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AC Milan

AC Milan 2-1 Fiorentina: Five things we learned

After a more than disappointing draw against Cremonese, AC Milan faced off against Fiorentina hoping for a winning end to a memorable 2022, and they got one in dramatic fashion.

The Rossoneri couldn’t have hoped for a better start as they scored after less than two minutes through Rafael Leao, but they then invited pressure and a deserved equaliser came for Fiorentina in the 28th minute through Antonin Barak’s deflected shot.

In the second half with Milan flagging it was a cross from substitute Aster Vranckx that caused carnage in Fiorentina’s box, ending with Terracciano jumping past the ball which hit Nikola Milenkovic’s knee and diverted into his own net to make it 2-1 and win the game for Milan. Here are five things we learned…

1. Weak flank targeted

After Malick Thiaw picked up his first start against Cremonese, Pioli decided to put faith into the youngster for a second consecutive game. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as good of a display this time around with the German looking shaky on the ball and he could’ve probably done a bit better to block Barak’s shot too.

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Following the goal he did have some good moments, but it overall it was a sub-par performance from the German, who of course needs time to fully adapt to the mechanisms.

Pierre Kalulu also wasn’t at his best and made a few errors including failing to clear the ball for Fiorentina’s goal which could have proven to be costly. He continued to be underwhelming after the goal and had to be saved by Fikayo Tomori on a couple of occasions.

2. Commanding performance

By contrast, Tomori was the deserved winner of the MOTM award in our post-game ratings. The Englishman made crucial interceptions including a tackle on Jonathan Ikone as he was about to pull the trigger and provided a brilliant goal-line clearance just before the winning goal up at the other end.

If there was a way to respond to Gareth Southgate’s decision to not include him in the English squad for the World Cup, that was it. A commanding performance at the back to help Milan close the year with a win.

3. Uncharacteristically poor

It felt odd to watch Ismael Bennacer and Sandro Tonali struggle to dominate the midfield, but it was just one of those nights. The Algerian in particular struggled a bit with his passing and didn’t find it easy to beat Fiorentina’s press, wasting a couple of chances through poor pass selection.

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Tonali also wasn’t at his sharpest as he didn’t produce much and as time moved along he seemed shy to carry the ball forward or try to provide that spark that he has done so often. The break could do them both good.

4. Duo provide dynamism

Pioli made four changes in the second half with Ante Rebic and Divock Origi bringing nothing to the table, but fortunately for the coach, Sergino Dest and Aster Vranckx were determined to help their side win the game.

The right-back was an instant improvement to Kalulu as his pace and dribbling allowed him to beat his man and go forward a lot, which eventually led to him finding Vranckx just before the winning goal. It’s quite obvious that Dest is comfortable on the attacking side of things but is having difficulties and the back, however he has the potential to be a valuable part of the squad going forward.

Vranckx also came off the bench with a lot of willingness, but the youngster was also very calm on the ball and did not rush forward with long passes or silly decisions. Eventually he provided the cross that led to the winner and had a really solid performance to back it up. It will be interesting to see more of him in the new year.

5. A repeat Achilles heel

New week, same problem. Milan’s attack has been more than disappointing in recent games as they fail to create clear chances, let alone be clinical in front of goal.

Leao picked up his goal early on, but was really inefficient afterwards and at times was painful to watch. There was lack of urgency in his game as he looked a tad selfish and uninterested, while he also made some bizarre decisions in the second half to hang onto the ball instead of giving it to a team-mate in an obviously better position.

Undoubtedly the Portuguese winger is very hard to stop when he’s on his game, but he’s struggled to impose himself recently and his attitude has been questionable, though he will now fly to the World Cup with a chance to demonstrate on the biggest stage of all.

As for the rest of his colleagues in attack, Olivier Giroud got the assist on the first goal and won quite a few duels, but he lacked the support of his team-mates so he isn’t the one to blame in this.

Rade Krunic and Brahim Diaz, however, are to blame as they were simply invisible for the most of the game with the Spaniard having a couple of nice twists and turns but when it came to finishing it off he failed to make it count.

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Rebic and Origi came off the bench in the second half and they too were woeful as the Belgian added nothing to Milan’s game. The Croatian on the other hand did cause some chaos leading up to the winning goal with his near post presence, but other than that he was wasteful and some of his crosses were just horrendous.

It will and should be a busy January for Milan’s management if they want to increase the chances of a Scudetto pursuit and a potentially better run in Europe, because the forward department currently looks stale.

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