AC Milan 5-1 Cagliari: Bennacer, Pulisic, Reijnders and Leao star in rout

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan broke their run of six games without a win in convincing fashion as they beat a relegation-threatened Cagliari side 5-1 at San Siro on Saturday night.

Milan started the game slowly but they took the lead thanks to a goal from the captain Ismael Bennacer, and they doubled that lead early in the second half when Christian Pulisic finished having been put through on goal by Rafael Leao, who came off the bench.

Nahitan Nandez halved the deficit for Cagliari, but then Tijjani Reijnders fired in a scorcher before Pulisic and Leao each scored inside the final 10 minutes to ensure there would be no nervy finish.

The win means that the Rossoneri have taken another big step towards finishing in second place while waiting for other results, and most importantly they put on a show for the fans who showed up to support.

The rumours of the last 24 hours were confirmed when the starting line-up came out before kick-off with Stefano Pioli opting to bench the likes of Davide Calabria, Fikayo Tomori, Theo Hernandez and Rafael Leao, while Pierre Kalulu, Yunus Musah and Samuel Chukwueze all got the nod.

Given that the Curva Sud had decided to continue their protest after the Genoa game last weekend there was an eerie atmosphere surrounding San Siro as Milan dominated possession in the early stages but never managed to threaten with any more than a couple of corners.

The first save of the game was made by Scuffet in the 11th minute when a cross was headed out to Alessandro Florenzi who had pushed up from his left-back position and hit a volley that was heading for the bottom corner but was parried away.

Cagliari had appeals for a penalty waved away when a cross was cleared to the edge of the box and a strike came back in that deflected onto Malick Thiaw, yet the replays showed his arm was tucked in by his side. A few minutes later, Luvumbo found space centrally to fire on goal from 20 yards but Marco Sportiello gathered easily.

Somewhat out of nowhere, Milan took the lead with 10 minutes to go in the first half. Christian Pulisic had a shot deflected into the air and Chukwueze tried to fire past Scuffet who closed him down well, but Bennacer was on hand to fire in the rebound into a virtually unguarded net.

There was a rather surprising triple change at the break as Chukwueze came off having been injured a few minutes before the end of the first half, as well as Matteo Gabbia and Olivier Giroud. Rafael Leao, Fikayo Tomori and Noah Okafor took their place.

Interestingly the Curva Sud applauded Leao’s name as it was announced that he was coming on, and he almost repaid their support with a goal early in the second half. The winger arrived at the far post to a bouncing ball and though it was a tough chance he hit the bar from a few yards out.

Sportiello made two fantastic stops in quick succession. The first one was a world class stop to deny Shomurodov as he bore down on goal, though VAR would have called it back for offside, and then Prati sent a laser of a shot towards the bottom-left corner that he tipped around at full stretch.

Just before the hour mark, Milan would double their advantage and Pulisic was the scorer. A break led by Leao saw him shake off the challenge of a defender and stride forward before sending Pulisic through, who shifted it onto his left fat and fired past Scuffet.

Sportiello was called into action two more times, saving a Deiola free-kick and then a follow-up effort, but he was beaten in the 63rd minute. Zappa’s cross from the attacking midfield position found Nandez who took advantage of Musah’s failure to track him and poked past the goalkeeper.

Midway through the second half a fourth change came for Milan, with Florenzi vacating the left-back role and Theo Hernandez taking his spot.

Milan restored their two-goal lead with just over 15 minutes left in the game and it was a stunning strike from Reijnders that did so. The Dutch midfielder found space around 25 yards out to let fly and he unleashed a fierce low shot that perfectly arrowed into the bottom corner past a helpless Scuffet.

The Rossoneri continued to live a charmed life at times, with the crossbar coming to their rescue when Shomurodov had a shot that deflected up onto the crossbar and was just about scrambled to safety.

The game was finally put to bed in the 83rd minute as Bennacer added an assist to his earlier goal, and it was a peach of a ball that did it. The midfielder had possession inside his own half having won the ball back and then he spotted the run of Leao in behind, who did well to take it in stride and steady himself before rounding the keeper and slotting in.

Moments later it became 5-1 as Pulisic got his second of the game. A cross from Theo on the left flank made its way to the American on the far side of the box, and he brought the ball down at the second attempt and just about hit it with enough power to take it over the line, despite a heroic clearance.

Tags AC Milan Milan Cagliari


  1. Finally, the real Isma is back. What a performance. I like this role of Musah on 2nd half. Where he stayed deeper and covered more defensive ground. And we need to play Okafor. He really has much more to give.

  2. Great result.
    Pulisic with his usual work ethic and calmness in front of goals. Showed his experience and skill.

    Bennacer with a more controlled game albeit against weaker team (and they still got a lot of chances).

    Reijnders goal is soo sweet and satisfying.

    Thanked Giroud for all his contribution until this season, but he need to be benched and possibly not played again this season. Okafor and Jovic need to play more in preparation for next season.

    Leao remains an enigma as he did all season. Showed really good pace and electric when in mood but frustrating when isn’t. He should have 3 goals tonight, his lazy lob few minutes after his goals almost make me curse.

    Pobega is back, good for him. Solid enough tonight.

    Sportiello is a really good shot stopper. The match will be a lot closer if not for his saves. He is making other players and fans confident even without Maignan, and that says a lot.

    All CB don’t play too great tonight. Gabbia slip almost cause a goal. Thiaw looked good but some rash challenge resulted in dangerous free kick near the box. And Cagliari managed 10 shoot with 7 on goals… And the fact Nandez was soo free without pressure when he scored Cagliari’s sole goal showed lack of defensive coherence between all players.

    Kalulu looked confident in his RB role. We don’t need new RB.

    1. Pretty much this, my guess is that the Nandez goal was the fault of one midfielder not following when Nandez made a run.

      Leao needs to prove himself against closed defenses, and our midfield/defense needs to prove itself when the other team pushes players forward in search of a goal.

      Also we make too many mistakes on defending deadball situations.
      I also think that this year too many players underperformed in big pressure games… Not sure if this is because of lack of leaders in the team.

      I can’t feel calm with Kalulu yet, I’ve seen him play great even as CB, but also seen him play horribly. Also don’t know how accurate are his crosses when playing as fullback.

      Torino game will be a more accurate test

      1. “Also don’t know how accurate are his crosses when playing as fullback.”

        I know. They’re awful. That guy cannot cross.

  3. Thank you WEST AFRICA for the correct information . I don t understand how someone ( will not mention name ) can evaluate players performance and not know who did what and when . Wrong information in several of the articles !!

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