Stefano Pioli started the same team in consecutive games and his faith was rewarded, as Milan picked up two straight wins for only the fourth time this campaign. With Zlatan Ibrahimovic seemingly heading for the exit, Ante Rebic’s central role is future-proofing the team. Will the Swede even get back into the side after they have found this kind of momentum?
Perhaps the Rossoneri have just replaced one key figure with another, as Rebic has scored almost half of all their goals in 2020. Simon Kjaer is another man on loan who is becoming essential, as he was made to play with a sprained ankle and still made a series of crucial blocks in defence. What are they waiting for before purchasing him from Sevilla?
In the red hot summer conditions with temperatures well over 30 degrees, Milan and Roma sparred with each other like heavyweight boxers who fully well knew this was going to go all 12 rounds. It was the visitors though that tried to land the early punches with Justin Kluivert and Henrik Mkhitaryan, then Edin Dzeko missed a sitter by turning a free header over the bar. It was very unlike the Bosnian, whose heroics midweek rescued his team from defeat to Sampdoria.
The front four for the Rossoneri of Hakan Calhanoglu, Giacomo Bonaventura, Samu Castillejo and Ante Rebic who were so energetic with their movement, passing and switches of play in their comfortable 4-1 victory over Lecce, took some time to get into gear. However, as the match wore on, their influence became more and more notable.
It was intelligent match management from Pioli, knowing Roma had only played once since the lockdown and their fitness levels would inevitably fade. They were on the ropes in the first half, but fully prepared to accept those punches, ready for a final flurry once the Giallorossi ran out of steam.
Pioli brought on Lucas Paqueta and Alexis Saelemaekers for the tiring Castillejo and Bonaventura and it worked a treat. Both players have found it difficult to impact the team, but it was their combination that broke the deadlock.
The goal had been coming, as il Diavolo had been using a series of jabs, until getting in a real significant punch. Pace again proved essential for the second goal, as a tired Chris Smalling caught the indefatigable Theo Hernandez for a penalty, converted by Calhanoglu to seal the victory late on. Pioli’s game plan had worked perfectly.
As for Roma, the lack of any kind of understudy to Dzeko was painfully evident, as when the Bosnian trudged off the San Siro pitch, he was replaced by Nikola Kalinic. Nobody knows more than Milan fans just how little he can contribute to a team, but Paulo Fonseca has nobody else to call on. The coach can insist until he’s blue in the face that the Giallorossi aren’t dependent on Dzeko, but that won’t change the facts. While Rebic has scored almost half of all Milan’s goals in 2020, he did so playing in two different roles. Roma have Plan A: Dzeko and that’s it.
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