Bologna 0-2 AC Milan: Giroud and Pulisic net as Rossoneri win Serie A opener

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan started their 2023-24 Serie A season with three points, beating Bologna 2-0 in the sweltering summer heat of the Stadio Renato Dall’Ara.

Both goals for Milan came in a frantic opening half-hour, with Olivier Giroud getting the first one as he thumped in from a narrow angle to give Tijjani Reijnders his first assist in the process.

Christian Pulisic got his first Serie A goal less than 10 minutes later, rocketing a strike inside the far past from outside the box after some neat interplay with Giroud.

The second half was much more measured from the Rossoneri though they did have chances to inflict an even heavier defeat on their hosts. Nonetheless, they kept pace with the other rivals in Inter, Napoli and Juventus who all also won.

Stefano Pioli decided to go with the line-up that was used for the majority of preseason including Rade Krunic at the base of the midfield, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Tijjani Reijnders as box-to-box players and Christian Pulisic over Samuel Chukwueze on the right wing.

Bologna were inches away from taking the lead within 25 seconds as they quickly spread the ball out to their left-back Lykogiannis, who let fly from 25 yards and rattled the crossbar with Mike Maignan seemingly beaten.

With their first real threatening attack of the game, Milan took the lead inside the 12th minute. A cross from Pulisic on his favoured left foot went deep to the other side of the box, where Reijnders was waiting to lay the ball back across goal first time, and Giroud tucked in from a narrow angle.

Bologna set about trying to level the score instantly and continued their high press, with Zirkzee finding space to run at Malick Thiaw who managed to block his effort, though the follow-up was lashed into the side netting by Ferguson.

In the 21st minute Milan doubled their advantage in emphatic fashion. Pulisic made a dart inside and played a smart one-two with his former Chelsea team-mate Giroud, receiving the ball back and hammering inside the far left post with a rocket from 20 yards.

Milan at this point smelled blood and the opportunity to potentially kill the contest before half an hour had been played. Another cross-field ball from Pulisic landed at the feet of Giroud who hit if first time into the ground and drew a diving stop from Skorupski.

The Rossoneri were occasionally still showing some signs of being a bit shaky defensively, such as when Ferguson was allowed to stride into a shot from just outside the corner of the box that was thankfully straight at Maignan, who parried.

Pioli’s men continued to win the ball back and attack in waves and could have had a third when Leao was found in space on the left side and Theo made a bombing run forward down the middle. The Frenchman got a toe to the ball before the keeper, but the second touch on it was from Skorupski who did well to clear cleanly.

Leao rode his luck a little bit in the final minute of the first half when a Tomori giveaway saw a ball played over the top to Aebischer, who was hauled down by the Portuguese winger right on the edge of the box as Maignan was catching it.

The Rossoblu kept getting chances to get back into the game and wasting them, with the final one of the first half being a free header inside the box from a cross that Posch put well wide.

The end-to-end nature of the game continued in the opening minutes of the second half when Orsolini took a tumble claiming a penalty for a shove by Tomori, then Theo wanted a free-kick after being brought down on one of his surging runs, earning a yellow card for his protests.

Milan’s strategy seemed simple: to soak up Bologna’s attempts to build pressure and then move in numbers up the other end. Krunic could have been a bit more ruthless inside the box after getting the ball back from Reijnders but he took too many touches and bounced off his man.

Ndoye came very close to halving the deficit for Motta’s men when he surged past Calabria into the box and got to the six-yard line, but Maignan’s outstretched leg saved his low shot.

The French goalkeeper was called into action twice more in the following minutes, firstly from Aebischer which he denied with his shoulder and then from flick through a crowd of bodies from the resulting corner.

With 18 minutes left on the clock, Pioli decided to make a quadruple change. Giroud came off for Noah Okafor, Tommaso Pobega was brought on in place of Loftus-Cheek, Pierre Kalulu took Calabria’s spot and Samuel Chukwueze got his Serie A debut with Pulisic coming off.

In truth, the game then began to meander slowly towards the end result as both teams looked to be tired in the 30-degree Emilian heat. Pobega forced a low save from Skorupski with a shot from distance, but the clear chances had evaporated.

The final change came from Pioli with three minutes left as Thiaw was withdrawn and Simon Kjaer came on.

Leao was very unlucky not to fully put the game to bed when he hit the post in the dying minutes. The former Lille man was sent away down the left and rolled sumptuously onto his left foot, beating everyone with a low shot that cannoned back off the woodwork.

Tags AC Milan Bologna Milan


  1. Great start to the season. The game was far from perfect, but there surely were great early signs, upon which we will need to build. I am very pleased with our new signings, but I would still maintain that we need 1 more creative and experienced player in the midfield. Forza Milan!

  2. This was not a good game tactically by the coach. Bologna has controlled the game but did not create chances. Too many gaps at the back on counters. I will be worried against better opposition. Pulisic played well

    1. Yep, exactly. One of RLC or Reijnders will have to be instructed to play deeper, but I’m not sure either is suited for it.

      Also, some weird inversion thing going on with the fullbacks that sometimes left huge spaces out on the wings. Can’t wait for us to get caught in possession during one of these Pioli tactical adventures.

      1. they invert a fullback in the 3-2-4-1 buildup…this tactical adventure is one of the most common build up tactics in the game at the moment because of pep…High presses have risk for reward which i why they play the CB wide…but why do you want the other team to score?

  3. Great start. First game of the season and after a long break the most important thing is the result, and they got that, so good job. Out of the new signings, Pulisic and Reijnders were incredible. RLC was ok, nothing special, but did his job. Krunic kind of outperformed him in that position. Chuk and Okafor didn’t really get enough time to make an impact. Hernandez was tired but he was very good, especially in the first half. Leao was average, but as always very dangerous when given space. Giroud good. Defense was a bit shaky but did fairly well, especially Thiaw. Overall, happy with the result. We can only improve from here. Forza Milan!

  4. Encouraging start. The new players all played well. Leao did nothing much and we still won comfortably albeit several defensive issues here and there. The attacking phase looked good, now just need to shore up the defence.

    1. Can we all just stop bickering/fishing for reactions and enjoy the victory for just one comment section at the very least? Goodness gracious.

  5. I’ve said it and will say it again; Pulisic is CLASS.

    Posch got the better of Leao this match. We need that filtering from mid to defence area. RLC should step up his game. He got all the physicality to do some filtering responsibility. Quite lucky we didn’t concede any today.

    Good gesture from Pioli to introduce new players to get their legs working.

  6. Solid start to the same. Great first half from the club. Tailed off in the second half unfortunately. Giroud had some amazing flicks. Pulisic looked really good and Reijnders was phenomenal. Not sure I’m a fan of the inverted fullbacks tactic yet…esp with Calabria.

  7. Hats off to the super scouts on this site. CLEARLY Giroud is too old and only ruins Milan’s attacking plays. Right? One goal, one assist and several good link-up plays. Yeah. Too old, too clumsy. Useless. Sure.

    Hats off to people praising Kalulu over Calabria too. Remind me again which of the RBs almost gifted a breakaway with his sloppy pass? Oh right. The hazardous one.

    But hey. Like I’ve been saying… Milan is already a better team than last season. And that’s when only 1/4 of the new signings have been integrated. Let’s see how good they’ll get once Chuckie & Musah etc get some playing time too. Last year’s team probably wouldn’t have won it today. Like they didn’t year ago.

    So far I’m glad we bought Pulisic, RLC & Reijnders. All of them have been upgrades over the players they replaced. Forza Milan!

    MOTM: Pulisic.

    1. Are you clueless? Calabria just gave one of the worst defensive performances I’ve ever seen. It was shocking. He got beat everytime. Only because Bologna has no finishers on their team did we not concede multiple goals.

        1. I support this. Calabria had a good game.
          Special shot out for a starter by the name of krunic as well. Supposedly he is not goos enough for Milan but he gave his best nonetheless

    2. Yeh Giroud should be in a mobility scooter according to some. Kalulu and Tomori both almost gifted goals to Bologna which is becoming worrying commonplace. Pulisic RLC Reijnders all fantastic, fancy that?

      1. The first test behind and we can already say the “we bought too many players”-claims were pure FUD crap. Our team works better (as a team, who would have guessed?) already and this is very reassuring. It will only get better from here. Even the midfield looks as if they had been playing together waaaay longer than a few weeks.

  8. Was hoping for a third goal. Few things.

    Right side was lively. And did very well. We actually have an attack now from there.

    Defense was reasonably good and did well. Thiaw is obviously the strong point.

    Our attack and overall moves are fluid. Midfield has had two clear upgrades.

    Leao, however, needs to get back into the attack. Maybe he isn’t putting his foot on the gas as much because of the right side but we need both involved.

    Very pleased. 7.5 out of 10 game.

  9. Perfect scenario, really. Win: huge result, releaves the pressure. OK/good overall performance: leaves no room for overenthusiasm.
    The team couldn’t be any better right now. There is plenty of room for improvement but the ingredients are there to succeed, they must keep working. Time is our ally and every win buys is time.

  10. Good game, some good things to take from the game.

    -Pulisic seemed happy and back to his Dortmund form in RW.

    -Tijj and RLC looked good in midfield.

    -Krunić is getting better at 6, hopefully if he stay he can keep improving.

    -Maignan,back at his best.

    -Giroud doing what he does, good poacher goal but often lacking in possession phase.

    Some worrying sign, hopefully will improve :

    -Leao looked disinterested for most of the minutes today. Need to improve to justify wages and No.10

    -Both wingback didn’t play the best.

    -Conceded too many chances to Bologna, better teams will punish us if given that many chances. Especially after half time, we seemed happy with the 2-0 and just wait for the end.

    Hopefully we can get better. Forza Milan!

    1. “Leao looked disinterested for most of the minutes today.”

      I disagree. I saw a player who wanted the ball, drove forward when he had the ball, and express frustration when the ball wasn’t passed in his direction. He even wandered over to the center and right on a couple of occasions looking for the ball. The “problem” was that a lot more of the play was going down the right flank in this game. I put problem in quotes, because it’s really not a problem as we now have a proper right wing. So the fact is we have real RWs and Leao was seeing less of the ball than before because of this, not any laziness on Leao’s part. The one-dimensional tactic of pass it to Leao is over.

  11. Good win but it could also have gone a different direction had bologna scored within the minute, after the early goal for us they also came close but overall i think we did pretty well especially in the first half. Second half we lost a bit too much possesion but overall still did well. I had before the game said i hoped we would win both the bologna match and the future match against torino witth both a 2 or 3 goal margin. First match done well. Next to go. We need confidence before the the tougher schedule and theres deffently been some good signs to take with us for the next match.

  12. Said it before, will say it again.
    Reijnders is gonna be a star for milan.
    Man is everywhere on the pitch from an assist to last man on the defense with a clutch tackle to deny bologna a chance.
    Leao might not be his 100% and has been outshined by milan right wing tonight, but i’m happy since he worked harder for the defense.

    Watching how great pulisic play and then i looked at the bench and saw chukuweze there; that’s how you know this milan squad now have quality depth.

  13. Very encouraging. Giroud had a great first half and his flicks worked. Pulisic and Reijnders were truly excellent. The team was fluid and creative, and countered fast. Maignan very serene. No drop in quality after subs (we finally have depth, now!). Still shaky on defense. Kalulu almost gifted them a goal. But with Maignan there, it’s always hard for the opponents to score. RL-C was discreet today but didn’t do anything wrong. Chuk and Okafor didn’t have much time to show their qualities but I’m hopeful that they will do well, with the continuation of the season. Theo needs to cool his hothead off. He collected a silly yellow by vigorously complaining of a ref decision. Leao tracked back and helped the defense, and almost scored at the end. Pulisic MOTM. Overall a very good win and I think we’ll get better and better as the season goes on. We have a right sector, we have depth… we are better than last year.

  14. Okay, you can lump me in with the Krunic lovers. I realize it was only Bologna and the first game of the season, but it was his midfield and they were just playing in it.

    With all the talent around him, I’ll accept he is “good enough”

    Sorry to see Saelamakers left out. Dude is all effort all the time and ideal for coming off the bench when the sched gets congested later this year.

    Happy to see Giroud come off at 70, but wish it had been 60. Didn’t really see anything from Okafur. Did I miss some off the ball stuff? Chuk seemed to be walking more than running a few too many times. Again did I miss anything off the ball?

    Pobega – if he could couple a level head with all that effort we’d be is great shape in the midfield.

    While I’ll be accused of Krunic-ism the truth is I have a man crush on Mike. #justsayin.

    Our back line looked out of sorts. I hope it’s just Tomori and Thiaw needing to get in sync.

    Anyone else concerned we sort of parked-the-bus mentally after about 30 min. Honestly Bologna looked the better side for most of the second half and there was no huge bump in energy with 4 subs coming on.

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