Stefano Pioli's birthday coincided with his first match in charge of Milan, but two of his former players had a nasty surprise in store when scoring in Lecce’s 2-2 draw.
Unfortunately, the same issues reared their head again for the Rossoneri, as the night started off well, but then they collapsed under even the tiniest pressure, so this is where the players’ mentality has to be questioned.
To be fair, the home team started off like a freight train with Rafael Leao, who was given the starting role at the centre of the attacking trio ahead of Krzysztof Piatek, having a couple of very good chances early on. He was flanked by the much-maligned duo of Suso and Hakan Calhanoglu, and it was the latter that got the party started at San Siro.
The Turk collected a pass from Lucas Biglia (basically the only good thing the Argentine did on Sunday night), swivelled and hit a stunning strike into the upper part of the Lecce goal. His celebration hinted a man showing a sense of relief as much as joy in the goal. As dominant as the hosts were, they did not turn that superiority into a second goal and Lecce must have gained a measure of confidence as they headed to the interval just a single goal behind.
Fabio Liverani is no stranger to overcoming the odds, as he took over the Salento club just over two years ago, when they were struggling in Serie C and led them to consecutive promotions back up to the top flight. The former central midfielder employed a diamond shaped 4-3-1-2 formation, which interestingly is what the now former Milan manager Marco Giampaolo was well known for favouring.
He made a telling change at the start of the second half, as he brought on Diego Farias for fellow striker Filippo Falco, and it was the Brazilian's cross that earned the Southerners a penalty after Milan's right-back Andrea Conti’s outstretched arm caught the ball. Khouma Babacar's effort was brilliantly saved by Gigio Donnarumma, but the Senegalese striker who played under Pioli at Fiorentina followed up to bundle home the rebound, much to the disappointment of the home crowd.
It seemed like a night for vindication, so when Calhanoglu showed another wonderful piece of skill and initiative, it was to set up substitute Krzysztof Piatek for his first goal from open play this season.
Surely, with just 10 minutes to go the points were safe for the seven-time European champions, right?
That killer instinct that made the club win all those European Cups and a plethora of other trophies in its illustrious history has seemingly disappeared over the last decade or so. Into stoppage time and another one of Pioli's former charges, Marco Calderoni, drove his laces through the ball and gave the visitors a point. Two of his former players had ruined Pioli's debut match on his birthday.
Milan showed flashes of improvement, but too easily they petered out into the usual problems. As soon as the tempo and intensity drop, they become predictable in attack and resort to ball-watching in defence. There comes a time when the Coach can only do so much and the players simply have to step up.