Hellas Verona 1-3 AC Milan: Five things we learned – waits ended and Theo unchained

By Ivan Stoev -

After securing their progression in the Europa League against Slavia Praha, AC Milan turned their attention to Serie A where they travelled away from home to face Hellas Verona in a bid to increase the gap to Juventus.

Hellas Verona actually started the game well, but Milan eventually got a hold on things and created plenty, hitting the woodwork twice. In the 44th minute however, Theo Hernandez opened the scoring with a finish from a narrow angle after a somewhat fortuitous solo run.

Then at the beginning of the second half, in the 50th minute to be precise, Christian Pulisic scored a goal to double Milan’s lead, but Verona got a goal back in the 64th minute which did add a little bit of stress.

Samuel Chukwueze couldn’t have found a better time to open up his Serie A goal tally as he scored an amazing volley from outside the box make the score 3-1 and secure all three points for his team. Here are five things we observed from the game…

1. Landmarks and records

After a very positive display midweek Pulisic continued in the same fashion against Verona as he was very lively down the right flank creating a lot of chances.

Ironically, in the end he score a tap-in after a rebound following a save on Noah Okafor’s shot, but he was at the right time in the right moment to get his goal.

The American was also better in 1v1 situations compared to recent weeks and he looked sharp, with Pioli hoping to preserve his form for the final part of the season amid a Europa League push.

He left a bit to be desired defensively on Verona’s goal as he really should’ve done more – as should Ruben Loftus-Cheek – but this is a minor thing in an otherwise excellent showing.

Not only that, but the American scored Milan’s 5,000th Serie A goal and in doing so got his 12th of the season, which is a personal single-season record for him.

2. One of those days

In contrast to Pulisic, Rafael Leao was nowhere near as effective with the Portuguese lacking that clinical edge to his game once again.

Admittedly he beat his man on several occasions but then the ruthless instinct needed to provide the final ball or finish himself were missing.

Speaking of finishing, the Portuguese winger missed a great chance to get a goal when he was 1v1 against Verona’s goalkeeper Montipo, and instead of rounding him or dinking over him he sent the ball wide.

Fortunately, Chukwueze came off the bench to ensure that the missed chance would not be rued long into the Veronese night, but Rafa knows he should have buried that and done better on other occasions.

3. An unprecedented Theo

Whilst Leao didn’t chip in with a goal his partner in crime down the left flank, Theo Hernandez, was the Man of the Match without a doubt.

The Frenchman got the opening goal of the game as well as being involved in a lot of dangerous chances, and he combine well with Leao to open up Verona.

The defender had fairly little to do at the back so he made the most out of having that freedom to get forward, both with his diagonal runs infield and those surges to the byline.

After the game Stefano Pioli said something interesting: “… in terms of presence in the group Theo he’s never been like this, not even in the year of the Scudetto. Maybe something triggered in him.”

The former Real Madrid man now has 11 goal contributions in 2024 (three of them goals, eight of them assists) which puts him above the likes of Lautaro Martinez and Victor Osimhen.

4. Worth the wait

Chukwueze hasn’t had much to smile about this season to say he was the most expensive summer signing. He has been behind Pulisic in the pecking order over the last few months and it’s not even a close comparison give the little minutes he has played.

Despite the negatives and the pressure surrounding the Nigerian, Chukwueze did score a couple of important goals in Europe, but never managed to kick on from there and find consistency.

He has looked sharped, however, in the last couple of games and against Verona this finally resulted in a goal, and what a goal it was. It takes incredible technique to connect so sweetly on the volley like that, and to keep it under control.

The ex-Villarreal man will get a morale boost from that for sure and he needs to stay concentrated, build on this performance and have a strong end to the season.

5. Comfortable down the middle

Noah Okafor is another player that has had a mixed season as he hasn’t played as much as the fans expected him to, but he did pick up a couple of injuries that prevented him from finding rhythm.

In spite of this he has five goals and an assist in the league, which doesn’t sound great but given his minutes and the fact that most of them are off the bench actually makes his minutes-per-goal ratio quite good (one every 155 minutes).

Against Verona he didn’t find the back of the net, due to some bad luck too. He had an incredible volley denied by the goalkeeper and the was thwarted again when he was 1v1, but luckily enough the rebound was converted by Pulisic.

One thing is for sure, Okafor can create chances for himself and for his team-mates and is much more mobile compared to Giroud so it was a refreshing to see him against Verona, being involved in multiple situations and probably deserving of a goal.


Tags AC Milan Verona Milan


  1. Okafor is our CF at the moment. His goal ratio is good considering his injuriy lay off and coming from bench most of the games. Not only can he score but he creates space for our inverted wingers which makes our build up in final third more unpredictable.

    Man if we only had proper pivot midfielders this team would kick a*ses.

    1. Ok, Let’s bench the guy that leads the team in goals and leads all of Serie A in assists because Okafor had a good game. Brilliant.

      1. More like because Okafor has good talent. True Giroud is doing well but I believe his numbers are doable for Okafor as a starting striker. You won’t get everything Giroud offers, did get something closer to what a Benzema like CF would offer. Realistically tho hard to see it happening with Pioli who can’t do a game without Giroud ,as Okafor will need consecutive matches and some assurance so that he can play with more calm and not aften forcing to impress with limited opportunities because even right now you could see him trying too hard to score or dribble. With Giroud not looking to lead the attack next season could off as well try to see if we already have some reliable strikers in the current roster, not necessarily looking for a future first choice CF in within btw. But if they are too afraid or doesn’t look ideal to consider doing such then that’s also cool with me.

    2. i said at the start of the season we need to have 2 plans. One for the anchor Giroud in front and the other for the mobile Okafor. And what did pioli do? He got our entire back line injured and went from a promising 433 to the ol 4231

      1. Well the 4-3-3 simply didn’t work the way the used it, the team is more effective, and the players’ individual stats have significantly improved since the return to 4-2-3-1.
        I do criticize Pioli a lot, but turning back to the 4-2-3-1 is his best decision this season.

        1. it was working they just needed a bit more time. Having a proper DM would have helped loads, Krunić did ok till injury tho.

          4231, right. We been playing 4231 for about 4-5 months now and the team still isnt clicking, its always all down to individual skill, aka get the ball to leao. The midfield is nonexist most of the games. Def leaks goals like a swiss cheese

          1. There are many ways to use a 4-3-3, Real Madrid, Manchester City, FC Barcelona and Liverpool all used a 4-3-3 at some point in time and you can see the vast differences between their approach. Pioli choose the Guardiola method where the fullbacks will play as inverted fullbacks, basically tucking inside and playing like midfielders. I guess the idea was to overload the midfield but we ended up limiting many of our players abilities and nerfing them. Theo couldn’t do the same runs on the wing that he did previously and Leao was pretty much isolated on the wing and you could see how poorly they contributed to goals earlier this season as opposed to lately. This approach worked for like 3 games against sitting ducks, but once we stepped up in the level of competition we were badly exposed.
            For the 4-2-3-1, the current problem is that we bought midfielders for a 4-3-3. Reijnders and Loftus-Cheek were essentially mezzalas and Krunic was supposed to be the DM (which didn’t work since we were supposed to get a true DM). Reijnders isn’t a true DM, Loftus-Cheek while scoring a lot isn’t a true AM, Adli has adapted to the DM role a bit bul still needs a lot of work and Bennacer is still far from his best.
            You could say in the end the problem is Pioli tactics (there is more to tactics than 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1) like how we press, how we mark, the transition when we lose the ball or win it, the set pieces, the specific instructions and the fact that the team pretty much looks like it’s playing a 5-0-5 but I think that as far as this season is concerned, the 4-2-3-1 worked the best for us, which isn’t saying much considering how poor we’ve been performing overall.

    3. Agreed.

      If we can get Okafor firing it might save us a replacement for Giroud.

      Although I’ll never say no to a 40 Goal A Season Striker*.

      *Just for those who struggle with language, the 40 Goal A Season Striker, like a Team of Gary Neville’s, is a metaphor, particularly as we can’t know if a striker is a literal 40 Goal A Season Striker until they have in fact scored 40 goals in a season…..which is something that may or may not happen in the future….and again one cannot predict the future.

      1. Out of the blue Gary Nevilles name becomes regular on a Milan blog!

        Yes agreed about searching for some good strikers in within. It’s not like will be experimenting with some primaveras and Okafor has shown encouraging signs.

      2. I don’t care if we have three players that score 15 goals a piece. In fact it’s better to have multiple avenues. The days of having everything go through one CF are over.

  2. Okafor cannot be trusted to carry the chunk of the goal scoring that is needed and that is down to his long history of injuries that keep him off the pitch for a good chuck of a season. I would love him to be on the pitch all the time but that is never going to happen.

  3. Leao criticism is ridiculous. In Europe he scores a worldie and it’s all praise. Against Verona he made plenty of runs, against single/double coverage. Yea he misses a sitter and now he’s “lacking”? Coooome oooon, IVAN…. Get real.

    Okafor needs more playtime. There’s a lot of good player in him.

    Arguably, Theo is the best in the world in his position and we should be focusing our attention to renewing him, rather than Mike. Theo definitely needs a raise. 4mil is peanuts for a player of his skillset.

    1. Leao criticism is down to us being spoiled as we always expect him to perform miracles and carry this team and whole club’s image week in week out. Even when he doesn’t score, he brings havoc to opposition’s defence with his moves, opening space for others. But most of folks just measure a player by his goals and assists. It’s just unfair.

    2. If we want to be regular champion, the club indeed have to increase the wage cap. Now, this will impact long term strategies for the club especially after the end of growth decree.

    3. “Leao criticism is ridiculous. ”

      Could also argue the Leao-criticism-criticism is ridiculous. Leao could stand by the halfway-line the whole 90 mins and the fans would be thrilled because he drew 3-4 players to himself which opened the space for Puli & others (who wouldn’t have been able to do s*** if Leao hadn’t been on the pitch). He intercepts one pass on own half and is praised for his insane defending spirit. 😀

    4. “Leao criticism is ridiculous”

      Ivan is doing analysis of the game.
      There are 2 barometers when rating a player
      1 – Their ability relative to others. eg “He’s world class”
      2 – Their performance relative to their own ability. eg “He usually puts those away”

      Why is it so controversial to praise a player when they have a good game and critcise when they don’t?
      What do you want them to say?

      Even Messi and Ronaldo got their share of criticism when they didn’t effect a game as they usually can.
      We all have good and bad day’s, it doesn’t mean people hate us. Don’t be so sensitive

  4. Phil Foden is arguably City’s most dangerous player atm. He runs, fights, harries every single second he is on the pitch. Add to the lots of goals & assists. My ideal attacker. Always play like he has a few points to prove.

    Then I watch Rafa😪. Love the dude but damn bro at least show a bit of fight. Like you it badly.
    It’s no coincidence that his best game of the season was against Atalanta. It seems that early goal triggered something in him. He played ‘angry’ that day. I freaking loved it.

    1. That’s kind of the problem with Leao. I don’t know what is inside his mind, but sometimes he looks like he is quite satisfied with the level he has reached and he is not looking for more. There are games where he seems hungry (especially the big games) and sometimes does everything right, but often and especially against low tier opposition, he seems content to stay on the sideline and attempt the occasional dribble/shooting. To quote a commentator I heard “Leao picks the games where he wants to shine”.
      There are sometimes comparisons drawn between him and the likes of Mbappe, Vinicius.Jr and others but he doesn’t seem to want to prove he’s able to stand on the same level as them.

      1. And if Milan are down by goal or two, Leao looks like he’s already focused fully on the next game instead of trying to overturn the current match they’re playing.

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