AC Milan 4-0 Crotone: Rossoneri respond to Inter as Ibrahimovic and Rebic power Milan to big win

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan took top spot back from rivals Inter with a convincing 4-0 win over bottom-placed side Crotone at San Siro this afternoon.

Milan racked up their 15th league win of the season and it was Zlatan Ibrahimovic who powered them on the way, scoring with a tidy finish in the first half and netting from close range on the hour mark.

Ante Rebic then got in on the act scoring a brace inside 70 seconds, with the first being a header from a corner and the second a simple finish thanks to Hakan Calhanoglu’s feed.

The result means that the Rossoneri respond in the perfect way to Inter and Juve’s victories that preceded, and they move two clear at the top of the league again.

Stefano Pioli named the same defence as the Bologna game, but in midfield Soualiho Meite came in alongside Franck Kessie with Ismael Bennacer and Sandro Tonali both not ready. Rafael Leao was the playmaker with Hakan Calhanoglu not fit enough to start, while Ante Rebic started on the left flank.

Milan caused some panic inside the opening 60 seconds as some excellent dribbling from Kessie saw the Ivorian stand the ball back towards the far post, though Meite sliced his effort from the resulting clearance well over the bar.

Crotone had their first half-chance not long after as the Napoli loanee Ounas led a swift counter-attack, but ended up curling the ball well over Gianluigi Donnarumma’s crossbar.

Milan thought that they had taken the lead in the sixth minute when some excellent link-up play between Calabria, Ibrahimovic and Leao saw the former finish from close range, though the flag rightly went up as the Swede was offside in the build-up.

Donnarumma was called into action for the first time not long after and he was required to be at full stretch to tip an attempt from Ounas – from a similar place to the first one – over the bar. From the resulting corner a header flashed wide at the near post.

The visiting side continued to threaten and should have taken the lead through Di Carmine, who headed wide at the far post having peeled off Tomori.

Theo Hernandez got into top gear in the 11th minute as he carried the ball from the edge of one box to the other before sliding the ball through for Leao, whose first-time shot from the left side of the box was well blocked.

Cordaz made his first save of the game when a cross to the far post was headed back across goal by Rebic where Calabria was lurking, and the Crotone goalkeeper had an easy save to make from a header albeit at close range.

There were cries of anguish from Alexi Saelemaekers as Rebic pulled the ball back to the penalty spot after an exceptional through ball from Meite, but Leao stole the ball off the Belgian as he was about to fire and instead miscontrolled it to kill the attack.

Bang on the 30 minute mark, Milan did take the lead and it came through none other than Zlatan Ibrahimovic. With Crotone trying to block in deep, the 39-year-old rolled the ball to Rafael Leao before receiving it back after a lovely through pass to dissect the back line. He had the simple task of opening his body and slotting into the far top corner past Cordaz for his 500th club career goal.

Ibrahimovic was found in behind once again – this time by Tomori – but despite barrelling down on goal the striker did not get his shot away and delayed too long. Thankfully for him, the flag went up.

Pioli elected to make a change at the break as the tired-looking Saelemaekers made way for Samu Castillejo, who took his place on the right wing.

Cordaz was the first keeper to be tested in the first half, but the veteran had no problems catching a fierce effort from Meite who charged onto Leao’s feed around 20 yards out.

Up until the hour mark the game descended into somewhat of a stalemate as the visitors seemed happy to sit and contain Milan and look to prise an opportunity on the counter at the other end.

Bang on the hour mark, Leao would almost score the second with his final touch as the Rossoneri won the ball back high up the pitch and Rebic squared for the Portuguese forward, whose effort was incredibly saved by Cordaz low to his left.

Leao would then be withdrawn in place of Hakan Calhanoglu, who got a runout for the final half an hour having been out of action since early January.

Theo Hernandez wasn’t far from doubling Milan’s lead with an absolute howitzer of a strike from 25 yards after a lay-off from Rebic, though it whistled wide of the far post with the keeper motionless.

Moments later though it would be 2-0, and it was that man Ibrahimovic again. Some nice link-up play set Theo away on the left side of the box, and he squared across the six-yard box where the No.11 was on hand to touch the ball into a virtually unguarded net.

Calhanoglu’s impact off the bench was immediate, as he crossed in the corner for Rebic to head home at the far stick in a similar position to the one he scored from against Lazio in the last home game of 2020.

Moments later – 69 seconds in fact – it would become 4-0 as Ibrahimovic’s shot from distance was parried to Calhanoglu, who fed the ball back towards the penalty spot where Rebic was waiting to thump home and net a quickfire brace.

A double change followed with the game virtually wrapped up as Ibrahimovic – shortly after heading into the arms of Cordaz in what should have been his hat-trick goal – was withdrawn for Mario Mandzukic, while Rebic made way for Jens Petter Hauge.

Castillejo looked like more of a threat going forward than Saelemaekers had in the first half, but he could have done better than a weak low shot at Cordaz’s near post when he darted in from the right.

The last notable action of the game saw Calabria receive a yellow card, meaning the full-back will miss next week’s game against Spezia due to having reached the yellow card threshold, but he will be back for the derby.

 

Tags AC Milan Milan Crotone