RB Salzburg 1-1 AC Milan: Five things we learned – mixed subs and a lesson in intensity

By Ivan Stoev -

Following a great win in the derby against Inter, Milan seemed all fired up for their encounter against Salzburg on the their opening Champions League game of the season.

The Rossoneri were eager to do better than the previous season where they finished last in the group, but their opponents were not a side to underestimate given they got through into the knockout rounds last season, losing to Bayern Munich eventually.

The game started in typical Champions League fashion with a high intensity and both teams fighting it out to get the upper hand. Salzburg landed the first blow as they managed to take the lead through Okafor, who took advantage on Bennacer’s sloppiness and then managed to beat Kalulu with ease before putting the ball at the back of the net.

Alexis Saelemaekers managed to get Milan back into the game finishing off a lovely attack with Rafael Leao picking up the assist. In the second half both teams had chances but there were no further goals as a point apiece was the end result. Here are five things we learned…

1. Too much intensity

It is often you see teams press like Salzburg do, especially in Serie A. The Rossoneri came up against an organised and rabid press in action and that really affected the way they played.

Pioli’s men struggled in the build-up phase as they failed to move the ball quickly and escape from the press efficiently. Salzburg’s goal also came because of the good pressing the team demonstrated which forced Bennacer to commit an error.

Milan will need to adapt since most Champions League games will be at a higher intensity (Porto for example last season, which was meant to be the ‘easiest’ game) and they will need to improve at moving the ball with less touches.

When the team did escape the press, there were too many moments where individuals wanted to take on the whole opposing side, it seemed at times, and that ultimately resulted in giving the ball away. Maybe the players were determined to do better in the competition this time around, but they need to keep their cool and play with composure going forward.

2. A failure to produce

After the good display against Inter, Milan’s attack decided to sit this one out as they barely created anything dangerous. De Ketelaere was practically invisible on the pitch as he offered nothing and failed to involve himself into the game. Yes, he did have a nice flick in the build-up for the goal, but that was pretty much it.

Olivier Giroud also looked lost as he barely got involved. Rafael Leao tried to take on more responsibility on the left and he managed to pick up an assist but at times it looked like the Portuguese was trying a bit too hard in situations where combining with his teammates was the obvious choice.

Alexis Saelemaekers actually did well and was the stand-out performance from the bunch. He got his goal and tried to make things happened but was lacking that final touch most of the time. He did, however, demonstrate a lot of willingness to be on the ball and he often managed to beat his player so really promising from the Belgian.

3. Put to the Dest

Sergino Dest came off the bench to replace Davide Calabria for his Milan debut. His first couple of touches were a bit shaky, but then he got better as the time passed by. He offered some pace on that right hand side and didn’t seem to be afraid of taking on his man.

The Barcelona loanee demonstrated quick feet and nice dribbling that will definitely come in handy when Pioli wants his right side to be a bit more attacking and that has been a great issue.

Nevertheless, a positive outing from Dest who seems fit and ready for action, hopefully that will push Calabria to raise the bar now that there is competition in that area.

4. Not quite clicking

Divock Origi is yet to produce anything worth mentioning in red and black. He came off the bench, replacing Giroud, and that on paper was a great sub that had to inject some speed in the attack.

In reality, Origi just had a disaster of a performance as his ball control let him down on several occasions and when he did have the chance to place a shot he missed it.

It’s also worth mentioning that it’s clear that the chemistry between him and his team-mates is still not there, but the forward has much to do if he wants a bigger role in the team.

5. Solid introduction

Tommaso Pobega come on the pitch in the second half and excluding a couple of not so impressive shots he did quite well. He had a physical presence and managed to retrieve the ball on several occasions, he also did commit a couple of fouls along the way, something he must work on or he will rack up yellow cards.

Nonetheless, he did well to move the ball around and there were some nice moments when he kept it simple and played with a single touch which actually beat Salzburg’s press and gave some direction to Milan’s attacks.

Whilst not spectacular, Pobega was solid against a side that barely loses on their home ground. In fact, Milan are the 36th team in a row to go to the Red Bull Arena and leave without a win.

Tags AC Milan Red Bull Salzburg Milan


    1. Guys you are far too strict with the guy. So far he doesn’t play well – everyone sees this. But in all fairness he was that bad either. It’s unfair in a mediocre overall performance like yesterday to single pick him.
      In general it’s a bit early, he is not the only player who needs some time to adapt. Sure, the first sample is not encouraging but let’s wait few months.
      After all, he is not supposed to be a starter but a substitute. Plus he is homegrown – eventually we need such players to compete the squad.

    2. After watching Tonali’s first season and his subsequent explosion the season after, I will never judge young players in just one season, let alone a few matches off the bench.

      I admit I was ready to give up on Tonali, thought he didn’t have it in him. So I will not give up on Pobega just yet.

      I have long given up on Diaz though. Dude’s been here for three seasons now and is as useless as a sack of potatoes.

  1. Pobega was by far the worst on the pitch. He has no technique, is slow and unable to anticipate opponents movement, that is why he misses his mark every single time. Being tall and strong means nothing if opponents just ran passed or around him.

    As I said, he is a donkey and he should have been sold for profit, maybe Torino will still take him in January, but I doubt it.

  2. Milan with devastating left wing and ordinary right wing.

    Common Maldini, this is a big weakness that opposing teams will capitalize on

  3. This is the summary of this teams problems, I have been watching our build up all along and it’s all about individual efforts and less of team work in the final third. When we are attacking, you hardly see up to six players around the opposition box, no quick runners into the box, no body running in-between the lines to receive any defense splitting passes , there’s no quick interchange of passes and all that, no good delivery into the box, Leoa always trying to do it all alone, and the right wing can’t play to save themselves. Awful corner kicks and set pieces, I wonder if they don’t have plans in trainings, players awful shooting. Damn

    We need to have a strategy cus right now it’s all one direction and as teams begin to figure us out, it will become more difficult for us.

  4. Striker is a concern, real concern. I don’t know what people were expecting from Origi, I don’t think he’s the answer. Giroud isn’t the player he was, and Zlatan is not at the level he was.

    1. Impatient, aren’t you? Judging a person who missed the entire pre-season upon arrival and had not even play for 90 minutes.

  5. Hey remember people were telling everyone here that Origi would be a big coup for Milan

    where are you guys now? Explain yourselves

  6. Seriously? Pobega did well? He was on the pitch for about 1 minute before he committed a terrible and clumsy foul giving RBS a free kick in a dangerous area just to the right of the penalty area. He was lucky to avoid a yellow card there.

    The author of this article acknowledges his 2 terrible shots; but didn’t even mention that on that 2nd one, Leao was WIDE OPEN to his left and was angry with Pobega for not passing it to him.

    Then a bit after that terrible shot, he committed a another bad and clumsy foul in midfield that definitely should’ve been a yellow card. He was super lucky not to be booked. He’s slow and clumsy. I didn’t see him do anything well. Not sure what this author saw.

  7. Poegba looks shaky to start his Milan career. Hope that changes in time it’s still early but save for Krunic (who isn’t really a DM) we have no one as of yet that is reliable to back up Tonali and Bennacer. Perhaps Aster will be that other guy (can’t wait to see him play) or Poegba gets over his beginning of the season jitters, but this was not unexpected going for unproven youth over a more experienced player for mid like Sanches. Adli has to play at some point. Diaz does nothing. Dest showed some nice glimpses offensively so maybe he will be someone to play at RB or even RW and/or back up Theo. I do think our best line up eventually when Kajer is fit is playing Theo-Tomori-Kajer-Kalulu so Kalulu can add more speed, crossing and width to the right side that is desperately lacking. Giroud can’t play every 3 days at 35-36. Not surprising he was a bit off but Origi needs to wake up soon and show what he can do. CDK was quite but again it’s expected with young players they are not always consistent.

    1. Getting Belotti along side Origi would have been a safe bet, we could alway resell, now we are at the dilemma of last season been short of fire power or relying on some playing with dead legs to continue playing. January won’t come fast with the pile it fixtures I just hope we can pull through somehow.

  8. We can’t blame cdk and origi for not firing full cylinders it takes time for new signing to interact with new environment….playing every three days takes a sting out of everyone….players are humans after all running for 90 mins is no joke either…..rotation will be on the mind of pioli how best to make use of every player avaliable…..pobega bashing is not fair he is young guy playing for Milan is added pressure….with time things will slowly move forward….even if we don’t play attractive football with the schedule we got in front of us the only thing matters now is grinding result and let things move up…..this season is demanding hope ashter comes up good in midfield or try playing dest at rw…..we weren’t in our usual flow at red bull arena which is fine because of schedule but we still manage to get a point.

  9. Yes, it is still early — hopefully Pobega will turn things around. When I watched him last year while on loan, he looked good; so I know he’s capable. But so far for us, he hasn’t played well unfortunately.

    I was just shocked at how this article portrayed his display against RBS as “he did quite well”; I am not meaning to bash Pobega in my post as much as bashing the author of the article!

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