Intelligent pressing and clever build-up play: Tactical analysis of Milan’s win over Lazio

By Rohit Rajeev -

In one of the best performances from Milan this season, Milan gave a serious blow to Lazio’s title hopes with a 3-0 win.

Goals from Hakan Calhanoglu, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ante Rebic secured three points for Milan to take with them from the Olimpico with a surprising clean sheet. We take a look at how Milan outplayed Lazio and won this game with a tactical analysis.

Basic formations

Milan started out in their 4-2-3-1 with their talisman Ante Rebic on the bench as Pioli opted for the experience of Zlatan. A controversial decision to start Bonaventura ahead of Paqueta had everybody (including me) scratching their heads. Lazio in their usual 3-5-2 or a 3-1-4-2 with Luis Alberto partnering Correa up top.

1st Half

Lazio started off more brightly getting more into their rhythm early in the game with Luis Alberto and Correa working in tandem, with one of them dropping off and another pushing forward. When in possession, Lazio had their centre back counter-press Milan by playing a very high line.

Radu and Patric would often even make overlapping runs past their wingbacks to cross the ball into the box. Lazio built out of the back with Acerbi as their main player. One of their tactics was to have Milinkovic Savic supplied with long balls and he, in turn, would use his tall frame to bring the ball down and it would beat the forward line of press. If that didn’t work Luis Alberto would drop deep and collect the ball via a short pass.

Milan pressed Lazio very high up the field initially. The first line of defence i.e Bonaventura and Ibrahimovic were press to cut off passing lanes for the Lazio defenders trying to prevent the diagonal ball between the centre backs to let them go free

Tight marking and pressing

One thing that Milan did well yesterday was to defend with a plan. Close marking and everybody sticking to the plan was executed up to the last detail. Lazio’s two main players Savic and Alberto were picked up by Kessie and Bennacer not giving them a minute to rest and constantly put them under pressure whenever they had the ball or moved to receive to the ball.

Another wonderful aspect is how Bonaventura, who had a free role yesterday, joined Saelemaeckers if Lazio played up through the right to press Parolo and Jony or he would join with Hakan to press Lazzari. Bona was also seen marking Lucas Leiva leaving Zlatan to press the back three of Lazio. Kjær had a tight hold of Correa not giving him an inch of space.

Milan’s off the ball marking. Notice the free role of Bona

When Milan were pressed to the sidelines, especially on the left-hand side by Lazio, Saelemaeckers would drift into the centre or Bonaventura would drift in deeper and Milan would either make smart triangles and find Bonaventura in space or Theo would do a one-two with Hakan and play a long ball to Saelemaeckers to unleash a counter.

Milan’s 1st goal was a treat to watch. With Lazio defending narrow and not giving much space Milan created an opening via some excellent passing. Bennacer passed the ball to an onrushing Bonaventura who found Hakan in the half-space on the left-wing edge of the box.

He played a diagonal ball to Zlatan. Now Hakan was marked by Lazzari and Savic creating a 1v2 situation, but Bennacer who received the ball from Ibra drew out Savic from his position to defend Bennacer who was space. This created space between Hakan and Lucas Leiva and Bennacer passed it to Ibra who smartly spotted the space for Hakan to run into and gave it to him. Hakan who was in point 1 received the ball and beat Leiva to reach point number 2 to shoot.

Bennacer draws Savic out and passes to ibra who puts Hakan into space for the goal

As I mentioned above, Lazio had Milan pressed to the left to our defensive third but some smart triangles saw Bonaventura playing a quick diagonal pass to Saelemaeckers but couldn’t make anything out it. And then Milan won a penalty with the ball hitting the arm of Radu.

Ibrahimovic scored a lucky goal as the ball crept into the goal beneath Strakosha, who saved the initial shot. Milan were forced into an early change with Paqueta coming on for Hakan as Hakan picked up a bruised leg

2nd Half

With no recognised strikers, Simeone Inzaghi threw on Adekanye instead of Leiva. Milan brought on Rebic instead of Zlatan who looked in some discomfort at the break. The change seemed to have worked instantly as Parolo dropped deeper and Luis Alberto was back to his deeper position which he thrives in.

With Adekanye playing up top ut it helped Correa to peel off to the wide space or drop deeper and once even playing a 1-2 with Adekanye to test Donnarumma from an acute angle.

Lazio in the second half

Lazio’s best chance came from a poor free-kick from Bennacer as it created a counter opportunity. Adekanye fought off a challenge and put it to Luis Alberto making it a 2v1 with Lazzari and Alberto against Conti. Conti from the corner of his eye spotted Lazzari’s run and did the smart thing and played him offside with Luis Alberto taking an extra second to release the ball. Lazzari did go through to score but was ruled offside.

OFFSIDE !!! Well played by Conti

Milan’s third goal was a thing of beauty. Theo interrupted a pass towards Lazzari and charged forward taking Lazzari out of the equation. Savic chased after Theo, while Vavros was busy marking Rebic. Theo’s run distracted Vavros,  and he along with Patric were busy setting up a pseudo roadblock, while Rebic quietly peeled off into the left-wing unmarked as Theo played a pass into Bona

Theo’s run and pass

Bonaventura was blocked by a wall of Acerbi, Jordan Lukaku and Vavros but nobody spotted Rebic completely free on the left-hand side. Patric was marking Theo while Lukaku was trying to dispossess Bonaventura and Acerbi was partially distracted by Saaelemaekers. Bona thread the ball through and Rebic finished the move for a three-goal lead.

Lazio never recovered and Simone Inzaghi opted to rest his star player and withdrew Savic for Cataldi. Milan, who have Juventus on Tuesday. kept knocking the ball around all except for Theo to make the same roan which got Milan their third goal. Two such chances got him a 1v1 vs the keeper but he missed both.

Earlier I couldn’t give enough credit to Bennacer and Kessie who were the players who made a change. Keeping Savic and Alberto quiet, they even switched position while marking players and during build-up play which confused Lazio a lot.

The MOTM award is well deserved for Kessie. Milan will head into San Siro with some good form having scored 11 goals in 5 games and with no Dybala and De Ligt, Milan can re-invigorate some interest in the title race.

READ MORE: Eye-opening numbers show why Saelemaekers is important for Milan amid tight schedule

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