This performance provided everything Milan had been lacking thus far. The team that crumbled at the first hurdle overcame an immediate equaliser to secure victory. The side that couldn’t beat any of the top six inflicted only the fourth defeat of the season on high-flying Lazio. The Diavolo who felt cursed by bad luck benefited from a handball goal and the crossbar.
Gennaro Gattuso complained afterwards that everything is treated as “the turning point” for his side. It’s difficult to resist that narrative when they notched up three consecutive Serie A wins for the first time in almost a year.
Following a well-documented summer of spending, and a glimpse at the key clashes throughout the year, tonight’s contest would have quite rightly been earmarked as a European six-pointer for Milan management and investors. Instead, the reward for their hard-fought win was climbing from 10th to seventh in the table and this is where the Rossoneri find themselves.
While Gattuso’s men deserve praise for stopping the division’s top scorers, the season has been an immense disappointment and it would come as no surprise to the avid calcio observer if the Milan giants were to undo all their hard work and effort to lose the next match against Udinese.
The Rossoneri have been here before, beating SPAL, to then lose to Sampdoria, Roma and Inter in succession, and this lack of consistency put paid to any Champions League hopes before the turn of the year.
Despite this, there is a chance to end the campaign on a high and not many sides can claim they have stopped Simone Inzaghi’s thrillingly brilliant group of young guns and experienced heads.
Lazio had notched 13 goals in their three previous matches and the expectation was they would continue this stellar form, even if top scorer Ciro Immobile was on the sidelines.
Inzaghi has goals aplenty in his squad, Luis Nani and Felipe Anderson both struck in midweek, yet still couldn’t make the starting line-up. The capital club may have lost the encounter, but are going places and will have nothing to worry about in the race for a top four spot.
For the hosts, this the first time in nearly 11 months where they have recorded three consecutive wins domestically. Gattuso is the latest in a long line of Diavolo legends to be thrusted in to the hot seat and has fared well so far.
The World Cup winner has brought a steely determination and will not tolerate lapses in concentration. Defender Davide Calabria was outstanding against the Biancocelesti and didn’t put a foot wrong all game. The Italian is not the only player to benefit from Gattuso’s arrival. Franck Kessie has upped his performance levels, as well as output, and now resembles the star who made his name with Atalanta.
The same can be said for ex-Lazio skipper Lucas Biglia. The veteran shackled danger man Sergej Milinkovic-Savic for the best part on an hour and the Serbian grew visibly frustrated. Milinkovic-Savic, who has already surpassed last term’s personal haul and been one of the stars of the season, eventually got in to the match, but it was too late and this is testament to Gattuso’s game plan.
Starting striker Patrick Cutrone repaid his Coach’s faith with the opening goal. The Como native was at his effervescent best, reminiscent of Gattuso, and his attitude is contagious. Cutrone never stops and Milan need more characters like this going forward.
In the short-term, the fiery former midfielder has improved the Rossoneri, but we have been here before. Clarence Seedorf and predecessor Vincenzo Montella both got off to good starts, and The Little Airplane even ended the long spell without silverware, but neither man lasted a significant period of time.
For Gattuso, it’s still early days, but the Milan hero knows the club inside out and will relish the opportunity of bucking the trend and proving he deserves the job for the long term.