AC Milan’s first game of the season against Napoli ended in major disappointment. The Rossoneri looked reborn in the first 50 minutes, going 2-0 up away at Naples. Sloppy defensive play and missed chances, however, saw Milan fall 3-2 at the final whistle. After another pre-season of turnover, it looked as if things might not have changed.
AC Milan’s Clutch Victory Over AS Roma
The Season’s First Home Game
Less than a week later, the mighty AS Roma paid a visit to the San Siro. The Giallorossi made the Champions League semi-finals last season and had a strong transfer window, bringing in the likes of Justin Kluivert, Steven N’Zonzi and Javier Pastore. It’s safe to say Milan had a difficult start to their new season.
The team’s new board, including Paolo Maldini, all attended the game in the stands. In addition, the legendary Kaká was invited amidst rumours about his new position at the club. Milan’s DNA was flowing throughout the San Siro, and the squad knew there was no room for disappointment.
An Impressive Opening Half
Milan’s first half was brilliant. Manager Gennaro Gattuso remained firm with his policy of starting attacks from the back, something that looked sloppy against Napoli. Gianluigi Donnarumma and his four defenders played this perfectly, and it ultimately cumulated into a goal to end the half. In a sequence where nearly every player managed a touch, left back Ricardo Rodriguez slipped in a perfect, low cross that was to be finished by midfielder Franck Kessie.
— Milan Eye (@MilanEye) August 31, 2018
The Second Half
The game changed in the second half when Roma introduced Stephan El Shaarawy. Milan should’ve been wary of this, as it was only a few years ago where ‘Il Faraone’ looked like the future of the Rossoneri. His presence opened up the midfield and his pace on the wing put Milan’s fullbacks to work. Not soon after, Federico Fazio levelled the game after a poor clearance from Davide Calabria.
There was only one thought in Milan fans’ heads after that goal. They thought they might have bottled the match and blown another lead. Instead, two minutes later, Gonzalo Higuain broke through Roma’s line to finish a brilliant goal. Unfortunately for Milan, shortly after, VAR ruled the goal was offside. Although the goal did not stand, it showed the team’s newfound resilience.
Commitment to Victory
Milan remained persistent in attack. It was clear that they wanted nothing less than a win. Roma did not sit back either, and that resulted in what seemed like a goal from N’Zonzi off a corner. After the strike, Milan players called for a handball, and VAR proved them right. The goal was disallowed and the game was back on.
Criticised for his substitutions versus Napoli, Gattuso made the right choices versus Roma. The first substitution saw Diego Laxalt take Rodriguez’s place on the left flank. Rodriguez had himself a good night, but it was clear that he was tired. Laxalt, with his tenacity and never-say-die attitude, was a logical choice to come in. Hakan Calhanoglu also made way for Samu Castillejo. Calhanoglu was solid, but failed to capitalize on his chances throughout the match. Castillejo brought in much-needed speed and a commitment to track back defensively. The last substitution proved to be the most important. Striker Patrick Cutrone was brought in for midfielder Giacomo Bonaventura, showing Milan’s commitment to victory.
Five minutes were added on after regular time. Roma completely controlled the first three, and it looked like the game was heading for a draw. In an amazing play in the dying seconds, Higuain found a wide open Cutrone who slotted in the winner. N’Zonzi was pressured by Kessie in his own half, which led to a Calabria interception. Instead of running to the right wing to whip in a cross, Calabria went for Higuain in the middle of the opposing final third. Higuain was patient on the ball, and instead of curling it with his left foot, he placed an outstanding pass to Cutrone. The Italian striker’s finish was sublime, and there was no way Roma goalkeeper Robin Olsen was going to stop it.
— Milan Eye (@MilanEye) August 31, 2018
Reactions to the Victory
Milan earned their victory and they knew it. Cutrone saluted the fans, and the team erupted into celebrations and hugs at the final whistle.
— Team Milan AC (@TeamMilanAC) August 31, 2018
Kaká even made his way to the field and was saluted by all the fans.
— Kaka (@KAKA) August 31, 2018
Man of the Match
Although Cutrone will deservedly receive the plaudits for his goal, the Man of the Match goes to Lucas Biglia. Biglia was a target for criticism after the collapse in Naples, but showed his importance today. He completed an amazing 98% of his passes and recorded five interceptions and three clearances. The Argentine proved his importance to the team.
The Last Word
This was a much needed victory for Milan. The Rossoneri are dreaming of the Champions League and had to recover from last week’s loss. Milan has struggled versus the top teams over the last few seasons, but Gattuso’s squad are on the rise.