Milan 2-0 Genoa: Leao and Messias break drought to send Rossoneri top

By Mitchell Wilks -

Milan snapped a run of two games without scoring to return to winning ways in a 2-0 victory over Genoa on Friday night, heading back to the top of the Serie A table, despite again looking toothless in attack.

With Inter winning away at Spezia earlier in the night, three points was a necessity for Stefano Pioli’s side. San Siro was emotionally charged as ever ahead of kick-off, and an early strike from Rafael Leao set the tone for a dominant first half. Genoa struggled to close down Milan swiftly enough, giving the Rossoneri plenty of time on the ball, as they cruised into half-time with an admittedly slender advantage.

A worrying sense of lethargy had crept into Milan in the second half, with chances becoming less frequent. Genoa began to ask questions after an hour as the game opened up somewhat, but a lack of quality meant they struggled to ever test Mike Maignan. It was Junior Messias, who scored a brace in December’s reverse fixture, to pop up at the death and seal the victory with a second.

Milan had made just one change from the XI that fell to a goalless draw with Torino, with Ismael Bennacer returning from injury and Brahim Diaz dropping to the bench, pushing Franck Kessie into the attacking midfielder role. An injury to Davide Calabria in the pre-match warmup saw him forced out of the XI too, however, thrusting Matteo Gabbia into the lineup with Pierre Kalulu shifting to right back in place of the Italian.

The late change didn’t deter Stefano Pioli’s side, who started on the front foot and pulled ahead after just 11 minutes. Kalulu bombed down the right flank and sent in a deep cross for Rafael Leao, who volleyed home his first Serie A strike since February for 1-0.

With San Siro rocking and Genoa desperate to force a result in order to alleviate the pressure on themselves amid their relegation scrap, the early goal felt particularly key, and ensured there was no chance of slumping to three consecutive games without a goal for the first time since January 2020. Milan looked relaxed in possession, able to bypass Il Grifone and up the tempo to move forwards when necessary.

Genoa lacked any intensity with their press and were rather easy for Milan to bypass. The Rossoneri took their time on the ball at the back, before looking to unleash one of Leao or Kessie into advanced areas. That almost paid dividends after 36 minutes when Kessie wriggled his way through defensive bodies in the penalty area to find Alexis Saelemaekers, but the Belgian couldn’t hit the target. It was the best chance Milan had to improve on their lead before the half-time whistle sounded, not testing Salvatore Sirigu all too often despite the possession.

It was more of the same for Alexander Blessin’s side after the break; creatively challenged and poor when trying to keep possession. Milan looked somewhat flat, however, with a distinct lack of pace or composure when trying to attack proving a concern.

Olivier Giroud had been starved of any proper service, particularly in the second half, but had a golden opportunity to score after 57 minutes, disappointingly volleying Saelemaekers’ cross wide of the target. Genoa had found a way into the game after an hour, however, capitalising on Milan’s sloppiness and beginning to smell blood.

Leao fleetingly tormented down the left flank as the game wore on and became more stretched, linking up particularly well with substitute Ante Rebic. Clear cut chances were once again hard to come by, however, with Milan only keeping themselves ahead thanks to a lack of quality from the opposition.

Crucially, substitute Junior Messias put the icing on the cake after 87 minutes, instinctively tapping in the rebound from his own shot to secure the points in an admittedly ugly, but plucky victory.

Milan will be wary of Inter’s game in hand and their own performances which still need improvement, but must now shift focus to Tuesday’s Coppa Italia semi-final second leg against their city rivals.

Tags AC Milan Milan vs Genoa


  1. Saelemaekers is very, very bad.. play castilejo instead, man

    Diaz always late and wake

    Leao too many failed pass

    Giroud no comment, received too few passes

    Midfield was good
    Tomori Kalulu Maignan Awesome
    Gabbia OK

    Theo was good, still too many dives

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