AC Milan 4-2 Slavia Praha: Five things we learned – riding the rollercoaster

By Ivan Stoev -

AC Milan beat Slavia Praha 4-2 at San Siro to ensure that they will take a lead to Prague next week in their Europa League last 16 tie, but it was far from a simple game.

The fact that Milan scored four goals, won the game and walked off the pitch perhaps not feeling best pleased says a lot about how the game went, especially after Diouf got sent off and Olivier Giroud found the opener.

Doudera’s equaliser stunned the San Siro crowd, but then. Tijjani Reijnders and Ruben Loftus-Cheek struck in quick succession before the interval to give the Rossoneri a 3-1 lead at the break and it looked like job done.

Schranz halved the deficit as Milan looked like they didn’t know how to deal with a man advantage, yet thankfully Christian Pulisic’s tap-in restored the two goal lead, which Pioli’s side will take into the second leg.

Here are five things we learned…

1. Out of focus

Although Milan won the game, the obvious point of frustration is that Milan conceded twice when Slavia were down to ten men.

The Rossoneri got the lead shortly after their opponents were given a red and couldn’t keep ahold of the lead for more than two minutes, which is when the equaliser came.

In the second half – after managing to score two more goals before the break – instead of closing the game and even looking for a fourth goal Milan again conceded with to make it 3-2, once again reopening the contest.

We can’t really blame anybody individually because each of the defenders had their sloppy moments; rather it was a collective letdown at the back which cost Milan the two goals they let in.

One thing is for sure: this is not a defence that will help Milan hoist the Europa League trophy in Dublin and Pioli must address this before a better opponent (with respect to Slavia) awaits.

2. A night of ups and downs

Christian Pulisic had a strange night, starting with the assumption that you would assume that he would be more active given the numerical advantage, but that wasn’t the case.

Pulisic did end up with a goal, but it was all Leao who created it really, with the American getting a tap in in a situation where the ball was going to end up in the back of the net regardless of his actions.

The former Chelsea forward has been struggling for weeks now barring a few exceptions where he has shown some individual brilliance, but overall he seems to be too slow to make dangerous runs down the flank and he’s also unable to beat his man in most situations.

This is one of the most important skills for a winger, and his decision making has also let him down making it a very underwhelming performance. It is a really interesting situation we are witnessing given he started the season so well, and is still putting up numbers, but doesn’t seem as dangerous.

3. Doing just enough

Rafael Leao was the main man again, although he was invisible for a big part of the game. However, he did pick his moments as he provided an assist for Olivier Giroud’s opener after a lovely cross aimed at the far post that made the Frenchman’s job of putting the ball into the back of the net fairly easy.

Then on the fourth goal, he showed his pace and dribbling skills and chipped the keeper with lovely technique but instead of a goal he’ll have to be satisfied with an assist because of Pulisic tapping in the ball in on the line.

That being said, we can probably give Pulisic some credit as there was a defender nearby and his instinct did secure the goal in the end. Giroud also grabbed a goal to contribute to the win, but one can argue his build-up play left much to be desired.

Lastly, Loftus-Cheek got a goal as well after a lovely header. Playing in that advanced midfield role also allowed him to get on the ball frequently as he had some nice runs forward, but again, he was not that effective in the final third.

Overall, a good attacking performance and it’s hard to say otherwise given the four goals scored, but the two goals conceded ruin the mood a bit.

4. Positive from the subs

Pioli’s substitutes were fairly positive this time around. Alessandro Florenzi and Matteo Gabbia were replaced at half time by Calabria and Tomori, respectively, and it felt like the right call.

Florenzi got two assists, but also received a yellow card after less than two minutes, so subbing him off made sense, whilst giving playing time to Tomori – who just came back from an injury – was also wise given the circumstances.

Luka Jovic also came on later in the game and was involved in the fourth goal and had a couple of nice moves prior to that too.

They were well-timed subs overall and there is the feeling that we could see some sort of rotation in the reverse fixture so it’s good that everybody seems fit.

5. Poor game management

This game was not managed well by Pioli. The reality is that nobody had an outstanding game and the players did just enough to get the win, but not enough to keep the clean sheet, control the game better or even score more goals.

These are all reasonable requests given the opponent and given the red card. Both prior to that red card and afterwards as well Milan lacked creativity and lacked structure in truth.

When attacking there was a clear gap between defence and attack as the Rossoneri had five or six players close to the opponent’s penalty box and nobody between the backline and Adli which limited the options in front of the Frenchman and his teammates.

It was a really frustrating game to watch, because nobody seemed to have express desire to play with the ball and there was no clear game plan which either highlights Pioli’s bad tactics or that his players don’t do as they’re told, which does not reflect well.

Even after picking up two fast goals at the end of the first half, Milan then slowed down the tempo a lot in the second half allowed their opponents to recover. That feels like it has to be by instruction, and that is hard to stomach.


Tags AC Milan Milan Slavia Praha


  1. The reviews are absolutely ridiculous.

    As someone else pointed out Milan could easily have won the game 6:1.

    The save from Gabbia’s header was incredible, and was only outdone by that once in the lifetime volley.

    Look at those stats above.

    Slavia Praha only had two shots on target and both were wonder strikes.

    We didn’t dominate at the begging but has anyone thought that that was the idea against a dangerous side?

    The underestimation of Slavia Praha shows that these so called serious analyses are not serious. Slavia Praha are a form team.

    It was a not a simple tie and they certainly shouldn’t be underestimated in the second leg.

    This is all part of the narrative that it’s time for Pioli to go. The media has an agenda that removes any objectivity or substance.

    And some fans go along because they imagine that elite football is as easy as it is in computer games.

    1. I agree with what you are saying here. Even though I do think it is time for a fresh coaching staff in the summer.
      We played ok. Got 4 goals. They got two cracking strikes. Especially the first one.

      There is a real agenda against Pioli and the most minor things are seized on.

      Overall I do think we need a new approach in the summer. And the players should respond well to it. But for now everyone should be getting behind Pioli and the team until the end of season.

      1. I would’ve been ok with Pioli leaving last summer and I would’ve taken it over giving up on the players or overhauling half the squad.

        But if we do replace him we’re giving up certain guarantees.

        With Pioli we’re almost guaranteed to finish top 4 or even top 2 as we have every season under him. The replacement would need to get us to 1st.

        Pioli has set a high mark. I do think we need to go big or stick. We need a top, top manager.



        De Zerbi or Motta could be interesting but they’re both risks.

        If the risks pay off it could be the start of something amazing.

        If not, the beginning of a downward spiral.

    2. You are right, the media is trying to dictate what the board needs to do, get busy with transfer. I just hope if Pioli actually end up leaving, his replacement should be an upgrade.

      Look at Roma presently, they lost Morinho who led to their first ever European trophy and Europa final the following season. They promote De Rossi and he has been doing wonder.

      I just hope that will be the case for Milan. I don’t want Manchester United, Chelsea or Napoli case to happen to us.

      1. A small correction, roma actually has won the european cup/cl and the uefa cup as well before mourinho was coach for them.
        In regard of ddr its far to early to say if hiring him will be beneficial but at least for now it does indeed look good but that can just as well be short term. Clubs should make their decisions for the long term and not just to make stop gap solutions but if the club is willing to make a bet on him for the long run they can at least plan after that,

        1. sorry remembered wrong in regard of roma european cup as they actually only was runners up against liverpool and the same goes for their uefa cups as they also ended up as runners up, my bad.

  2. 78 days, 21 hours and 25 minutes, until the end of the last game of this season when we will be finally free of Peeoli.

  3. This guys evaluation of Pulisic is totally absurd. He’s been struggling for weeks? All he does is score goals, assists, always drawing fouls (3 reds in the last 2 games), always making runs even tho his teammates can’t find him, always making himself available for his teammates, tracks back and defends better than any one of our forwards, but Ivan just wishes he would do more…
    What more do you want him to do? And please tell me who on this team does more?
    If your answer is that he can’t take on guys like Leao, well who can?

    1. Exactly.

      Pulisic is on course to win player of the season.

      He’s been crucial in the last month.

      Again it seems the media are expecting computer game football. It’s ridiculous.

      1. Exactly. Pulisic has been arguably our best and most consistent player all season, but I guess he doesn’t do enough fancy dribbling to impress this guy.

    2. Lol. Exactly. Pulisic is often very isolated and even started drawing a double team to his side, meanwhile, Leao has Theo drawing a lot of attention on over/underlapping runs.

      Leao is definitely more threatening in the 1v1, by a good margin, but the strength of Pulisic is his runs and link up in tight spaces. He’s good enough 1v1, but expecting a mirror of Leao is just silly.

      Even the Pulisic goal, that he correctly finished, starts with him beating his man inside and attacking down the middle, which allowed Leao to get the ball 1v1 as close to the goal as he did since the defense needed to collapse.

      Pulisic doubled Leao’s touches in this match. He’s constantly moving and making things happen off the ball rather than waiting and hoping for the game to fall into his lap. It’s pretty strange to assess his performances as “struggling”. The midfield on the other hand? Now that’s what I call struggling.

      1. I really like this comment. I was watching Pulisic off the ball and he’s constantly making runs, cutting through defenders to make them commit, and getting back on defense. Everyone else would pass the ball and stand there waiting for somebody else to do something. I’m a new Milan fan and I’m finding the reporting on this team ridiculous. Leao, Giroud, and CP can’t seem to do anything right in there eyes.

    3. Did Puli lose the ball even once on his 1vs1-challenges? I honestly couldn’t remember him losing the ball at all right after the match.

      Leao gets away with being MIA for 89mins per match but Pulisic works his ass off the whole 90 mins, scores, gives assists but still can’t get a break because “he can’t beat his man on 1vs1s like Leao”. Ridiculous.

  4. I suppose it’s a good thing when the comments are essentially negative about three of our most important players, but when you look at what they actually did:

    Leao had two assists

    RLC scored a goal

    Pulisic drew a red card and scored

    I hope to see many more “poor” days like today! I understand the commentary, and SOME of it is fair, but the bottom line is the bottom line, and we’re going to Prague with a two goal lead in the tie.

  5. This author is not exactly a wordsmith: “the assumption that you would assume”. The analysis on Pulisic is so poorly worded that the true meaning is lost. Does the author truly believe “he seems to be too slow to make dangerous runs” or that he is simply too hesitant in his decision-making? Pulisic is one of the fastest players on the pitch, but has appeared timid and indecisive in 1 v 1 situations.

  6. The comments are like we’ll go to Prague and lose 7-0. People, when we go to Prague, we can continue to score. We really outscored them, outshot them, both in number of attempts and on-target shots. We will continue to do these things in Prague. They had two wonder shots, that’s all. Forza Milan. We will advance.

  7. The article is more with a view to playing the likes of Liverpool or Leverkusen – the main contenders for the cup. We maybe third in Serie A, but there’s no consistency in performance. We play well at home and are mistake ridden away. We lack control. We cannot dictate. That’s partly down to Pioli. Pioli is an excellent coach, he improves and develops players, but he’s a mediocre tactician. As for those cowards who fear brave coaching changes, I’d suggest looking at our history, from Leidholm, Sacchi, Capello, Ancelotti to Pioli himself. Some coaches lay foundations, some put on the roof. Pioli is laying the foundations. He’s not the coach that will deliver a European Cup, which is unlikely before a new stadium in any case.

    1. Can you predict the future?

      How do you know what will happen if we play against Liverpool?

      We do know that Pioli literally got us to the semi-finals of the champions league last season.

      We know we beat PSG and held our own in the group of death.

      We know he’s won the title.

      We know he’s finished in the top 4 every season and top 2 every season bar last.

      Everything else is speculation. In your case unbelievably confident, if not completely misguided, speculation.

      I’ve never said I was against changing coaches. But clearly there are risks. And the new coach would have to finish 1st (FIRST) to justify the change.

      And what if the players just aren’t at the level?

      What happens if whoever manages us can’t get more out of these players than Pioli?

      Just accept the fact that you’re making stuff up. Theres no need for this brazen confidence other than the fact that if it doesn’t work out you’ll just pretend you never said anything.

      Consequence free speculation. Who doesn’t love it.

      1. If we play against Liverpool we are gonna get 5 in at home and 5 in away.

        That’s Liverpool 10 Milan 0.

        I will stand by this until it’s proven otherwise in a game and then I’ll go away from this site.

        Pioli tactics can’t get you a win against top dogs, psg game was a fluke.

  8. 5 things we learned.

    1 pioli gotta go

    2 pioli gotta go

    3 pioli gotta go

    4 pioli gotta go

    5 pioli gotta go

    1. If Pioli has to go at the end of the season then he will go but all this Mania from fans and media is not doing the team and society any good. He is the coach till the end of season and in the run in all this hysteria is extra pressure that is not really needed.
      Pioli will know it’s most probably his last season , that in itself is already difficult , so let the man focus on taking the team to second or third in the league and when summer comes and he is replaced , we will hope the new Manager does better then Pioli did.

    2. Fools like this don’t remember what the time was like in the years before Pioli took over. No Scudetto in 10 years, No Champions League play in seven years. Be careful what you wish for.

      1. i remember just fine.. that has nothing to do with this.. Pioli has brought us some success. Does that mean we should keep him for 10 years even if there is no more success? Just so we dont slip from CL again…?

        Fools like you dont remember that last season we finished 5th and only got CL ‘cuz juve are criminals. And this year we are in LE. just barely btw

        1. And if we finish 2nd to Inter this season, is that a terrible job by Pioli? Please tell me what coach you imagine would have this Milan squad finishing higher than Inter this season? Nobody.

          1. irrelevant. im not doing a straw man on who would do what and what is inter doing.

            what milan must do is fire this baldy and start a new chapter next season.

            and yes he is doing a sh!t poor job this season, we are so fuking lucky to be 3rd its unprecedented. dude probably sleeps on horse shoes and rabbit paws.

          2. Well now that make such an intelligent argument like “fire this baldy” it’s hard to combat that kind of logic.
            I didn’t think you would answer that question because you can’t. Inter have a superior squad, that is why they are in first. Has nothing to do with Pioli. Milan probably have the 3rd best squad and they are comfortably in third one point out of second. You expect the man to win the Scudetto with the 3rd or 4th best squad every year? OK. Nice fantasy.
            And how have Milan been lucky? All the injuries they’ve had ? All the penalties that have gone against them? Don’t think so.

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