AC Milan picked up a vital win in their quest for a top four spot on Sunday evening as they beat Lecce 2-0 at San Siro thanks to a brace from Rafael Leao.
Milan were made to work hard for the three points despite the scoreline suggesting otherwise, with Leao scoring his second ever header for the club – his other being against Lecce – to break the deadlock late in the first half.
When the game was teetering a bit the Portuguese winger once again took matters into his own hand, going on a solo run from the halfway line before finishing in off the far post with the away side left to stand and stare.
Given Lazio dropped points while Inter won earlier today, it is a much-needed victory that comes after back to back draws in Serie A against Empoli at home and Bologna away.
Stefano Pioli opted to make four changes from the midweek draw against Napoli that secured progression to the Champions League semi-final as Pierre Kalulu came in at right-back, Malick Thiaw at centre-back, Junior Messias on the right wing and Ante Rebic up front.
The opening exchanges went as expected, with Milan dominating possession and trying to probe Lecce in their half but with the away side sitting deep in two banks of five to try and frustrate, which they managed to do.
Falcone was called into action for the first time inside the Lecce goal as a quickly taken shot from Tonali outside the box was turned away just as it was heading for the bottom corner. Rebic gathered the rebound and his cross eventually found Rafael Leao, who failed to control properly.
Milan were awarded a penalty when Baschirotto had a coming together with Theo Hernandez and the Frenchman took a tumble but the centre-back claimed he got the ball, and the replay showed it was indeed a fair tackle.
Lecce then provided a reminder of the threat that they pose on the counter-attack when a cross from their right flank drifted all the way to the far post and bounced onto the head of Banda, who somehow hit the post from a couple of yards out.
The game descended into a bit of a lull as Lecce became more comfortable sitting back and soaking up the pressure, with Falcone making a save above his head on the half-hour mark after Rebic’s back-peddling header.
Just over five minutes before the break, Rafael Leao got his 11th goal of the season and it came via the rather unfamiliar method of a header. A corner was taken short by Sandro Tonali and he received the ball back before crossing for the Portuguese winger who headed back across goal from the far post with Falcone rooted.
The home side continues to have the lion’s share of possession early in the second half and knocked it around nicely as times, with a half appeal for a penalty rejected when a shot from Thiaw on the edge of the box was blocked.
With the tempo of the game dropping in a worrying way, Pioli made a trio of changes. The first saw Alexis Saelemaekers come on for Messias on the right wing, while Simon Kjaer came on for Thiaw at centre-back and Ismael Bennacer took the place of Tonali.
The chances continued to be few and far between in what was a cagey second half that lacked quality, and Falcone was grateful that Brahim Diaz fired straight at him in the middle of the goal after a nice feed from Rebic.
Maignan had barely had anything to do all game, yet he made a smart save to tip a shot from Strefezza behind after he weaved inside past Bennacer and fired a shot that was heading for the top corner.
Leao deserved to get a second goal inside the final 20 minutes as he span past Blin and charged into the box, getting past the next man via a ricochet but unfortunately dinking an effort well over the bar from a narrow angle.
In the 74th minute, Leao did get his second goal of the evening as he took on the responsibility on his own once again. He picked up possession on the halfway line and had open field to run into, reaching the edge of the box and switching to his left foot, firing an angled shot that went in off the far post.
The final couple of changes followed from Pioli as he chose to withdraw Leao and Brahim Diaz, with Divock Origi and Charles De Ketelaere coming on in their places respectively.
Kalulu had a chance to really make sure of the points with five minutes left as a Theo volley from a cleared corner deflected into his path, yet he shot straight at Falcone though the offside flag did go up after.
That would be the final chance of the game as four minutes of added time flew by, sending the over 72,000 fans present at San Siro home with a smile on their face.
Better to win like this than draw playing well, I guess, but our forwards, except for Leao, were absolutely embarassing.
Without Leao, we are an average team. Just pay him whatever he wants.
I know this isn’t FIFA and it would be expensive but renewing Leão contract, buying balogun or a ST and a RW like szoboszlai is crucial because we need this attack to be less dependant on Leão even as amazing as he is
And now I’d like to read the always smart and pertinent comments from our beloved Doom & Gloom Pack, subsection Rafa Leão Haters & Bashers… come on, dudes, express yourselves!!!
But anyway… here is a player who proves to be not only technically superb, but in all aspects a true champion, that is, someone who emerges in the decisive moments of the season to lead the team to victory.
BRAVO, RAFA, SIAMO CON TE!!!
Ale ale ale Milan ale, Forza lotta, vinceraiii, non ti lasceremo mai!!! Forza Milan
Hahahahaha!!!! Ya I def agree with the Leao haters now – we should SELL SELL SELL Leao. Maybe for 5M??? What do you think Leao haters?? LMAO. 🤪🤪🤪🤪🤪🤪🤪🤪🤪. FORZA MILAN!
Our team needs better rotation badly.
We can’t be dependent of couple of players, we need strong team, not just individuals.
Sell Rebic and Messias ASAP
We really need two or three important reinforcements upfronts, mainly some really good RW and CF, and if possible a classy ACM, but to ADD to Leão, for me this is adamant.
Agreed. Imagine what he could do with a proper RW, ACM and younger striker. Sky is the limit. Let’s see if Gerry and Elliot opens up the check book this summer…
Exactly, but they have no excuses now with the amount we’ve earned through the UCL. For me szoboszlai would be pricey but super for the RW and a st like balogun would be good too. Keep in mind if Pioli is not liking adli then adding him into one of the deals would be worth thinking about but those 2 in total would cost about 70M which is a lot but that’s what you have the spend nowadays. And then obviously maldini and massara need to think about a proper Theo backup because he is a workhorse for us
“Sell Rebic and Messias ASAP”
And Origi too.
OF COURSE, you got the idea.
“OF COURSE, you got the idea.”
But keep Saelemaekers. He’s very useful.
I agree i’d keep saelemaekers as well, deffently a usefull player and still with some room to further develope. If he can improve his end product in assists and goals he could become a force to reckon with and technically speaking he is one of our most accomplished players even if people often has disregarded such qualities in him.
Good win, keep it up and we will reach cl qualification,