After having lost to Lille in the Europa League, AC Milan were hoping to bounce back with a win against Hellas Verona, but in the end managed only a 2-2 draw.
While the unbeaten run for the Rossoneri ended in Europe, their domestic run was still alive. Facing a tough Hellas Verona side was never going to be easy given their impressive defensive record and their resurgence under Ivan Juric, and it did indeed prove to be a tricky game.
The Rossoneri were trailing 2-0 after 20 minutes of play as it was yet another frustrating night, with a lot of missed chances for Pioli’s side including two disallowed goals and a missed penalty by Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Fortunately, the team did manage to snatch a point after all of the misfortune, with an own goal and a stoppage time Ibra equaliser saving the day.
Here are five things we learned from the game…
1. Time for a break
After the game, Zlatan Ibrahimovic admitted that fatigue was getting into his head not allowing him to be at 100% in terms of his decision making and usual instinct in front of goal, which we saw with the relatively poor performance he dropped.
While he did score to equalise, the Swede missed quite a few chances including a penalty, a goal being disallowed because of his handball and a header that went onto the crossbar.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has netted 8 goals in the current Serie A season.
Only one other player scored more in the first seven matches: Gunnar Nordahl, 9 goals in 1950-51 and in 1955-56.
— MilanData📊 (@acmilandata) November 9, 2020
Yes, Zlatan has been fantastic this season, but he needs to remember that at this age it will be hard for him to play all the time. When he accepts that, maybe Pioli will rotate him a bit more and Ibra can be even more vital for this team.
2. Reaction was there
While it felt like a very winnable game on paper, it must be said that Verona have been exceptional defensive so far this season and going up 2-0 before the break could have put them out of sight.
As much as the fans would have loved to see the team grab a victory from that position, we have to give credit to the boys as they reacted and managed to avoid defeat, showing they are willing to scrap for every point.
A lot of things did not go the way that Milan would have wanted them to go or they way they are used to as there were plenty of missed chances and avoidable mistakes, but the bottom line is that the team is still undefeated in Serie A and top of the table going into the international break.
3. The omnipresent Algerian
It was a a fantastic performance from Ismael Bennacer, who was one of the very few that didn’t look to be tired at all. The Algerian has been growing constantly since the second part of last season and his role is ever-increasing in the heart of Milan’s midfield.
It would be fair to say that Bennacer has been the maestro of this team in the last few games and he is showcasing more and more of his vision and passing.
His ability to get out of tight situations by dribbling was seen again and the former Empoli player will be crucial for his team in the tight schedule they have after the break.
4. Counter problem
After Hellas Verona scored two quickfire goals they stayed deep in their half for the majority of the game. However, on the few occasions Milan had the chance to counter they didn’t manage to produce the desired outcome, failing to even register a shot most of the time.
This problem has been here for a while now, and perhaps it does link to the idea of mental fatigue clouding the usual decision making strengths of the team, but also a lack of speed in the forward department seems to be hurting the team.
That could be because of Zlatan’s inability to make bursting runs forward, however it must be noted that the likes of Calhanoglu and Saelemaekers offer little when they are not precise with their end product.
5. Upping the Ante
Ante Rebic missed a few weeks due to injury, but he managed to get some more minutes in his legs against Hellas and you could immediately see what the team were missing.
Rebic was able to shake off defenders and exploit the free space, looking like an instant upgrade because of his chemistry with Theo Hernandez too.
While he was a bit rusty at moments it is all normal for him after being out for a month, but the impact he made was significant and he should have had at least one assist.
Now with the international break, Rebic will have more time to prepare and get up to speed as he will be crucial for Milan’s tight schedule before Christmas.