After a disappointing result in the Coppa Italia against Inter it was important to bounce back quickly to keep the title race alive, but it wasn’t going to be an easy task for Milan as they travelled to face a Lazio side still hoping to finish above city rivals Roma.
The game certainty didn’t start according to plan for Stefano Pioli as his side when a goal down inside four minutes as Ciro Immobile managed to capitalise on some poor defending from Milan, which was a deja vu moment similar to Lautaro’s goal in midweek.
Fortunately, this time around the defence did respond well and didn’t give away much to Lazio after the goal and the Rossoneri put a lot of pressure going forward, but failed to equalise before the interval.
The second half was a different story though as an Olivier Giroud goal brought Milan level just five minutes after the break. Milan continued to push, but failed to convert their attacks until the 92nd minute when Sandro Tonali found the back of the net sparking jubilant scenes. Here are five things we learned:
1. Positive reaction
There were certain fans and journalists that suggested Milan’s mentality would crumble after that heavy defeat at the hands of Inter, but the Rossoneri look even more eager to prove the doubters wrong and reacted well against Lazio.
Not only that, but they managed to turn around the result after conceding first, which in itself was an impressive outcome. Despite a couple of sloppy mistakes at the back the defence also looked much better compared to the Coppa Italia fixture and Rafael Leao was back to his brilliant self, terrorising Lazio’s right flank.
The grit and determination Milan showed against the Aquile and the way they managed to win will be a huge boost for the players and Serie A is giving us a lot of emotions in the title race.
2. The veterans strike
Olivier Giroud managed to break his goal drought and just in the right moment as he continues to score important goals for Milan. The Frenchman worked hard and despite the little service he had initially he kept his composure and equalised.
He came off for Zlatan Ibrahimovic and looked frustrated to be withdrawn, but fortunately for the Rossoneri the Swede was also set to make an impact as he was heavily involved in the winning goal, providing the assist for Tonali.
Not only did he provide the assist, but he also pressed high up the pitch and in an intelligent manner, cutting the line between Lazio’s defender and the keeper allowing Rebic to intercept the ball and start that match-winning attack.
Brilliant display by the two veterans and their heroics keep Milan top of the table for the time being.
3. Tonali roars
Sandro Tonali was arguably the best player on the pitch and he was the man of the match in our post-match ratings. The youngster had a couple of misplaced passes in the beginning of the game but grew stronger with the minutes passing by as he was always available for his team-mates, worked hard in both phases of the game and was very intelligent on the ball.
Tonali has some shaky performances as of late, certainly not bad ones, but this one really made him stood out as he lead the midfield in the absence of Bennacer and never gave it. The passion he showed after the goal was also magnificent as his reaction reflected all grit this team has shown and it was a wonderful moment for the team after the final whistle.
4. A response at last
Ante Rebic has struggled for months now, and when he did come onto the pitch he was nothing more than a disappointment, but against Lazio we saw that Rebic that can be a match winner as he created a couple of good chances and a shot outside of the box that forced Strakosha to save well.
The Croatian was at the core of the winning goal as he pressed really well and stayed composed enough not to commit a sloppy foul. In the end end he did great to intercept and cross the ball into the box resulting in Milan winning the game.
He needs to follow up with other performances like this until the end of the season if he wants to stay at the club as rumours are already pilling up that he might be surplus to requirements, because we all know what he is truly capable of.
5. Pioli does it again
Despite the early goal, Milan reacted well and got the win in the end. Pioli has to be one of the people that have to get credit for that as his tactics and half-time talk seemed to be enough to motivate the players to dig deep for that win.
His substitutions were questionable at the time but also worked out. He brought Leao off the pitch, knowing he is his most dangerous player, but fielding Rebic allowed his team to press a bit higher and get the ball more efficiently as seen on the goal.
The same goes for Alexis Saelemaekers on the right who helped a lot with the press compared to Messias who isn’t great at that part of the game. Rade Krunic was also a great sub to help keep the ball safe; the Bosnian brought a lot of composure in the midfield and did his part in brilliant fashion.
Overall it was a great performance by Pioli, who managed to get all the right decisions and walk away with all three points.