A lot was expected from AC Milan in their first Europa League match at the San Siro this season. Gonzalo Higuain and Patrick Cutrone were healthy again and manager Gennaro Gattuso fielded a strong line-up. Olympiacos, however, would not be an easy task. The Greek powerhouse have won their league several times in the past and have had a few memorable runs in the UEFA Champions League in recent memory. With a tough match coming up versus Real Betis in the next round, Milan had to win today.
This season, Milan have had a tendency to start games hot then drop-off quickly. Against Sassuolo in Italy over the weekend, however, this wasn’t the case. Milan killed the game early and emerged as 4-1 victors. Many thought the squad had finally learned from their mistakes.
Patrick Cutrone and AC Milan’s Victory Over Olympiacos
Struggles in the First Half
A pinpoint pass from Ricardo Rodriguez early in the game saw Giacomo Bonaventura head the ball to the edge of the opposing goal, only for Samu Castillejo to tap it in the back of the net. Castillejo, however, was ruled offside. Bonaventura was fuming after this, as he was convinced his header was going in the goal. Milan could’ve had an early lead to build confidence, but avoidable mistakes continued to haunt them.
Not so long after, Miguel Ángel Guerrero found the back of Milan’s net. Due to a weak defensive effort from Cristian Zapata, Guerrero was able to beat Pepe Reina with a header. Olympiacos looked threatening and Milan’s lack of urgency in the midfield made Yaya Touré look similar to his prime Manchester City days. Milan actually found a few very solid chances before the first half closed. In what was not surprising though, the Rossoneri continued to struggle with finishing.
Second Half Turn-Around
Gattuso was frustrated with his team. He knew changes were needed and this is something he’s been criticised for in the past. Early on in the second-half, Hakan Calhanoglu and Patrick Cutrone were introduced. The pace of the game changed after this. Milan looked more likely to dominate and it was only a matter of time until they found the back of the net. In the 70th minute, Rodriguez once again provided a pinpoint pass in the air, which Cutrone slotted into the back of the net with a powerful header.
This goal completely reinvigorated Milan. Confidence was back, and it was clear that they once again believed they were the superior team. Only six minutes after, Calhanoglu found an open Higuain, who slotted in another goal that ultimately gave Milan the win.
Although Milan were in the lead, they refused to sit back. That has been their issue for the majority of the season and they could not risk an Olympiacos equalizer. Three minutes after Higuain’s goal, Cutrone secured a brace. Calhanoglu was on the right wing past Suso and provided a brilliant pass across goal. Cutrone, thanks to his impressive positioning ability, was able to finish in front of an open net.
The Last Word
Milan’s victory kept them at the top of the table in their Europa League group. Real Betis are second with four points and are Milan’s next opponents in the competition. Besides that, this victory was important for Milan’s morale. Going down early, they need to know they have the capability to come back and win. Chievo awaits the Rossoneri at the San Siro this weekend. After that, it’s the always intense Derby Della Madonnina versus Inter. With a combined score of 7-2 in their last two games, it’s time for Milan to show everyone what they’re really made of.