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Wednesday July 8 2020
Unbelievable Milan

It seemed hard to believe Milan would be the pivot of the Scudetto race, but after beating Lazio and Juventus, Vijay Rahaman welcomes the sleeping giant back to centre-stage.

Milan have gone from irrelevance to centre-stage in the Scudetto fight, as in the space of three days they beat both the top two and kept the title race alive. Perhaps even more importantly, they showed just what Stefano Pioli’s team are capable of, even in troubled times.

In three of their last four games, they have come up against Roma, Lazio and on Tuesday night the mighty Juventus, all teams that are much further up the standings than them. Even if two of those games were at San Siro, given the lack of the fans to cheer on their beloved club, whatever ‘home advantage’ would’ve affected proceedings were thrown out the window. Very few gave the sleeping giants a chance to garner any points facing the top two in the league, but they did better than that, they got maximum rewards. It leaves many scratching their heads as to how they needed a stoppage-time own goal versus SPAL to even get a point in Ferrara.

A major reason why the seven times European champions have come back to play with such intensity and drive during these hot summer months in Italy is down to the central midfield duo of Franck Kessie and Ismael Bennacer. The pair seemingly worked on their tactics while in lockdown, as they now move in unison. When one carries the ball forward, the other switches their movement and position on the field to provide an option. When they faced the Bianconeri attackers, they gave a double pivot of protection to the back four.

Ironically, both players have been linked to moves elsewhere during this period which is usually reserved for transfers, but of course play rages on. It seems both midfield generals have found a sense of calm during this time when rumours of a number of aspects of the club have been rife. They kept the away side at bay for the most part in the first half, with the only real threat when Juve had a neat interchange of play which saw former Milan player Gonzalo Higuain force Gigio Donnarumma into a comfortable enough save.

The eight-time defending champions struck twice in the space of a few minutes to at that point take command of this fixture they have dominated over their rivals for years now. Adrien Rabiot, who has almost been the forgotten man of Maurizio Sarri's outfit, rampaged through the home team's defence and unleashed an unstoppable left-footed effort, then Cristiano Ronaldo continued his phenomenal goal-scoring streak with his 21st in 17 games.

The first goal was pure quality, while the second was calamitous defending... No matter how the goals came, Juve were 2-0 up and usually that means it's game over for teams in Italy. Rossoneri fans must have been thinking, here we go again! Let's not forget they have not overcome their rivals from Turin in the league since a Manuel Locatelli screamer back in October 2016.

However, this is a Milan team that in coach Stefano Pioli's words have shown "incredible spirit." At least for now in what seems to be his final month managing the club, the Parma-born coach has improved the mentality of the squad, with them not willing to just lie down and be sacrificial lambs even when faced with the Juventus juggernaut.

On the hour mark, a strange set of events took place which allowed Milan to mount a comeback.

Theo Hernandez’s cross was deflected wide by in-form Ante Rebic, the Croatian was booked for handball, the referee was alerted by the VAR for a possible handball on Juventus captain Leonardo Bonucci. As the replays were being shown Pioli took off Alexis Saelemaekers and brought on Rafael Leao and soon after a penalty was given, which Zlatan Ibrahimovic promptly dispatched.

OK, so maybe just a consolation, right? I mean this is Juventus after all.

What was noticeable was that despite going two goals down, the home side did not panic, did not let their heads drop and most significantly, kept to their game plan that has served them well in recent matches, and it eventually paid off. A pair of quick-fire goals in under two minutes incredibly gave them the lead.

Old fashioned centre-forward play from Ibra to hold up the ball was finished off by Kessie. The Ivorian may not score many goals, but it seems to come at the most opportune time. The go-ahead goal came courtesy of the awareness of Leao to carry on the play after Rebic was fouled and he scored with a deflected effort.

It must be stated in all three goals a certain Hakan Calhanoglu was involved and the Turk's influence just continues to grow and grow on this team. He is finally starting to meet those expectations of wearing the legendary Number 10 shirt of the club.

While Milan’s substitutes provided such positive contributions, Maurizio Sarri took Alex Sandro off the bench and his awful back-pass promptly gifted a fourth goal.

Fans of both clubs and neutrals alike must have been pinching themselves. Did Juve relinquish a two-goal lead? Did Milan score four goals in under 30 minutes? Is Sarri under pressure yet again? Does Pioli deserve more respect? The answer to all those questions is yes, it really happened. Football, it’s a funny old game.

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Have your say...
Juve played 70 mins of pure world class football . I was already thinking Scudetto after the 2nd goal and that this team has come such a long way and is finally playing Sarri's brand of football.. the players were probably thinking the same, and that's right when Milan switched on and killed it! I still think Juve have made progress but next two games will be critical for Sarri to show that he can beat the big boys not just put 4 past Cagliari and Lecce.
on the 8th July, 2020 at 3:05pm
Juve played 70 mins of pure world class football . I was already thinking Scudetto after the 2nd goal and that this team has come such a long way and is finally playing Sarri's brand of football.. the players were probably thinking the same, and that's right when Milan switched on and killed it! I still think Juve have made progress but next two games will be critical for Sarri to show that he can beat the big boys not just put 4 past Cagliari and Lecce.
on the 8th July, 2020 at 3:04pm
It hasn't really done anything to keep the title race alive has it? Milan have taken 3 points from both Lazio and Juventus, so the same effect as if those games had never happened. Beating Juve and losing to Lazio would have brought the race back to life.
on the 8th July, 2020 at 3:04pm
First Lazio and now Juve. Well done Milan & Pioli, who must be doing something right. Milan have been broken for some time, so maybe, just maybe, Pioli is the mechanic to fix all their problems. Great to see Milan getting results. Serie A is stronger and better with more teams than just Juve competing.
on the 8th July, 2020 at 2:31pm
Pioli did a perfect job again. After the match with Lazio this team keep getting better and better. Its a shame he will be replaced by Rangnick. Pioli deserves his job!
on the 8th July, 2020 at 2:20pm
In particular, the change in the team's psychology during games, especially following setbacks, is a very positive step. The coach and most of the players may not carry illustrious names, but that scarcely matters if they gel and work well together. I suspect the best thing for the team now would be as much continuity as possible between now and the start of next season.
on the 8th July, 2020 at 2:18pm
Pioli and several of the players in this squad have been much maligned in recent times as being sub-par and insufficient for the task of clawing Milan back to any kind of prominence. However, while they continue to perform well and get results, I would like to see Pioli remain in position, along with any players that have been instrumental to the recent run of good form.
on the 8th July, 2020 at 2:15pm
It would be nice to think the once great Milan are making their way back from the depths of obscurity. It would be really nice but they are not.
Unfortunately Milan are now being treated the same as Lecce. Its sad but the teams in the top half of the league table are not motivated to play against them anymore. The magic and adrenaline that once fueled the big nights at the san siro is long gone.

Complacency is why Milan like Lecce will get big results from time to time.
on the 8th July, 2020 at 2:13pm
The upturn in form is certainly welcome, but it is far too soon to foster any optimism for Milan. For all the good work they are doing now, the club hierarchy are still very likely to undo any progress by switching coach and dismantling half of the squad before the next campaign. Which is very unfortunate, because what this team seems to need above all else is some stability – for the first time in almost a decade...
on the 8th July, 2020 at 2:12pm
Let's not pretend Milan was great or anything... They were just lucky they got a penalty and that Rugani was on the field. He completely lost his head like he always does. A few years ago we were up 3-0 against Inter in the coppa, and the exact same thing happened, also because of Rugani howlers. the guy just doesn't know how to defend.
on the 8th July, 2020 at 2:11pm
Juventino here. First off, show some respect - the author of this article deserves it as he does have some valid points. I do agree, however, that Sarri is not under pressure because his team lost to Milan. I can see clear improvements, the team is starting to understand his tactics. With new players incoming and old ones leaving, Juve is only getting started. The same goes for Milan: They did well to turn this game around, and they did so in style (and a bit of luck, too). Congratulations!
on the 8th July, 2020 at 1:33pm
Oh please that was an anomaly that shit won’t happen again. We lost the same way to Fiorentina in 2013/14 season then went on to wreck the league. Had Dybala and especially De Ligt played Milan lose that game. But anyway enjoy that win Juve got bigger fish to fry.
on the 8th July, 2020 at 1:30pm
Out of respect for this paper, and other readers, can we please dispense with the insults?
On topic: I also don't see how this result could reopen the title race. On the other hand, after many years of frustrating play, yesterday's Milan fluidity, desire and quality has been the best that I've seen in many, many years.
The youth and quality of the squad is finally starting to gel.
on the 8th July, 2020 at 1:13pm
Nedved should teach Sarri how to rotate players
on the 8th July, 2020 at 1:10pm
Nedved should teach Sarri how to rotate players
on the 8th July, 2020 at 1:08pm
Nedved should teach Sarri how to rotate players.
on the 8th July, 2020 at 1:06pm
Nedved should teach Sarri how to rotate players.
on the 8th July, 2020 at 1:06pm
What was noticeable was that despite going two goals down, the home side did not panic, did not let their heads drop and most significantly, kept to their game plan that has served them well in recent matches, and it eventually paid off
on the 8th July, 2020 at 12:53pm
Great game by Milan!! Juve suffered from the worst thing that can happen to them. Tell Juve that the 2nd place team lost and they can go +10, and they will be guaranteed to go to sleep in the next match.... which is exactly what they did!!! Also ship Rugani to Wolves / Everton asap!!
on the 8th July, 2020 at 12:44pm
Wait wait wait Vijay are you stupid ? Seriously. In fact yes you are stupid don’t bother. How in all seven hells is sarri under pressure? Hahahahah football Italia please hahahah please you all need to stop ppl wasting readers time With this damn nonsense. Sarri leads by 7 points you idiot!!!!!!!!!!!!!
on the 8th July, 2020 at 12:32pm
Hahahah bye bye Lazio. Thanks Milan and Lecce.!!! The league is over.
on the 8th July, 2020 at 12:18pm

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