and sitting deep to frustrate while looking for opportunities on the break.

Milan had a half shout for a handball on the 15 minute mark as a pinball on the edge of the box struck a Cagliari man, though it was outside the box so VAR could not intervene.

Cragno was forced into his first major save of the game minutes later as a giveaway from Nandez allowed Calhanoglu to roll the ball into the path of Saelemaekers, whose fizzing shot was tipped over by the Italian at full stretch. From the resulting corner the Belgian winger also skewed a half-volley over from 20 yards.

A battle developed during the first half hour down Milan’s left side with Nandez and Theo Hernandez getting into a few physical duels and the Uruguay international caused some problems.

Calabria was the latest to let fly right on the stroke of 30 minutes as he fired from 25 yards and whistled an effort just wide of the top left upright.

Kjaer went into the book after cleaning out Joao Pedro as he darted down the left, and the resulting free-kick ended with a dangerous near post flick-on eventually being bundled out for a corner.

Calabria produced an excellent intervention moments later to deny Pavoletti a shot from a dangerous area inside the box after Joao Pedro had found space in behind.

The away side were certainly on top in the 15 minutes before the break and Theo Hernandez produced a swift reaction to head over the bar after a dangerous corner was directed towards Pavoletti. On the break, Bennacer took the ball about 70 yards before being hauled back and drawing a yellow card for Marin.

Milan had a big opportunity to take the lead with the last action of the first half as Calhanoglu took a free-kick 20 yards out but with the walls split, the Turkey international drilled it into the crowd of bodies without testing Cragno.

Pioli made a bold change at the interval as Rafael Leao came on in place of Saelemaekers.

The first effort of the second half came from Calhanoglu as the No.10 managed to turn into some space around 20 yards out, but his attempt was a weak rolling shot that Cragno saved easily.

Calabria thumped the next shot towards Cragno’s goal a few minutes later when a corner was cleared to the full-back on the edge of the box, though he skewed it wide and over

The away side came incredibly close to taking the lead nine minutes into the second 45 as Joao Pedro took advantage of a moment of disorganisation to whip in a perfect cross to Pavoletti at the far post who somehow headed straight at Donnarumma from six yards out, seeing his header well saved.

Brahim Diaz had shifted on to the right wing with Leao’s introduction and became someone ineffective, so Pioli made the decision to bring Castillejo off the bench to replace his compatriot.

Just after Godin had risen highest to head wide from a corner, Pioli’s final changes came. Bennacer and Calabria were withdrawn in the 63rd minute, with Souliho Meite and Diogo Dalot the players to come on.

The next big chance again came from a corner on Cagliari’s right, yet this time a strong hand from Donnarumma denied Godin with a world class save.

Castillejo then had a big chance to open the scoring at the other end as the winger arrived on the end of a Rebic cross but could not direct his close range volley between the posts.

Calhanoglu struck the upright with 20 minutes remaining as he nearly caught Cragno out at the near post with a fierce curling shot, and from the corner that came after Rebic headed wide though he appeared to be having his shirt tugged with VAR not intervening.

Milan’s attacking play become more and more laboured as they struggled to break down a Cagliari side who remained determined to sit and defend the point that they would have needed had Benevento won earlier.

The final roll of the dice came with two minutes left as Calhanoglu was withdrawn in place of Mario Mandzukic.

In the five minutes added on Castillejo curled an effort wide of the far post with players in the box to aim at, and he had two further volleys that were massively scuffed over the bar, which would be the Rossoneri’s last chances.

Tags AC Milan Milan Cagliari

15 Comments

  1. Tomato says:

    Pioli to blame

    Why is Saelemaekers substituted??? Injured?

    Why using Castillejo?
    Why using Meite?

    Why Mandzukic for less then 10 minutes and without use of centers?

    Why no Hauge?

    Why????????

    1. Zymotix says:

      Pioli hates hauge that’s the main reasons, milan has no intention to win this game. If milan willing to reach their target ,fire pioli and find a new coach before the game against atalanta. The main problems is pioli itself…..

    2. Joe101 says:

      what do you mean by why?
      Meite and Samu are his boyfriends…at this point there is literally no other explanation

      and Meite is awesome! he lost the ball in the first 5 sec
      Samu equally as good

      Rebic was gasping for air, but instead you bring in Mandzukic for Calhanoglu

      It’s a no brainer that when you need creation and speed you bring on Meite and Mandzukic, not Tonali and Hauge

  2. VladaSWG says:

    Calhanoglu played a phenomenal game to push his future club into UCL. Juventus man through and through.

  3. al83 says:

    The definition of stupidity: doing the same thing and expecting different results.
    CL is probably lost and despite some good work of Pioli, it’s simply unacceptable to miss it like this. You need 3 points in 2 games against indifferent opponents and you (probably) fail. You cannot survive such a fiasco.
    It would be a problem to remain after this.

  4. Shoaib says:

    This pioli is such a dumb ass .. why the hell he didnt give chance to mandzukich in the second half’s beganning ,, when it was quiet apparent that we are lacking in air .. cagliari had the stretegy to hold milan in the center attack, so we could have used the wings better … but all the time there were useless passing and mandzukich wasnt there .. this draw litrly broke my heart and i had tears in my eyes .. to hell with pioli .. this is not what we expect from a good manager … last but not the least ; again no show for haugue (my fav talent in milan right now)

  5. Milanisti indonesia says:

    If one good result after playing with “no defender” team get you too excited, then you just look into this game, this is the real pioli quality as a coach. I will not see the live milan game anymore until that low quality coach get out from milan. Biased player selection and really bad tactical adapt in game. I’m done

  6. Aaditya Verma says:

    This team overachieved this season or they would have been 6th or 7th, mediocre players. Team should be made around Zlatan,Theo,rebic,hauge,Calabria,kessie, bennacer,Donna.
    Other players are frustrating to watch, even if they go to champions league, they cannot do any good they are inconsistent.

    1. Aaditya Verma says:

      Pioli too made bad selections and team didn’t look oriented, I wish bielsa was the milan coach just imagine how the team would play

  7. Juro says:

    We praised Pioli last few weeks for his formation change but today he was unable to solve Cagliari. Nothing new with Pioli. He cannot adjust on the fly. Needs a few games to figure things out. In-game tactics are poor always has been. Back to same situation we were in 2 weeks ago. Regardless of what happens we likely need a new coach. His subs – Miete, Sammu, horrid. We have to ask ourselves is Pioli a CL caliber coach? I think the answer is no.

  8. carra says:

    The kindest thing I can write about this match is that the ability to perform when it was most needed is lacking in this young team … It can not only be due to performance anxiety, it lies deeper than so … What the team did today leaves everything else to wish …. The players are certainly as disappointed as me and Pioli, who by the way, have to deal with some of the failure on the pitch …. It was unfortunate not to be able to secure participation in the Champions Leuage

  9. Ed3lm4n says:

    It’s the same issue as ever, except from Ibra we have no consistent finisher. In a game like today against an opponent who plays very defensively and doesn’t have to score, you need somebody to unlock it. Diaz and Rebic were the best bets, but they were kept quite. In my opinion Chalanoglu is the weakest link in these games because he should create the openings for the others and that rarely happens. With this group there aren’t many other options for games like this. You could bet on Hauge, but there’s probably a very good reason why he’s not playing. Those who believe in conspiracy aren’t usually the sharpest tools in the shed.

  10. Energy says:

    Piolo was confused he didn’t know what to do and i dont think milan are cl material

  11. Energy says:

    Piolo and milan were confused they didn’t know what to do to break down cagliara goal,they fail to deliver when needed and i dont think they are cl material

  12. Vittorio says:

    Another disappointing performance. Most of the players took it lightly and it was evident since the first minutes that Milan is going to find it very difficult to penetrate the opponent’s defence. In such circumstances, the most crucial set pieces were literally wasted away! I fail to understand particular substitutions. Difficult to understand why Saelemaekers, Calabria, and Benacer were substituted. Now, it all depends on the last, difficult game in Bergamo! Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

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