Oﬀ the back of Zlatan Ibrahimović’s late-game heroics securing the 2-1 victory over Udinese last Sunday, Milan’s eﬀort to extend their magical unbeaten run Thursday at home against came to a screeching halt in the UEFA Europa League as Lille throttled the Italians 0-3.
Stefano Pioli fielded a strong enough XI to certainly keep momentum atop Group H, once again using the opportunity to rotate without compromising on the goal of victory. Yet, it wasn’t entirely the selection which did the Rossoneri in. Simply put, this beating on behalf of the French side was somewhat inevitable to a degree, a culmination of what a condensed schedule, Covid-19 and the natural exhaustion of playing three matches in a span of a week can bring to any squad.
Theo Hernandez, who had risen to the top last season as a phenomenal attacking left-back, lacked a step and that energy to burn bursting forward we have grown accustomed to seeing.
For captain Alessio Romagnoli, his recent return from injury has highlighted a distinct lack of fitness, something which has led to the Italian international unable to establish strong defensive positions and avoid the detrimental mistakes leading to goals.
Since 2020 began, Franck Kessie has certainly come to realize the potential Milan invested heavily, growing into a key man in the double pivot armoring the defense with Ismaël Bennacer. Though he is arguably the club’s reliable midfield as far as availability and putting in a full 90 each matchday, the Ivorian experienced noticeable struggles throughout the match to keep pace with Renato Sanches and Xeka who early and often showed a desire to elevate the tempo.
As a collective though, it was quite clear that the current Serie A leaders ran out of gas. Regardless, all credit must be given to Christophe Galtier and Les Dogues.
Energetic, lively in possession to bring the game to the home side and completed unfazed by Milan and their scorching run, Lille are positioned second in Ligue 1 for a reason.
Intransition,JonathanBambawasoftenquicktobreakforwardandbeattheheartofLille’s counter-attacking play, with Yusuf Yazici becoming the prime beneficiary by bagging an impressivehat-trick-becomingthefirstplayerinhistoryofmajorUEFAEuropeancompetition to score two away in a singlecampaign.
Lille rightfully earned the win in the “Elliott Derby,” as some are labeling it, but now this is a moment for reflection for Milan.
Prior to the defeat, Pioli’s side had not experienced defeat in 242 days, their last being the loss to Genoa prior to stoppage of the previous campaign. The importance of meeting the domestic objective of finishing top four exceeds what Milan set out to accomplish in European play, so obviously it is not all doom and gloom for the league leaders.
The response given on the weekend against a well-coached, structured and defensively- organized Verona will be vital to test the character, mentality and resolve of this Milan when humbled in defeat. From there, the international break can allow for a reset and recharging of the batteries before a pivotal fixture against Napoli - another measure of the strength of the red and black in the chase for a return to Europe’s mainstage.