AC Milan 3-0 Spezia: Leao double and Theo Hernandez strike maintain Rossoneri’s perfect start

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan made it three wins from three in Serie A and three clean sheets on the spin with a comprehensive 3-0 victory over Spezia at San Siro.

The Rossoneri were not in total control of the game for 90 minutes as the resilient away side managed to get into the break at 0-0, but a Rafael Leao double either side of a wonderful solo goal from Theo Hernandez ensured the three points stayed in Lombardy.

As mentioned, it means Milan have started their 2020-21 campaign in perfect fashion and they join Atalanta as the only other team with three wins from three ahead of the derby against Inter after the international break.

Head coach Stefano Pioli opted to field the same defence that has appeared in the opening two games, but an otherwise youthful starting XI with the likes of Sandro Tonali, Rafael Leao, Brahim Diaz, Alexis Saelemaekers and Lorenzo Colombo all starting, with Rade Krunic also in the midfield.

Milan started the game on the front foot and used the flanks to whip threatening balls into the area, and Jacopo Sala produced a fantastic last-ditch clearance in the eighth minute to prevent what would have been an easy finish for Rafael Leao.

The pressure continued and Brahim Diaz should have done better a couple of minutes later having weaved into space on the edge of the box to shoot, though the Spaniard rolled a tame effort into the hands of Rafael who saved easily.

Brahim continued to cause problems in and around the edge of the box and he drew an appetising free-kick around 22 yards out which was prime Hakan Calhanoglu territory, but in the absence of the playmaker Simon Kjaer instead drilled his effort over.

The ploy from the away side was clear: to get as many men behind the ball as possible to frustrate Milan, who continued to try and unlock them through Tonali and Brahim plus the runs of Theo. Their only threat was the centre-forward Galabinov, and he was forced off on the half hour mark with a muscle problem.

Not long after Spezia’s back line were tested as a low cross from Calabria was turned goalwards by Lorenzo Colombo, though his near post effort was very well blocked in the end.

Matteo Gabbia should have done a lot better with his header from a cross after a corner had been recycled, but the 20-year-old looped his header over the bar after getting into a good position.

The Rossoneri really should have taken the lead moments before the break when Krunic slid a pass through to Saelemaekers who teed up Brahim Diaz with a perfect cross, however the Real Madrid loanee’s first time effort went over and wide from around eight yards out.

There was another chance not long after and again it was Krunic who moved the play forward well. He found Calabria with a beautiful long ball and the defender pulled it back to Saelemaekers who fired over.

Donnarumma was called into action for the first time in the 45th minute, with Verde forcing a save at the near post after a counter-attack from the away side.

Pioli made a change at half-time as Hakan Calhanoglu came on in place of Colombo, with Leao moving to play as the centre-forward. Calhanoglu went into the book almost straight away for a high challenge on Maggiore.

Brahim Diaz once again caused problems for the Spezia defence and he had a golden chance to give Milan the lead as he spun away from pressure, but with the goal gaping he curled his effort wide from 18 yards.

Three minutes before the hour mark, Milan took a deserved lead and it was Calhanoglu who made the impact. The Turkey international whipped a gorgeous ball across the edge of the six-yard box where Leao was on hand to stab home from close range and relieve some of the pressure.

Two changes then followed as Tonali and Krunic made way for Ismael Bennacer and Franck Kessie.

Donnarumma was called into action as Agueldo managed to twist into space inside the Milan box; the Italy international keeping a fierce effort out by parrying with two hands over the bar.

There was a huge moment in the 70th minute as Jens Petter Hauge came on for his Milan debut in place of Brahim Diaz.

With 15 minutes to go, the Rossoneri doubled their advantage to effectively seal the game. A fantastic bit of anticipation from Theo Hernandez saw the Frenchman steal possession and charge into the Spezia third, and he pulled the trigger just inside the area beating Rafael with a perfect strike across goal into the bottom right corner.

Moments later it was 3-0 as Rafael Leao got his second of the game. A ball in from Saelemaekers was headed back across goal by Franck Kessie and eventually found its way through to the Portuguese starlet, who had the simple task of bundling home from close range.

Milan were then playing with freedom and confidence, and some beautiful link-up play between Leao and Calhanoglu saw the latter thread a ball through to Theo Hernandez, who saw his effort well saved.

Leao would not get a chance to score a hat-trick though as he was taken off for Daniel Maldini inside the final few minutes, but there would be no more incidents of note as a fine evening’s work at San Siro was complete.

Tags AC Milan Milan Spezia Rafael Leao theo hernandez