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Friday September 21 2018
Complacency is Europa enemy

Milan and Lazio both scuttled away from their Europa League openers with three points, but Matthew Santangelo warns they must bring more to the table.

If anyone thought Lazio and Milan had learned the lessons of last season’s Europa League complacency, then they were wrong. The opening round of the group phase brought full points and empty feelings after again doing the bare minimum. This simply won’t do.

It was Lazio who got things started on home ground at the Stadio Olimpico versus Apollon Limassol, with Coach Simone Inzaghi fielding a mixed XI including the likes of Luis Alberto and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, while resting star striker Ciro Immobile in favour of Felipe Caicedo.

So far, so good, but once again the Aquile risked throwing it all away with poor finishing and even worse defending. Bastos confirmed why he has been snubbed in favour of Wallace lately, while Senad Lulic’s failure to score in front of an open goal from a couple of yards reserves him a spot in viral hell.

Apollon Limassol deserve credit for not giving in and already caused a few upsets last season against Atalanta, Everton and Olympique Lyonnais. We can only hope this near miss will knock Lazio out of their complacency, but if last season’s Europa League exit didn’t do it, then this certainly won’t.

Milan at least had more reason to feel complacent going to Luxembourg against a Dudelange side with several semi-professional players. Even then, it was only decided by a Gonzalo Higuain strike and there were a few scares at the back.

Gennaro Gattuso took the opportunity to experiment a bit, giving debuts to some new faces and reminding us all that others still existed. Focusing on the midfield three, it was Jose Mauri who stood out the most amongst both TiemoueBakayoko and Andrea Bertolacci in his 80 minutes of action. Although a bit surprised with how Dudelange started, the former Parma standout turned in a lively shift. Active, energetic and showing a bit of bite, Mauri did enough to support his claim for more minutes in league play. As for Bakayoko, he gradually gathered himself by growing more confident on the ball with each connected pass, and working well to support further up.

Bakayoko’s adaptation to Calcio will only be made simpler by playing and building confidence. By no means is the Chelsea flop a ‘regista’, nor does his skill-set point in that direction, but it is clear Gattuso is willing to give him minutes to prove himself. The French international’s first touch still leaves much to be desired, and his ball-playing ability remains suspect, but pitch time to adapt is his best friend at the moment.

Collectively, Milan had no issues advancing play into the final third and controlling the possession game, but struggled to break down their opponent consistently. Surely you can point to Hakan Calhanoglu and Suso resting, an entirely different midfield three, and keeper Joe Frising keeping the game within arms reach.

Gattuso most definitely hoped the attackers and midfield personnel would have been able to conjure up enough chances to blow the cover off this one. Nonetheless, he will take the win home and let it serve as a lesson to motivate his men to come out with more next time around.

On paper, the Rossoneri and Biancocelesti began their respective Europa League campaigns against two inferior opponents they were heavily favored to topple. But as we all have come to know of this tournament, no club should be taken lightly on any given matchday. Just ask Olympique Marseille, who lost at home to 10-man Eintracht Frankfurt in Lazio’s group, or Anderlecht falling at Spartak Trnava.

Have your say...
I must say Gattuso is doing a good job so far with AC Milan. Yes, there are plenty to do for improvements, but it would be nice to see Milan trust in him more and have patience with a die hard attitude coach such as Gattuso. I believe he will be one great coach in years to come. Hope also to see him one day be the man in charge for Azzurri. Gattuso is more patriotic than Ancelloti, Allegri & Spalleti. Gattuso i love you & miss your days so much.
on the 23rd September, 2018 at 8:14am
I think anyone can see if milan players don't put in the effort that their quality will not be enough to win or draw a game. For me i saw a depressed bertolacci a fired up mauri a ineffective borini and a team unable to create opportunities for their strike force. Dudelange for their credit pressed for 90 minutes defensively were solid and showed real desire they just didn't have the quality to finish off their chances on goal.
on the 21st September, 2018 at 9:35pm
Bakayoko, Bertolacci, and Borini have no business on this team.
Locatelli was a solid back-up to Biglia... WHY MILAN WHY????
Mauri's performance at least suggested he could fill in for a starter, which good considering our bench is woeful.
Fans have been crying out for so long 'address the midfield and the wings' and it just never happens.
Though, Castillejo may turn out better than I initially thought.
on the 21st September, 2018 at 6:02pm
The only good thing that came out of the match was to get a sense for what the benchwarmers had to offer and whether we have the depth to carry on competing on all fronts. Clearly not. I can't fathom why Bertolacci and Mauri would simply miss an opportunity to raise their hands. Our midfield is void of any creativity and it will come back to haunt us. You can see the frustration on Higuain's face with the lack of supply...simply not good going forward.
on the 21st September, 2018 at 1:40pm
Both got away with it this week because they were playing the weakest teams in their groups.

But both were drawn in the two toughest groups, so from now on they'll have to be playing stronger teams than they put out yesterday.

It's nearly 2 decades since Serie A had a team in the final of the EL, let alone win it. That record is a disgrace.

Milan, Lazio and (probably) Napoli could all go far in this competition if they take it seriously and quit playing the reserves like last night.
on the 21st September, 2018 at 1:19pm
What complacency? Milan and Lazio just doesn't have as many good bench options as Juventus or epl clubs for example so they and did fine. Their reserves just aren't that good to make a big scoreline like Juve's squad who can fight for Seria A even with a bench XI. Too much expetations, they did their job and earned their wins and won coefficents.
on the 21st September, 2018 at 11:28am
It’s not complacency. It’s a total lack of direction. Are Mauri and Bertolacci Milan quality or not? The last few seasons they weren’t and even struggled at smaller clubs, and this season they are. That’s right, all that transfer activity and we’ve ended up with players who couldn’t make last season’s squad. Wow. So these are an improvement on Locatelli, are they? Is Bakayoko the player we saw at Monaco or Chelsea? Why would we sign a player who struggled last season? Lots of why’s.
on the 21st September, 2018 at 10:54am
I think Gattuso made the right choice in resting starters players and giving chances to others.After the strange sale of Locatelli,we needed to see if Mauri could cover for Biglia.He did really well for a first game.I think not scoring in the first half yesterday is what really put us under pressure.Unfortunately,most of our chances fell to Borini.I don't know why but I feel he would be more effective of the right wing.Anyways,on to Serie A.
on the 21st September, 2018 at 10:31am

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