With the absence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Stefano Pioli, Milan faced Fiorentina on Sunday night at the San Siro in a game that had to be won, and win they did.
It was an important victory to send a message to the the rest of the league that Milan can win without the Swede. The team did not disappoint, as after a slow quarter of an hour it was Alessio Romagnoli that gave Milan the lead as the captain reacted to the criticism.
Shortly after that, Alexis Saelemaekers won a penalty that was converted by Kessie to extend the home side’s lead. Milan were handed another penalty, but the Ivorian failed to score from the spot.
Two goals, however, were more than enough and the Rossoneri extended their lead on top of the table in Serie A. Here are five things we learned…
1. The tough get going
Romagnoli had a few rough weeks in which he wasn’t as convincing at the back after recovering from his injury. Obviously he needed time to recover fully and get to 100%, but in the meantime he was very shaky which led to fans and media criticising him.
Romagnoli, however, responded in a brilliant way as he was a rock at the back neutralising the majority of Fiorentina’s attacks and he was even awarded the MOTM in our ratings.
To top off his performance, the Italian managed to open the scoresheet through a header and head his team towards victory, and his celebration suggested he has been paying attention to those who have doubted him.
2. Belgian brilliance
There were quite the few standouts against Fiorentina, but Alexis Saelemaekers is one that that really deserves credit. While he was injured it was Samu Castillejo on the wing, and the Spaniard is really struggling for form.
With Alexis back in the lineup, the right wing spot was finally in use and the Belgian had quite a good game, even managing to win a penalty for his team, and he could have even had another in the second half.
And while Saelemaekers isn’t as flashy as people would like him to be and perhaps sometimes lacks end product, the winger is running tirelessly until the 90th minute, contributing in a great way to his team while keeping his game simple and intelligent.
3. Growing pains easing
While everyone would have loved to see Sandro Tonali explode from his very first Milan game, it was always going to be more complicated than that. The youngster has been struggling to pick up the pace and to be fair to him he has had little game time to get into rhythm.
With Bennacer and Kessie dominating the majority of midfields in Serie A, it was always going to be hard for Tonali to steal minutes from the African duo, but the tight schedule and minor injuries are now allowing the Italian to play more regularly and he is slowly starting the express his abilities.
Against Fiorentina, the Italy international managed to shake off his tension from the opening stages and had an overall good outing this time around, which he will have to build on.
4. Feels like family
While we can keep on going about individual performances, it is also important to take some time and praise the management, coaches and players for the group they have built.
From Pioli who puts a lot of faith and confidence in his players to the whole management including Maldini, Massara, Gazidis and several others this team has transformed into a happy family, which is what always defined the great Milan sides.
That really is showing on the pitch as there are a lot of positive emotions surrounding the team giving them confidence and strength to keep pushing forward.
🥰 Gigio's reaction when he sees the gaffer on FaceTime.
— SempreMilan (@1SempreMilan) November 29, 2020
5. The recipe for success
What makes the group so unique is the mixture of experience and talent it has. With Zlatan and Kjaer’s arrival the team transformed mentally and physically and have even been described as a ‘rampaging devil’.
Both the Swede and Dane have been crucial for the growth of this Milan side and the management should not underestimate this going forward.
The path the success is clear and the talent is there but Milan need leaders and warriors in the squad to push the youngsters forward.
#ACMilan are 13 points better off after nine games of the Serie A season than they were compared to last season.
2019-20: 9G, 10pts, 13th place
2020-21: 9G, 23pts, 1st place
— MilanData📊 (@acmilandata) November 29, 2020