Salernitana 1-2 AC Milan: Rossoneri start 2023 with a win thanks to Leao and Tonali

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan began 2023 in the right way with a win against Salernitana at the Stadio Arechi, but they were made to fight right until the last minute.

The game could hardly have started any better for Milan as they brushed off any dust from the long break by scoring twice in the opening 15 minutes. The first came when Rafael Leao rounded Ochoa and tucked home from a tight angle, and the second came from Sandro Tonali as he fired in at the second attempt to add to his previous assists.

The Rossoneri had countless chances to put the game to bed and yet Federico Bonazzoli made it a nervous finale as he ghosted in at the far post to half the deficit, but in the end the scoreline would remain that way.

The win temporarily cuts the deficit to Napoli down to five points ahead of their game against Inter at San Siro tonight, with Roma the next opponents at home on Sunday.

Despite coming into the game with nine players absent due to injury, Stefano Pioli was still able to name a strong starting line-up with Davide Calabria and Alexis Saelemaekers reunited on the right, Pierre Kalulu and Fikayo Tomori as the centre-backs, Theo Hernandez and Rafael Leao on the left and Olivier Giroud up front, as well as Sandro Tonali and Ismael Bennacer in midfield.

Salernitana made the more positive start, and Tomori had to dive in to block a shot from former Milan man Piatek after a stray pass from Bennacer had been seized by the Polish forward.

At the other end, Milan had the first big chance of the game as a quick counter-attack saw Giroud lay the ball into Brahim Diaz who threaded Leao through, and the Portuguese winger did well to stay on his feet before firing a low shot that was well saved by the boot of Ochoa.

Moments later, Giroud thought he had spurned a big chance to put his side 1-0 up when a cross from the right side met his jump perfectly, yet the offside flag spared his blushes somewhat as his header flew wide of the far corner.

In the 10th minute, the Rossoneri did get the breakthrough that their pressure was suggesting they might. A gorgeous through ball from Tonali found Leao one on one against Ochoa who had come rushing off his line, and the Portuguese winger rounded the keeper before slotting in excellently from a narrow angle.

Five minutes after the first goal, Milan doubled their lead to really seize a grip on the game. Leao cut the ball into the box and it eventually fell to Tonali just outside who saw his first attempt well saved by Ochoa, but Brahim seized the rebound and gave the Italian a second bite at the cherry, which he this time took by thumping low into the far corner.

Milan continued knocking on the door looking to put the game to bed, but there was some concern when Giroud went down in a heap as a corner was swung in. He was ok to continue, and at the opposite end Tomori dived in to make an excellent block on Dia inside the box.

The Diavolo threatened again just before the half-hour mark as Ochoa was called into action again, stopping Brahim Diaz’s first shot and then watching his second attempt roll narrowly wide of the far post.

There was another big chance when Leao was again put in behind by a ball over the top and he chose to rather unselfishly cut it back to Giroud with a smart flick, yet Ochoa made a good reaction save to thwart the Frenchman inside the area.

If there were any suspicions that Milan might take their foot off the gas, two big chances were created inside the first few minutes of the second half. Both fell to Giroud, the first being a shot just about diverted into the side netting after a one-two with Saelemaekers, and the second he really should have scored after being found all alone by Leao, though Ochoa saved a shot that was straight at him.

Milan thought that they had made it 3-0 in the 58th minute as a free-kick from the left ricocheted through to Tomori who scrambled it over over the line from six yards out. Both he and Brahim Diaz claimed the goal, and after a VAR review it was determined that the Spaniard was stood in an offside position while trying to play the ball and it was ruled out.

Just after the hour mark, Brahim was withdrawn in place of De Ketelaere, with the Belgian coming on in the attacking midfielder role.

The game settled into somewhat of a lull with Milan seemingly happy to manage their lead and not leave too much intensity out there, with a change coming in the 72nd minute as Matteo Gabbia came on for Calabria and Kalulu shifted to right-back.

A red card was flashed by the referee Fourneau for what he adjudged to be a tackle with studs showing by Bradaric on Kalulu, however he again went to his monitor and the right decision was made as he overturned it to a yellow.

The hosts had a chance to get themselves back into the game just before the final ten minutes as Sambia shot from the right side of the box with a low sidefooted attempt, though it rolled wide of the far post.

Milan were denied a third goal their dominance probably deserved with two fantastic saves by Ochoa. A free-kick was drifted over the top by Tonali and was volleyed by Giroud which the Mexican goalkeeper saved, and then De Ketelaere looked as if he had put the rebound in but he produced another incredible reaction stop.

With seven minutes left on the clock, Salernitana set up a dramatic finish. A ball floated to the back post by Coulibaly found Bonazzoli who had got in between Kalulu and Saelemaekers, and he finished from close range with a volley at the back post.

The final subs followed from Pioli as he looked to inject some energy to see the game out, with Sergino Dest and Aster Vranckx coming on for Saelemaekers and Giroud.

The match could have finally been put to bed in the last minute of normal time as a cross from Vranckx found Dest in behind, who attacked the ball with a surprising back heel with his back to goal, but again Ochoa was there to thwart it.

A final opportunity fell to De Ketelaere but again Ochoa was virtually unbeatable, keeping out a whipped shot after Leao went down asking for a penalty, and Milan saw out the last of the eight added minutes to secure three vital points.

Tags AC Milan Salernitana Milan


  1. How many times must we see the same thing? We get ourselves in a position from which Inter or Napoli would win 5-0, but for us it always ends the same: fighting to keep the ball near the corner flag to maintain a one-goal lead, like the small team that we are.

      1. I’ve been a fan since before you were born probably. This is a comment section to state our opinions, good or bad. Go to the Man City site if you can’t handle fans complaining.

        1. You’re complaining is a disrespect for Milan players who worked hard for 98+ minutes to win while your here act like an entitled 5 years old.

          And if you’re a long time Milan fans then you should know serie-a small clubs are unpredictable and can’t be underestimate!

          1. “A good game but there are situations we can improve. We didn’t have the ability to close the game.”
            Here another disrespectfull comment form another fair weather fan, Pioli.
            At least he knows that there is still a lot of work to be done and we can’t be satisfied from what we just saw.

        2. Pioli isn’t complaining and his statement is a very different statement than you who called Milan “played like a small team”. Fvck off moron and go cheer Inter or Napoli 🖕🖕

    1. – Inter only won 2-0 against Salernitana
      – Roma only won 1-0 against Salernitana
      – Salernitana beat Lazio 3-1
      – Juve got draw 2-2 against Salernitana

      Napoli not yet play Salernitana and there’s no guarantee they will win 5-0 against them.

      You definitely didn’t watch the match. Milan played really well but Ochoa played briliantly saving plenty of shoots that almost goal.

      Salernitana can’t be underestimate!

      1. Now give me the stats from Inter and Napoli games when they are 2-0 up. How many of those games are they struggling to win and how many are they winning comfortably? Then look at our stats.
        Also, when do Inter or Napoli miss that many chances in one game? Ok, Ochoa had some good saves, but most of the shots were straight at him, especially Giroud’s. Don’t even get me started on Dest’s backheel.
        We just need to focus more to close the games once we get ourselves in a good situation, that’s all I’m saying.

    2. Never wrong to criticize for the goodness of the team. But there’s a difference between being critical and being cynical. I think the only problem is on the last sentence you wrote here, mate. Cheers.

    3. Are we a small team??? That’s the kind of comment that people here didn’t like. Look at the table; we’re still second place. Basically everybody did well today in an away game against a dangerous mid-table team that has performed well against the big dogs and now counts on a world-class goalie. Without Uchoa we’d have won this game 5-1 at least, and us with Maignan and them without Uchoa we’d have won it 5-0.

      This was a solid performance by Milan, with a few mistakes which are natural in 98 minutes, but we still managed to best twice a world-class goalie who had 9 saves, and allow only one shot on goal by the opponents, thus securing 3 points.

      We currently have 9 injured players so what we did today was encouraging. To look at this and call us a small team is really inappropriate. You have the right to your opinion, but we’re not a small team.

    4. Hey moron, Napoli just lost against Inter and they can’t even score a single goal compare to Milan who scored 3 goals against Inter and win. Tell me again Milan “played like a small team”.

      Now go cheer your Napoli or Inter and never coming back here 🖕🖕

  2. Vrancx looks to be a good signing, he’s confident on the ball, shows excellent strength and is good in defense too. Looks to be sharp, really hoped De Ketelaere would’ve scored with that excellent pass from Gabbia, looks so scared to take chances especially in one-on-one situations. We should’ve finished this game off way sooner but the 3 points are vital. ForzaMilan

    1. Vrancx is not rate highly back in Belgium but he does look good. I wonder why wolfsburg benched him. Looks very solid as a game-killer. Strong on the ball, motivated to win it back when he’s not on it.

      1. Exactly he reminds me a bit of Kessie when we signed him, a very raw talent, but less mistake prone, he seems very confident on the ball, and as you stated a good game killer

  3. Ziyech really wouldn’t be much of an upgrade to Saelemaekers. What a game from him. He can be so good if he keeps it simple, but he rarely does.
    CDK must feel shit. First decent game in months and then Ochoa has to make a point and not allow a third goal…

    1. True, Saelemaekers is great on the ball, his energy, ball control, dribbling and passing has really gone up a level this season, he needs to keep it simple at times though, sometimes he tries too much, if he puts it all together he can be unplayable for the opposition defense.

      1. Ask Ajax fans if they’d want him back. They’ll say the same thing everyone did before the world cup: overrated.
        Especially at that price tag.

        A 10% better player for 3x the salary? Very bad deal.

  4. Ochoa now putting the blockers on CDKs mental strength, wish that flew in the top corner. Another day another keeper lots of them saves made don’t get saved. 3 good points away now we wait

  5. Simultaneously played superbly yet somehow looked all at sea at the end! Should have been about 5 up by half time.

    Team looked very cohesive, lots of chances created, CDK I thought played one of his better games for Milan so far, Salamaekers back is a big gain and looks like his early season form may still be with him.

    Ochoa looks like an excellent free goalkeeper signing that Salernitana made……

  6. Why does the opponent’s gk turn into prime Buffon everytime they go against us? Just thankful for the win. A good way to build our mentality.

  7. Not a bad game at all ,and overall quite pleased .
    I do love Olivier Giroud and we are better when he plays ,but I feel he should have scored a goal today .
    Sure better things will come from him ..Rafeol leao ,
    and yes he must stay as he can open up any defence .
    We fought hard and created lots of chances ..
    The good news is we won ..We can win the scuddeto again this season ..Keep believing fans .
    Confident we will beat Roma ,and Olivier Giroud will deliver …Napoli could well lose later today against inter …..

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