AC Milan’s 24-game unbeaten run came to an end in dismal fashion on Thursday night as they were comfortably beaten 3-0 by Lille.
Lille’s unbeaten start to the Ligue 1 season should have raised some alarm bells, but it was the Yusuf Yazici show at San Siro as the Turkish forward scored a fantastic hat-trick.
He sent his side in a goal up at the break after firing home from the penalty spot, and put them out of sight in the second half with two exceptional shots from outside the area.
The result means that Milan have surrendered top spot to the French side after three group games, with Sparta Praha’s win at Celtic somewhat of a blessing as they stay three points above third spot.
Pioli made five changes to the starting XI compared to the one which took the field on Sunday against Udinese, as Diogo Dalot came in at right-back, Sandro Tonali partnered Kessie in midfield and the trident behind Ibrahimovic was composed of Samu Castillejo – back from a muscle problem – as well as Brahim Diaz and Rade Krunic.
The opening 10 minutes were as cagey as might have been expected on a cold winter night under the lights at an early San Siro, with Theo Hernandez certainly feeling the warmth of a heavy challenge early on as both teams tried to settle down and assert their style on the game.
Despite having a lot of the possession as Lille formed a compact low block when not on the ball, Milan did struggle to fashion opportunities but perhaps could have done better when Ibrahimovic rose to head a free-kick back into the area that narrowly evaded Kjaer.
The first shot on target of the game came in the 14th minute, as one of Lille’s main threats Jonathan Ikone found some space in off the left flank to fire a shot at Donnarumma who saved comfortably.
Milan began to slowly carve their way into Christophe Gaultier’s defence, and got in behind for the first time when Theo made one of his typical driving runs before seeing his shot from inside the box deflected for a corner.
Straight up the other end Lille once again created a dangerous scoring chance of their own as a poor defensive header allowed Jonathan David to pick the ball up in space and bear down on goal, though Donnarumma produced a smart low save.
Moments later though, the visiting side took the lead through a penalty. Romagnoli was adjudged to have pushed Yilmaz in the back as a throw-in came into the box, and even if the forward went down easily the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Yusuf Yazici took on the responsibility and sent Donnarumma the wrong way with a good penalty.
Milan’s first shot on target came in the 25th minute when Brahim Diaz won a free-kick 20 yards out central to the goal. Ibrahimovic put his laces through it and got the ball past the wall, but it was straight at Maignan in the middle of the goal who flapped it clear.
The best word to describe the opening 30 minutes for the Rossoneri would be sloppy, and Lille continued to look to take advantage of that, with centre-back Jose Fonte becoming the latest to fire from the edge of the box; the centre-back’s effort pulled wide of the near post.
Theo Hernandez again found himself with a yard of space to shoot inside the box as a neat move from Milan saw Castillejo bundle the ball into the left-back’s path. The Frenchman, though, fired a tame low shot straight at the goalkeeper.
The last half-chance for the home side before the interval came in the 42nd minute, as a corner was flicked on at the near post by Krunic but evading everyone and dropping into safety.
Pioli responded to a lacklustre opening 45 minutes by making a double change, with the once again ineffectual Castillejo and Krunic making way for Rafael Leao and Hakan Calhanoglu.
Milan began the second half on the front foot and had a good spell of early pressure which culminated in Kessie firing over from inside the box after a feed from inside the area by Brahim Diaz following a corner that wasn’t properly cleared. The Ivorian should have done better.
Despite starting the better, it was Lille who doubled their advantage and it was Yazici who scored once again. The Turkey international spun onto his favoured foot 20 yards out before firing a shot that bounced directly in front of Donnarumma, but the Italy international should have done better as he succeeded only in palming the ball into the top corner.
The French side went 3-0 up before the hour mark as Yazici completed his hat-trick, and it was another fantastic finish from the forward. After an assist from Ikone for his second goal, it was another Jonathan who fed him in Jonathan David, allowing Yazici to simply sweep the ball into the far corner with a precise shot.
Another double change followed on the hour mark, with Ibrahimovic and Tonali making way for Ante Rebic and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Rebic got himself into the game almost instantly and tested Maignan with a shot across goal after a nice ball in behind by Brahim Diaz, though the Lille stopper was equal to the effort.
Yazici was not satisfied with a hat-trick and pushed for a fourth goal, forcing yet another save from a narrow angle after wriggling into space inside the area and firing at the near post.
The final roll of the dice came when Jens Petter Hauge came on, but it was the away side who continued to push for another goal as Bamba fired over on the break when he should have at least tested Donnarumma.
Leao really should have reduced the deficit by scoring against his former side when Theo squared to him inside the area but two bodies came in to put him off as he fired wide from six yards out.
The rest of the game was played out without incident, as Milan slumped to their heaviest ever European defeat.