Serie A returned for AC Milan on Monday night as they faced Lecce away from home in their pursuit of European spots.
Playing against a side fighting to not be relegated meant that this is a must win for the Rossoneri, and fortunately it was a comfortable 4-1 victory away from home despite the fact the hosts did equalise early in the second half.
With the absence of Zlatan, Ante Rebic was the lone striker and he did manage to put himself on the scoresheet yet again to continue his brilliant form from before the pandemic. Castillejo, Bonaventura and Rafael Leao scored the other goals for the away side in a statement win.
Here is what we learned from the first league game back…
1. Rebic’s returns
While Rebic was disappointing against Juventus last week, earning himself a straight red card around the 20th minute, he continued his positive performances with a well-taken goal against Lecce.
Although the Croatia international did not shine throughout the game, it must be noted he did play slightly out of position as the centre-forward and did do a lot of selfless work running into the channels to create space for the attacking midfielders.
His pace and composure did earn him a goal after a fantastic 60-yard run to finish off a counter-attack, meaning he moves onto eight goals for the season in all competitions.
👀 Just a 60-yard run and finish from Ante Rebic to kill the game off…
7⃣ Goals in his last 7⃣
⏰ A goal every 106 mins for #ACMilan
— SempreMilan (@SempreMilanCom) June 22, 2020
2. Room for improvement?
Hakan Calhanoglu was involved in all four goals and even earned the man of the match in our player ratings after the game. However, everyone who watched the game would most likely say that the Turk was not actually that impressive, yet he still managed to have a big say in the game despite often being sloppy.
The Turkey international always manages to secure himself a starting spot and rumours are suggesting that probable new manager Ralf Rangnick considers him essential to his project – so we must ask if we are missing something.
The answer is probably yes. Hakan looked fantastic a season back when Gennaro Gattuso took over and has shown overall that he has vision and the abilities to strike a ball whether it’s a pass or shot.
His problem though is that he lacks consistency and makes sloppy mistakes at times, but with the potential arrival of Rangnick and the reinforcements coming in the summer the German may just be able to take to former Leverkusen man to the next level.
3. A bad day at the office
Ismael Bennacer started the game rather disappointingly by his high standards. While he grew into the game in the second half, he made cheap mistakes throughout and didn’t command the midfield like he usually does.
A lack of fitness may be to blame and it would be naive to assume all players will hit the ground running after over three months off, but against Lecce we would usually expect Bennacer to have little to no problems in dictating the midfield.
Hopefully the Algerian bounces back next Sunday against Roma in what is going to be a vital game for the European hopes of both teams.
4. Struggles continue
Unfortunately, there has hardly been a game this season in which the right side of Milan’s defender has not been a weak link. Monday’s game was no different, and Conti is not really improving regardless of the playing time he’s getting.
Coach Pioli will have to look for solutions next week as – in contrast to Lecce – Roma are going to be a much bigger threat and harder to contain.
With rumours circulating around we understand that the management is aware of this problematic area, but with nobody out of Conti and Calabria stepping up it gets even more necessary to pursue a right back in the summer transfer window.
It must also be noted that with Simon Kjaer out due to injury, Gabbia will likely have a big job against the Giallorossi too as he will partner Alessio Romagnoli, and he must show more composure and confidence than he did on Monday – even if the penalty call was harsh.
5. A confidence booster?
Rafael Leao hasn’t had the best of seasons thus far, as even with Ibrahimovic being injured the forward was not able to earn himself a spot in the starting XI and Milan are growing more and more concerned about their investment.
The Portuguese, however, did manage to score a goal at last and while it was a tap in it could help a lot to boost his morale and give him that much needed injection of confidence.
We have seen what he is capable of, but a lack of consistency has been a problem. While he is fairly young and could be moulded by Rangnick, the 21-year-old must hope this is something to build off rather than yet another false start.