Tuesday, April 23, 2024

AC Milan 2-0 Lazio: Talking points as Rossoneri book important points in top-four race

Veselin Trajkovic in Editorial, Serie A 7 May 2023

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The title race has long been over in the Serie A, with Napoli out of sight for the rest of the league for a long while before the official confirmation came earlier this week, but the fight for the remaining three spots warranting Champions League participation next season could hardly be any fiercer.

In a very important match in that respect, AC Milan booked a 2-0 victory over Lazio, courtesy of first-half strikes from Ismael Bennacer (17′) and Theo Hernandez (29′).

Leao injured early

Rafael Leao, Milan’s star winger reportedly monitored by a number of clubs across Europe, looked very lively early on, attacking from the left flank with recognizable speed and trickery, but the game ended for him after little more than 10 minutes. Following a typical burst into the box, he toppled over close to the byline and when he got up, his hand went to his groin. He limped off towards the dugout and received brief treatment, but it soon became clear that it was extremely unwise for him to continue and Alexis Saelemaekers took to the pitch in his place.

Milan have a number of high quality attacking players in their ranks and head coach Stefano Pioli certainly has options, but Leao’s quality is hard to replace and unless he returns quickly, they’ll sorely miss him on that left flank as they battle on to finish in the top four.

But the Rossoneri supporters will have been glad when the Portugal international himself stated it was nothing serious and that he is “fine”.

The game

The opening 15 minutes passed in relative balance, with both teams looking to grab control and steer the proceedings in desired direction, but then Milan started pushing harder.

Mere seconds after Olivier Giroud smashed a volley over the bar, Bennacer applied pressure on Marcos Antonio on the edge of the box and poked the ball towards the French striker. Giroud then simply laid it off for Bennacer again, and the midfielder kept his cool to hit it first-time, off the ground and out of the reach of Ivan Provedel in the Lazio goal.

Milan’s determination to hurt the visitors in that period was rewarded.

Lazio players soon became rather frustrated and unable to deal with their opponents in the middle of the park, and consequently, former Milan centre-back Alessio Romagnoli and right-back Adam Marusic both picked up yellow cards for excessive force on their opponents to prevent the home side from applying quick transition.

And it soon became clear why they had to do what they did, as Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan caught a cross and sent Hernandez running down the left. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, not fast enough to stop the Milan left-back, chose not to bring him down, and Hernandez went into the middle, charged towards the box and having ran with the ball at least 70 yards, he let one fly. The shot caught a slight deflection of Romagnoli and went over Provedel again, straight into the top corner.

There was very little to see apart from Milan’s determination to keep control for the rest of the half, and indeed the whole match. After the break, Lazio couldn’t get close enough to Milan’s goal to get a shot off until the 87th minute, when substitute Luca Pellegrini played a one-two with Luis Alberto and smashed the ball against the outside of the net from a tight angle.

Lazio boss Maurizio Sarri will be extremely unhappy with his team looking very pale in the second half, not at all like a team that needs to score not one, but two goals to avoid defeat.

Table rankings

The three points Milan booked with this victory had them briefly back in the top four, but their city rivals Inter also won an important match, another big battle in the race, 0-2 away to Roma, pushing Milan back to fifth. There was a third direct top-four clash, in which Juventus emerged victorious away to Atalanta and took advantage of Lazio’s defeat to move into second place with 66 points. Lazio are now third with 64, Inter fourth with 63, followed by Milan with 61, and Atalanta and Roma with 58 apiece.

With four rounds to go, no team (except Napoli of course) can relax just yet.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Veselin Trajkovic


Vesko is a football writer that likes to observe the game for what it is, focusing on teams, players and their roles, formations, tactics, rather than stats. He follows the English Premier League closely, Liverpool FC in particular. His articles have been published on seven different football blogs.

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