AC Milan got back to winning ways at San Siro by beating Roma 3-1 last night, and it was a magical night in which three Frenchmen scored.
As La Gazzetta dello Sport (seen below) write this morning, Jose Mourinho is not Harry Potter – as he proclaimed in his pre-match press conference – but Milan were able to count on their own wizard in Olivier Giroud.
He had a goal, a backheel assist, a couple of brilliant openings in midfield that split Roma and he led some deadly counter-attacks. Giroud played a complete game with the elegance of Mandrake, but one would be doing a serious disservice by talking only about him.
Yacine Adli played his best game in a Milan shirt, Theo Hernandez was inexhaustible, Ruben Loftus-Cheek the tactical key and Christian Pulisic a constant headache (for Roma). If Milan played a team game it was this one, dominating tactically, with their heads and with their legs.
However, they had the usual habit of suddenly shutting down: this time a stop of a quarter of an hour due to David Calabria’s error which saw him concede a penalty and gave Roma a bit of hope before Theo killed the game off.
It ended 3-1 but the margin of victory could have been wider. The Rossoneri hit the crossbar, the post and generated many opportunities, but the main thing is that the Champions League position is bolstered with Fiorentina and Bologna losing ground.
What Roma showed up to try and do did not surprise Milan: Paredes distributed the play across the midfield, Bove and Cristante pressed the opposition players Adli and Reijnders high up the field, while the wing-backs were ready to cross.
Knowing Mourinho, it could also be the response to criticism of his hyper-defensive attitude. As if to say: ‘Do you see what happens if I go too far? With what I have, I can’t afford too much freedom’. In fact that’s what happened after about ten minutes.
The Giallorossi were too bold from the start and Milan had the antibodies to keep them away from the area, organising themselves when they had the ball and waiting for the defence to open up, which it did for Adli and he finished past Svilar.
Milan scored the 11th minute of both halves: the first from Adli and second a header from Giroud after Kjaer’s tee-up. The Frenchman got his 10th goal in the league, his third season in a row in double figures.
With Roma in such bad form and low on confidence, Milan perhaps had a bit too much fun after that second goal and lost some of the concentration that had annihilated Roma. Calabria cut down Pellegrini and Paredes converted the penalty to make it 2-1.
Pellegrini, who came on for Mancini, then seemed to play alone against Milan with a number of shots from dangerous positions that thankfully didn’t trouble Mike Maignan much.
Milan were rocked but Pioli had the nerve to change the tired wingers, bringing on Okafor and Musah, and then Giroud’s backheel for Theo essentially made it game over.
What matters for Pioli above all is that Lazio in fifth are nine points away. Roma are now 13 points below in ninth place, and they must be wondering what can stop the rot.