Cagliari 0-2 AC Milan: Five things we learned – wing problems, a bright debut and excellent return

By Ivan Stoev -

After two successful encounters against Torino, Milan travelled to Sardinia to face a Cagliari side in desperate need of points in their battle to stay in the top flight.

The injuries and suspension for Pioli were still there with Theo Hernandez, Hakan Calhanoglu and Rafael Leao all missing as well this time around. Fortunately for the coach, Zlatan Ibrahimovic was back in the starting XI.

The game itself began in the best way possible with Milan receiving a penalty just five minutes in. It was the Swede who won the penalty kick and he made no mistake from 12 yards to open the scoring, much to the relief of Franck Kessie no doubt.

Milan seemed a bit rusty until the end of the first half with both wings – occupied by Castillejo and Hauge – not as efficient as Pioli would like them to be.

However, Zlatan needed only a couple of minutes into the second half to make it two for Milan putting his side in a really comfortable position to get all three points.

Unfortunately for Pioli, until the end of the game Romagnoli picked up a yellow card and thus will miss the game against Atalanta. Alexis Saelemaekers was another player coming back to action, but the Belgian got himself two yellow cards and was sent off shortly after coming onto the pitch and he will also miss Saturday’s game.

Here are five things we learned…

1. Zlatan is back

After almost two months, Zlatan Ibrahimovic was back in the starting XI for a Serie A fixture. To everyone’s surprise the Swede continued his red hot form as if he wasn’t injured at all.

The striker won himself the penalty early on and then converted it to give his side the lead. He was heavily involved in the game and impressed yet again with his fitness as he managed to play the full 90 minutes coming back from injury. Zlatan got his brace early in the second half and sealed Milan’s win proving everyone wrong again.

2. Disappointment from both wings 

It was yet another game where Milan failed to make arguably any impact from both their wings. With Saelemaekers, Rebic and Leao all absent, Pioli would have hoped to see the best out of Hauge, but the Norwegian failed to impress once again.

While we have seen his talent in action, he still looks a bit lost in this Milan side in the league and is failing to take matters into his own hands. Instead, he plays safe balls and makes no impact whatsoever in the last few games he has played.

On the other side, Samu Castillejo remains ever so frustrating to watch meaning Maldini should be thinking about some changes in that area coming the summer transfer window.

3. Strength to strength

Davide Calabria had yet another brilliant game with the Italian providing an assist to Ibrahimovic through a lovely long pass that must have gone over 50 yards to put the Swede one on one with the goalkeeper.

The Italian was his usual solid self at the back as well as working hard on the attacking phase as we have come to see. Calabria almost got a goal to his name but was denied by the post for the second time in two games.

There is not much more to add as the 24-year-old has been outstanding and has been growing tremendously this season. He is set to be a pillar of this Milan side if he continues like this, and he may be rewarded with a bumper new deal to prove it.

4. Positive signs 

Meite played his first minutes in red and black against Cagliari and although he was only on the pitch for a short period of time, he managed to showcase his strengths.

His good physical presence showed he not afraid of carrying the ball forward and getting stuck in. The Frenchman also looked composed in the final minutes of the game, slowing the pace down and making sure Cagliari had no chance to attack.

5. Brilliant by Pioli

A big shoutout goes to coach Pioli as he continues his wonderful job at Milan. As we mentioned previously he has been amazing at man-managing and brining the best out of the players, but the coach has shown great character as well lately.

With all the absentees, close to double digits at times in terms of numbers, Pioli has managed to always rotate his squad in the right way and get the best out of the players to keep on winning games.

This also shows how good of a squad depth Milan have and with the arrivals of Meite, Mandzukic and potentially Fikayo Tomori, the coach will have even more options going forward.

READ MORE: Mandzukic reacts to sealing Milan move – “It will be an honour to wear this shirt”

Tags AC Milan Cagliari-Milan
Serie A Standings

Live football scores . Current table, fixtures & results.