Cagliari 1-3 AC Milan: Five things we learned – seize the moment in a game of firsts

By Ivan Stoev -

After getting a 1-0 win against Hellas Verona at the weekend, AC Milan traveled to Sardinia to face off against Cagliari in a midweek Serie A fixture, and they made it back-to-back victories.

Cagliari have had a rough start to life back in the top flight having earned promotion through the Serie B play-offs in 2022-23. They sat second-bottom of the table coming into the match with just two points and one goal scored in their first five games.

Despite their negative attacking record, Cagliari managed to open up the scoring in the 29th minute and surprise Milan through Zito Luvumbo, who was a tricky customer all night.

However, Milan – who had not come from behind to win a league game since September 2022 – didn’t seem to be phased by the goal and reacted quickly. Noah Okafor and Fikayo Tomori both netted from close range to make it 2-1 going into the break.

The Rossoneri managed to kill off the game around the hour mark after Loftus-Cheek scored with a lovely long-range effort to make it 3-1 and net his first for the club. Here are five things we learned…

1. Il Pianista melodic 

Yacine Adli got his second ever start as a Milan after, 346 days after his last against Verona. He came into the season off the back of a campaign where he barely got any minutes at all, but due to Rade Krunic’s injury and his hard work, Pioli gave him a chance.

The midfielder played a really solid game and whilst he has to take some of the blame for Cagliari’s opener due to losing the ball softly, we can’t blame him entirely since the whole defence fell asleep from there.

Adli dictated the game well showcasing his technique and passing abilities which paired well with his impressive vision as the midfielder.

He launched several long balls forward and was not afraid of a line-breaking pass. He also had 97% passing accuracy which is impressive given the type of passes he was playing, i.e. ones to unlock the game rather than safe lateral ball movement.

It was really positive outing and whilst Cagliari aren’t exactly the toughest opponent and his midfield partners did a lot of heavy lifting, Adli did seize the moment and it will be interesting to see him feature even more.

2. Central dominance

As mentioned, Adli wasn’t the only one to have a solid game in the midfield. Tijjani Reijnders also had a solid game as he involved himself in a lot of attacking actions, carrying the ball well and being dangerous around the opponent’s penalty box.

Loftus-Cheek also had his say in the game as he brought his physical presence, helping his team win over the midfield battle, and he eventually picked up a goal through a lovely long shot.

Before the game in our key battles piece we highlighted the need for Reijnders and Loftus-Cheek to pin Sulemana and Makoumbou. This would then create space for Adli who will operate at the base of the three-man midfield.

He is not a defensive battler like Krunic, and instead will play as more of a traditional deep-lying playmaker which he needs time and space to do.

Yunus Musah and Tommaso Pobega also helped when coming on, showing that the quality of the midfield might just have improved with Sandro Tonali’s exit and the subsequent reinvestment, but the depth certainly has.

3. Experimental attack pays off

Pioli managed to show off his team’s depth after starting off the game with Pulisic, Okafor, and Chukwueze up front, allowing Leao and Giroud to get some much needed rest.

Pulisic managed to grab an assist whilst the Swiss striker racked up his first goal in red in black in his first full game for his new club, ending a goal drought stretching back to last November too.

His movement in the centre-forward role offered something different too, dragging Cagliari’s markers around to create chances and also space for the other forwards.

Chukwueze also looked sharp and showed his impressive dribbling skills and whilst he didn’t score or assist he was a constant threat going forward.

These types of rotations will be key with the many difficult games upon Milan in the next couple of weeks, and Pioli should soon have Luka Jovic at 100% too.

4. No Giroud, no problem

Giroud didn’t participate in the game and one of the big question marks in the build-up to kick-off was whether Okafor was capable of replacing the Frenchman by playing as a No.9.

The Swiss international is a different player with very different skills, but he did show good positioning and instinct especially when scoring the goal, one that also required composure to take a touch and open the space up.

On top of that, the former Red Bull Salzburg man is very fast and he is able to take on his man, which is something Milan has lacked in a striker for a while. He presses hard from the front too, having come from an intense pressing side.

With Giroud’s age, it’s a breath of fresh air for Pioli having Okafor start the season strong and he’ll have plenty more chances. It must also be mentioned that he is just 22 years old so he has plenty of room for improvement.

5. An unlikely surprise

Alessandro Florenzi was very much in the shadows last season as he didn’t feature that much for Milan and when he did it wasn’t all that impressive, to say the least.

The season the Italian looks fit and ready to contribute as he has stepped into the right-back spot in Davide Calabria’s absence and has done very well.

Pioli’s tactics to have an inverted full-back also play in his favour as he is know to have good control of the ball which allows him to involve himself more in the game and provide good passes for his team-mates.

Whilst not a long-term solution, it seems like Florenzi might just be enough for a back-up right-back this season, allowing Pierre Kalulu to focus on the centre-back role when he is fit again.

Tags AC Milan Cagliari-Milan


  1. Numbers 1 and 5 are the key takeaways for me. I much prefer the deep lying playmaker role Adi played over the strictly defensive role that Krunic plays.
    And Florenzi has been very good and in my opinion deserves the starting spot over Calabria until he proves otherwise.

  2. not gonna say Adli now is a world beater. But he did good, very calm, composed good passing. It’s not like Krunic is a defensive monster anyway. My biggest takeaway is Reijnders. This guy is a gem. Classy, works hard, good passing, good dribbling. In the not so distant future i see him on the same breath as Leao, Mike and Theo as backbone of our squad

      1. I agree but the one thing Reijnders is not good at, is finishing. He is good (actually, great) at basically everything else, except finishing. His shots always go wide or up. He’s been totally unable to score. But it’s not a role that is required of him; if he is an excellent playmaker and assists his colleagues, that’s good enough.

  3. Adli is a gem. Found perfect role for him. He will only get better with more PT. He brings a element we have been lacking for a long time – the ability to spray the ball alll over the field with his outstanding vision. The defensive aspect of his game will continue to improve in time. He should def start next game vs Lazio. He was pulled to early IMO last game.

    For those that’s screamed to sell him for 8M – LOLOLOLO. You cannot find a player with his technique and vision for 8M. The proper path was to keep him and give him an opportunity. Hopefully Pioli continues to trust him. He will certainly make some mistakes as all younger players do, but in time he will prove that it was very wise to keep him

  4. It’s no surprise Adli did well – we all know all he needs is regular playing time. Still can’t wrap my head around how Pioli gave him virtually none last season while CDK – who was God awful every game – got so much.

    1. Because CDK cost 35mil and Pioli was asked to get a return on that investment. Whereas Adli came cheap and there was not a lot of loss on not playing him. Financially speaking.

      At face value though, Adli is fantastic, ready to sacrifice and play in any position to be a part of this team and wear the colors. That’s dedication. ⚫️🔴

      1. True – I guess I wasn’t thinking financially but you’re probably right. It’s like losing money on a slot machine but still putting more in.

    2. Adli was a low cost and low wage player. CDK also got no chances but I can bet Atalanta will be great for him. People forget that while Bordeaux was relegated young Adli was a captain and played a good season that year. Pioli is a shit coach as we know all. He has 1 tactic and favaourite set of players. I bet Musah is only getting chances as he can’t bench US player pernamently as bosses fire him.

      1. CDK got no chances??? He got plently, plenty of chances, started some matches, got in as a sub multiple times, sometimes for very extended minutes, and he squandered them ALL. He is just not a good fit for Milan’s system. Sure, he’s doing better at Atalanta (a team that is more appropriate for his skills) but would never do well at Milan. Good riddance. I’m very happy to see him gone.

        Our new signings are doing way more for Milan in a few games, than CDK did for a whole season. I don’t understand why fans here are still propping up CDK. He’s gone. He’s no longer a rossonero (technically yes given that he’s a loanee but he won’t be coming back). I wish him all the luck at Atalanta so that he DOESN’T come back and they exercise their buying option.

        No, it’s not Pioli who ran him to the ground, given that he got plenty of chances. It was CDK being useless for Milan. Period, full stop.

        People say, Pioli was at one point giving Diaz more opportunities. As he should! Pioli was rightly frustrated with CDK’s lack of contribution, while Diaz contributed plenty (and was for example instrumental for our reaching the CL semis). Yes, Diaz was not owned by Milan but we needed to win then and there to keep advancing in the CL and Diaz was doing a lot more than CDK, so, yes, Pioli had to go with Diaz after a certain point, when it become clear that CDK just wasn’t cutting it.

        As for Adli, yes, there is a point that Pioli could have given him more opportunities. I think people slightly overrate him. He is a good passer but not always he passes to the best positioned player. So his pass accuracy is good but not always productive. Still, this can and will improve if he’s given more opportunities and I did like his display against Cagliari, except for the big blunder that resulted in their goal; to his merit, that was his one and only failure, that game. It was a costly one, but again, understandable for someone who hadn’t been playing at all. I hope he continues to grow and becomes a very helpful player for us. I’ll be more convinced if he can repeat the Cagliari performance against a really good team; doing well against Cagliari is not the brightest of endorsements. But don’t read me wrong, I do see qualities and I do hope that he’ll be very useful to us; I’m just not a huge fan of him like some of you are; not yet. We’ll see.

        Pioli is changed regarding young players. He’s been using all our signings, even young Luka Romero, and super-young Barthesaghi, The problem with Pioli not using certain young players last season had a lot to do with our second team being so much worse last season than our first one. He couldn’t do a lot of rotation as we were dropping points when we rotated. And then our starters got overworked. This was more the fault of management and the disastrous summer mercato, than of Pioli who was given zero depth. This time we do have depth and Pioli is using that depth.

        I’m way less negative on Pioli than most people here. I see downsides, he takes too long to sub, tends to repeat the same mistakes from one game to the next, insisting with things that are not working. However this season he seems to be bolder, he’s been trying some new strategies, and let’s realize that they are paying off.

        We had a disaster of a derby but all other 5 games were a lot better, and also the Newcastle game. I think the Derby disaster started with Tomori’s absence. Thiaw looked lost, we suddenly suffered two goals, and the team just collapsed. I don’t think that 5-1 reflects the real performance difference between Inter and Milan. I think with Tomori there maybe we wouldn’t have conceded the first 2 goals, with a bit of luck that Theo attempt in first half would have resulted in a score, then Rafa scored his, and maybe Inter would be panicking rather than us.

        See, Inter almost drew with freaking Empoli! They only beat them on a lucky deflection. Then they lost miserably to Sassuolo. Unlike last season, we are not dropping points to mid-table teams and bottom feeders, and we’re already level with Inter again.

        Have faith!

          1. Good point. He can improve with more playing time and he is very young. He’s promising. But yes, he’s not there yet. I would like to see Musah also being tested. Seems like Musah will start against Lazio rather than Adli.

  5. Adli may just be what our midfield has been lacking that is a deep lying midfield who can play those forward balls to bypass opponents midfield. It’s what we are desperately lacking.

  6. We’ve experienced a slow, backward passing, donkey as our regista all season. Now we finally have someone who can thread a pass and spray ball around the pitch. Wake up Pioli!

  7. I actually feel a bit of sadness it took Adli so long to get a talked about game and hopefully he can get more to come. It begs the question why he wasn’t given the chance before especially given his technique.

    1. He wasn’t ready. Now he’s ready… Knowing when to and knowing when not to is an important trait of a coach. Pioli has it.

      If it were Pioli’s choice CDK would have never seen the field last season but it was forced onto him by Maldini. That mistake wasn’t made with Adli.

      1. How do u know the choice of fielding CDK was Maldini?? Lol wtf the things I read I swear.
        Bro Adli had 6 games last season, 4 of them sub in for garbage minutes. And he only played Adli last year just like this year and that is when he has absolutely no choice (or one of the last resort) but to field him. Look, as soon as Pioli has an option it’s bench again for Adli….and seems it looks like Musah going to start instead

  8. Am not gonna say didn’t I tell you that Adli is a phenomenon but what I will tell you is that Yacine will become AC Milan starting playmaker soon and will keep growing in strength and adaptability and when Bennacer comes around it would be hard for him to topple Adli off the line. Even AC Milan core players are elated that he got the opportunity he rightly deserve because they know his skill- set is needed and will drive the team forward.

  9. Buy players to play, not seat on the bench. Poli prefers new players to seat in the bench until he tires out his old pets with injuries.

    1. Completely unfair statement regarding Pioli. Haven’t you been watching? He has just used the very young Adli, Luka Romero, and Barthesaghi who is 17! And he’s been giving young Musah playing time, too.

      Pioli is rotating as he should, and has just rested Olivier and Rafa. See, we only beat Verona by one goal. Had Pioli rotated more in that game, the result could have been jeopardized.

      He didn’t rotate more last season because we had no depth. Now that we do have depth, Pioli is engaging the new and young players when he can.

      You know, when Pioli says “he’s not ready” regarding a young player, I actually believe him. He is an experienced manager. Then, when the player is indeed ready, he uses him. Musah and Jovic weren’t in top physical shape when they joined. Now Pioli will be using them more.

      Remember, when Rafa started being used he was very young. And Kalulu. It’s a myth that Pioli doesn’t use young players. He does, when they are good and ready.

  10. @Luigi, good reference, all I have to add is that Milan have a good depth than last season and it’s paying off, Adli patience and hard work is paying off, Musah is adapting well to the league and Pioli style of play. But one thing is certain we didn’t play a top team despite it being a difficult game, Adli need to improve on his defending and we fans should take it easy on Pioli, also Tomori is the bone of our defense, we saw what happened against inter when he wasn’t there. Pioli not using young players? Not true we seen it in the last two games, they’re game suited for these young one to help them grow and motivated. Okafor as a CF did great now we know he can play two different position. Florenzi is a class all who criticize him as old and injured prone should apologies to him. I think we would have less injured player this season due to their work rate will be reduced by the good depth we had. Good macato Furlani.
    I don’t see anyone talking about missing Tonali, that a good sign of maturity and been contepted with what you have. Forza Milan.

Comments are closed

Serie A Standings

Live football scores . Current table, fixtures & results.