After finding themselves in a tricky situation with regards to a top four finish, Milan travelled to Turin to face Juventus in a crucial game for the top four race.
Stefano Pioli chose to switch things up a bit with Hakan Calhanoglu playing on the left flank and Brahim Diaz behind the striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic in a formation that shifted and morphed as the game went on.
As expected it started off fairly balanced with Juventus having more of the ball, but Milan being the more dangerous side. After a few good chances, it was Brahim scoring a lovely goal to give his side the lead a minute before half time.
In the second half Milan’s dominance was more evident as Diaz continued his good performance earning a penalty kick for his team, which was missed by Franck Kessie. Despite the miss, Milan seemed determined to get back home with all three points and it was Ante Rebic who came off the bench to score a stunning long range effort to double Milan’s lead.
The nail in the coffin was Tomori’s header to make it 3-0 and secure the massive head to head advantage over Juventus. Here are five things we learned from the game…
1. Faith rewarded
Diaz found himself in the starting XI after not been a regular throughout the whole season, causing some to quest Pioli’s decision before the game.
The Spaniard seemed quite determined to prove his worth as he was constantly trying to get on the ball and make things happen, which he eventually did with the opening goal and then winning a penalty for his team.
Unfortunately for him he had to leave the pitch injured, but performances like this show his enormous potential and the management may well go out and try to sign him on a permanent deal, especially if Hakan was to leave.
.@Brahim 🆚 Juventus
😍 What a sensational goal.
— SempreMilan (@SempreMilanCom) May 9, 2021
2. Back on the rails
Finally we saw a much needed big performance by Theo Hernandez on the left flank. He arguably kept one of the most creative forces of this current Juventus side quiet in the face of Cuadrado and was solid throughout the whole game.
The Frenchman also had some nice moments going forward, but he played this one a bit more matured, concentrated and not rushing the play which paid off for him.
3. Bennacer stepping up
The Algerian was another player that was struggling for form after a long injury, with plenty of fans suggesting it would be wiser to play Tonali instead.
Bennacer, however, performed at the right moment as he was back to being a pillar in the midfield, dictating the game and escaping the pressure with ease which was a wonderful sight to see after a few shaky performances by the midfielder.
With all three of Kessie, Tonali and Bennacer plus a potential new signing in the midfield Milan will have great quality going into next season.
.@IsmaelBennacer vs. Juventus
➤ 45 passes
➤ 94% pass completion
➤ 1 key pass
➤ 1 tackle
➤ 2 interceptions
👌 Midfield maestro. 🔴⚫️ pic.twitter.com/2DuNSnFH9M
— MilanData📊 (@acmilandata) May 9, 2021
4. Right side on lock
There were a lot of positives in this game and it’s truly hard to pick up the best parts, but in contrast to the general consensus on social media, we’ll pick out Calabria and Saelemaekers as the key duo over Kjaer and Tomori in the centre of defence, even though the later two did a phenomenal job as well.
Alexis and Calabria had the task to keep Alex Sandro, Chiesa and Ronaldo quiet, with the latter drifting wide on a number of occasions to try and create. Unfortunately for the Bianconeri though, Milan’s right flank was perfect.
Calabria won almost every duel he had while the Belgian showed his magnificent work rate yet again, but also showed more confidence and fast feet in the attacking phase combined with a lot of intelligent rotations and positioning. The chemistry out there was amazing.
🔐 Right flank locked down.
— SempreMilan (@SempreMilanCom) May 10, 2021
5. Nothing left for the critics
To say Pioli had some weird choices in recent weeks would be an understatement when even we have mentioned the fact on several occasions, but the coach got everything spot on this time as his tactical changes paid dividends.
The fluidity in attack with the players interchanging was excellent, and the substitutions also helped with the game management when in previous weeks it has perhaps been an aspect lacking.
Pioli has had some criticism towards him which is inevitable especially after a season with constant injuries and so many young players, but he has done wonders and is continuing to do so. In arguably the most important game of the season thus far, he came up trumps.