Milan managed to pick up a third consecutive win against Cagliari, solidifying their position at the top of the table and going into the national break high on confidence.
The Rossoneri started the game really well as they created several chances, but they failed to be clinical in front of goal and went into half-time still at 0-0. It was Ismaël Bennacer who, after a lovely volley, opened the scoring and eventually gave his side all three points.
Pioli’s men also had a couple of chances towards the end of the game, again failing to find the back of the net, but the one goal was enough to get away with the win. With eight games left of the season, Milan have their faith in their own hands and it will be an exciting but nervous period. Here are five things we learned…
1. Man of the moment
Ismael Bennacer was vital once again for his team as he scored the goal and was a monster in the midfield. His defensive work is amazing and pleasant to watch and so is his involvement in the attack, able to dance between players with his brilliant dribbling. His passing abilities were also on point and this Bennacer looks like the one from last season, before all the injuries and Covid disrupted his form.
The midfielder has hit peak form just in time for the season finale and he will indeed be pivotal in Milan’s pursuit of the Scudetto and Coppa Italia. If Bennacer continues playing like this and manages to avoid heavy injuries, he is well underway to becoming one of the best in the world in his position.
2. Great defensive effort
Whilst the struggles up front were evident for the Rossoneri, their backline was rock solid as Cagliari barely had a chance to threaten Maignan, excluding an attempt which hit the crossbar towards the end of the game. This is the fourth consecutive clean sheet for Milan, with Tomori and Kalulu neutralising their opponents in brilliant fashion.
Theo Hernandez and Calabria were also on a high level in terms of defending and this defensive form will be key for Milan’s silverware pursuit, especially when the attack isn’t really clicking as in the last few games.
3. Disappointing from Messias
The Brazilian has had some good moments since joining last summer, but he has been really frustrating at times as well and it was the latter case against Cagliari. He failed to make any significant impact on that right-hand side as his crossing was really off on the night and despite a couple of good dribbles, he didn’t really help much.
His decision-making was also poor as he had a lot of space on multiple occasions, making the wrong choice time and time again. To be fair to Messias, though, he was involved in the goal and seems really eager to prove himself in front of Maldini and stay at Milan, but it seems that he’s overcomplicating his plays because of that.
4. Unusually quiet
Rafael Leao was almost invisible against Cagliari and that’s something we’ve probably not seen through the season since the youngster is often Milan’s main threat. But this time around, he barely got on the ball and did not manage anything interesting going forward as he was subbed off eventually for Ante Rebic.
Hopefully, this was just a one-off and Leao will be Milan’s main man after the international break, as Pioli will need him to be at his best in the final games of the season.
5. Good substitutions by Pioli
The coach handled the game well as his subs were really good, with Rebic and Krunic imposing themselves on the game really fast. The Bosnian was really composed and showed great technique at times to move the ball forward, but also helped defensively when needed.
Rebic also had a good game, for once, as he created some nice chances on that left-hand side and should’ve gotten the assist after a brilliant pass to Calabria, but the Italian failed to put the ball into the back of the net.
It was great game management by Pioli and the players showed great quality off the bench. This depth will be key in the final games of the season when fatigue is likely to build up and rotation will come in handy against the weaker sides.