AC Milan 1-0 Empoli: Pulisic nets only goal as Pioli’s side scrape by

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan recorded their third straight win and jumped into second place as they beat Empoli 1-0 at San Siro on Sunday afternoon.

The only goal of the game came in the final stages of the first half when Noah Okafor provided for Christian Pulisic to finish via a deflection from Luperto. Initially the offside flag had gone up, though the review awarded the goal.

It was far from a vintage Milan performance, particularly in the second half when the pace of the game dropped and they were missing chances to kill the game off while allowing Empoli more and more into the game.

Nevertheless, they did manage to see out the game with a clean sheet and jump two points above Juventus for the time being ahead of their match against Atalanta this evening.

Stefano Pioli chose to make six changes to the starting line-up from the team that beat Slavia Praha as Alessandro Florenzi, Fikayo Tomori and Malick Thiaw started in defence, Ismael Bennacer came into the midfield while Luka Jovic and Noah Okafor got the nod in attack.

Milan started the game on the front foot and threatened inside four minutes when Okafor beat Ismajli to the byline and stood up a lovely cross that was desperately cleared as Jovic lurked. Moments later, Ruben Loftus-Cheek fed Christian Pulisic inside the box and Caprile was forced to parry it behind.

Despite Olivier Giroud being sat on the bench, Milan continued to cause problems with aerial balls. Okafor was nearly put through on goal by Bennacer but was crowded out as he tried to chest it down, then a cross from Pulisic into a very dangerous spot was bundled behind.

The opening 20 minutes was wave after wave of home attacks as they camped in the Empoli half, and Loftus-Cheek’s driving run to the byline saw him burst past three players before providing a perfect cut-back that was just cut out before it could be tapped in by Okafor.

The game then descended into a bit of a lull as Empoli managed to stem the tide a bit, though Okafor perhaps should have done better just after the half-hour mark when he went on a darting run in off the left but fired straight at Caprile from the edge of the box.

The Rossoneri did take the lead with five minutes to go in the first half, but it took a VAR review for the goal to be confirmed. A lovely pass from Bennacer found Okafor down the left and he pulled it back to Pulisic who hit a first time shot that went in off Luperto. The offside flag went up because the linesman thought Okafor had gone too early, though the goal was given after a review.

The opening exchanges of the second half can perhaps best by symbolised by the scene a few minutes in where there were three players on the deck at once – Bennacer for Milan and two for Empoli – and the home crowd groaned as play was brought to a half with Pioli’s men trying to build an attack.

With the dominance from the first half having disappeared a bit, Pioli made three changes: Pierre Kalulu, Samuel Chukwueze and Yunus Musah were the players who came on, with Tomori, Pulisic and Reijnders making way.

Chukwueze had a chance to make an instant impact as Milan found chances on the counter, with the winger picking the ball up on the right and cutting in but seeing his shot deflected over. Another alteration came from Pioli after 72 minutes, with Jovic making way for Olivier Giroud.

Loftus-Cheek wasn’t far away from adding another goal in 2024 when he let fly from just outside the box having led a break, though Caprile saved well. The resulting corner was flicked on by Thiaw and cleared in the nick of time before the English midfielder could finish at the far post.

The Diavolo continued their wasteful streak into the final 15 minutes. Okafor could have had his second assist of the night with a lovely deep cross towards Calabaria, whose header could have either been an attempt or back across goal to a team-mate, but he found the crowd. Moments later, Chukwueze squared for Musah who also found the lower tier from a good position.

There was a real scare inside the final ten minutes when a deep cross from Empoli was headed onto the post by Destro, though the offside flag had gone up and he was a few yards past the last defender.

Destro again had a close chance to bring the game level from an Ocace corner, when the striker was left unmarked at the back post about eight yards out, but the ball landed straight into Maignan’s arms. Pioli’s final change came in the final minute, with Yacine Adli coming on for Okafor.


Tags AC Milan Milan Empoli


  1. Not vintage but can’t argue job done, lots of players rested and now 12 points ahead of 5th.

    Thiaw still looking a bit of a liability at times but otherwise looked better by playing out from the back than we have done with Kjaer.

    Jovic and Okafor are a strange pair, both have their talents but not a natural fit with the team currently – can see a future for both, though Jovic as a starter still doesn’t seem as good at connecting the rest of the team. Chukwueze also looking a bit better at the end was good to see, clearly lacking confidence but needs some good results; he made a lot of good first touches to beat a man and hold possession well near the end. Really admired the intelligence of Giroud when he came on, his pressing isn’t pace-based but great positioning.

    On to next week.

    1. “Thiaw still looking a bit of a liability at times but otherwise looked better by playing out from the back than we have done with Kjaer. ”

      Holy f*** Thiaw was on a mission to gift them a goal! If Kjaer had many such disastrous mistakes he would have been crusified. Again. Kalulu & Thiaw together was like begging Empoli to score a goal or two. Did you see the cornerkick where Destro was unmarked? How on Earth was that possible?

  2. Chuk could make it 2-0 but his decision making and execution are poor.

    And while the team doesn’t played superb but we dominated the entire game and created enough chances to kill the game.

    Also, it’s nice to see Tomori playing from the start again. He still looks not on top form but the defense looks more solid when he played.

  3. The team put in some effort, although the result was more down to luck than work.
    Empoli could’ve easily had 2 goals
    – Thiaw’s mistakes (he should never play on the LCB, so uncomfortable).
    – Destro’s free header

    Only pioli fields an attacking midfielder(RLC) who is a ghost in the build-up. Musah (also reijnders) has all the qualities to do more in build-up as a false 8 in #Pioliball

  4. It’s nice to see Okafor so lively, you didn’t even notice that Leao was missing! Ruben and Pulisic solidly, as always. Everything else… just as long as it takes for three points. Next stop Prague !

  5. Fresh leadership needed. I will take any manager over Pioli, now. These players look to have capabilities but it appears Pioli is playing them with the brakes on.
    A bit disappointed that Gabbia has been relegated to the bench so quickly considering he’s bailed their arses out for the last few months.

    1. Quickly? Dude, Gabbia already played non stop since he was back in January and 2 days ago he just played against Slavia. But you want him to play again instead of him have a rest so he can have fresh legs next week against Slavia.

      God, why some Milan fans are clueless af.

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