After back to back wins in Serie A to begin 2022, Milan were beginning to gain some momentum in the title race and after the draw between Inter and Atalanta, the Rossoneri had the chance to leapfrog their city rivals into first.
However, the game against Spezia did not go according to plan with the away side grabbing all three points in the 96th minute, though the game was not without controversy, especially in the time added on at the end of the 90 minutes.
The Rossoneri started the game off well causing plenty of problems for Spezia, opening the scoring when Rafael Leao lobbed Provedels who had previously seen his clean sheet kept intact by Theo Hernandez’s penalty miss.
In the second half, Milan dropped the tempo a bit and Spezia eventually equalised through Kevin Agudelo with the Rossoneri failing to respond, but they did pick up the pace in the last quarter of an hour.
In stoppage time Messias managed to put the ball into the net, but the goal didn’t stand after a controversial decision by the referee, before Emmanuel Gyasi scored in the dying seconds to snatch a first ever win at San Siro for Spezia. Here are five things we learned…
1. A rare disappointment
Pierre Kalulu has been a rock in the defence after he was rushed into the starting XI alongside Matteo Gabbia a couple of games back, but he didn’t have a night to remember against Spezia. The youngster lost his man on the first goal, allowing the away side to get themselves back into the game and then was clumsy on the second goal which cost Milan the game.
While he is still a bit raw, we’ve seen great things from the Frenchman so this game should really be a one-off and it happens to the best of players. It is fair to say that except these two very crucial mistakes, the ex-Lyon man still looked good on the ball and in the build-up.
2. Absence felt
With a starting duo of Krunic and Bakayoko something seemed off against Spezia. The duo weren’t exactly dire and did not commit any errors directly leading to goals, but they just did not offer the same control and and the lack of Sandro Tonali in that midfield was felt.
Krunic was maybe the more involved as he was trying at times to play a bit more direct but that barely lead to anything but both were a bit slow with their pressing and failed to stay close to their opponents, allowing them plenty of space down the middle which was exploited by Spezia.
Against a stronger opponent it could have been more fatal but we are talking about the fourth and fifth choices for the double pivot, yet the worrying part was the intensity they played with and not so much the technical aspect.
3. The only spark
Whilst Milan created plenty of chances, it felt like almost all of them came from Rafael Leao. The Portuguese winger was unlucky not to score on multiple occasions, either barely missing the target or being denied by a spectacular save by the keeper, but he managed to net the opener for his team and won a penalty that was missed by Theo.
He could have also picked up an assist when he beat his man and provided a low cross to Alexis Saelemaekers, who was again denied by the inspired Provedel. Overall it seemed as if the winger would have picked up quite a few goals and assists in this game but for goalkeeping heroics and poor finishing.
— SempreMilan (@SempreMilanCom) January 17, 2022
4. Temporary issue becomes long-lasting
It feels like it’s been an age since we last witnessed an impressive performance by Brahim Diaz as the Spaniard again failed to find his groove against Spezia, who are ironically the last team he scored against.
Covid-19 and the whole recovery process were to blame towards the end of last year for his form, but Brahim has taken too long to get back into form and excluding a few impressive dribbles that led to nothing.
It seems that his position has become a permanent issue rather than a temporary one due to form. We can all see the technique he possesses, but something isn’t clicking for him now and Pioli needs to find a solution and if not maybe look to the market.
5. Same old story
Whilst Leao was the main threat against Spezia the problem is deeper than this particular game itself. With Ibrahimovic and Giroud, Milan need players behind them that can make things happen and for a long period of time now it seems that Leao is the only one capable to be a game-changer with the likes of Brahim, Saelemaekers and Messias not living up to expectations.
Ante Rebic is another that had a fantastic start to the season, but has had injury problems and is struggling to regain form at the moment. The issue was also there last season with Pioli managing to make things work, but the next step for the club does seem to be the attacking department and being able to find that balance and not only relying on Leao and Theo on the left.