Welcome to the “5 things” recap by theScore’s Anthony Lopopolo, which highlights AC Milan’s performances over the 2018-19 season. Here, a breakdown of Milan’s 1-1 draw with Lazio.
1. A point won, or two lost?
It’s a difficult match to analyze. Before kickoff, a lot of Milan supporters would have taken the point and run, but circumstances changed once Franck Kessie scored the go-ahead goal. Milan suddenly had an opportunity to claim three important points at the home of a Champions League rival, where wins of any kind are notoriously hard to come by. It was a chance Milan spoiled in the final minutes of second-half stoppage, and it could well make a difference in the race for one of the four prime European spots. There are positives to take from Milan’s performance, which, considering six starters were out injured, was impressive, but it’s a bittersweet result. And it’s yet more proof Milan can’t hold a lead. That’s now seven points lost from winning positions.
2. Gattuso’s questionable in-game management
Milan manager Gennaro Gattuso chose not to use a single substitute throughout the match, a curious, if not completely suicidal, tactic to use away from home and at the end of a match in which players were tiring and stuck out of position. At the very least, Gattuso could have used a sub or two in stoppage time to suck the urgency out of the match, let Lazio stew, and give his players a slight breather. It’s simple game management. He did a fantastic job preparing his players for a tough encounter, countering a team that presses high and makes life miserable, but his in-game decision-making let him down.
3. Zapata, Rodriguez hold the fort
Cristian Zapata and Ricardo Rodriguez nearly had a perfect night. They limited Lazio’s chances in front of goal, blocked shots, and played confidently out of the back. Zapata’s poor header led to Joaquin Correa’s equalizer, blemishing the Colombian’s otherwise positive outing. But it must be said: Zapata has played relatively well when called upon. He’s been fairly responsible with the ball, and threaded good passes. Rodriguez made some nice outlet passes of his own and switched play when necessary. He just looked comfortable. It helped that he didn’t try anything spectacular, making for a simple and effective performance.
4. Donnarumma’s confidence is growing
Gianluigi Donnarumma has faced a lot of criticism since becoming one of the highest earners in Serie A, but over the past few games, he’s recaptured the form that made him one of the most sought-after goalkeepers in world football. It seems Donnarumma plays his best when he reacts to shots from point-blank range and not when the ball is hanging in the air and forcing a decision. Donnarumma somehow managed to keep out Senad Lulic’s powerful effort and collected balls with ease. He’s also distributing the ball with more confidence and ease, knowing when to hoof it clear and when to pick out a pass. That’s encouraging.
5. Bakayoko continues to make progress
Tiemoue Bakayoko has undergone an extraordinary transformation – and earned a lot of respect along the way. From a liability in midfield to a reliable reference point, Bakayoko has emerged as one of Milan’s most important players in recent matches. He made a game-high five interceptions and wriggled out of dangerous scenarios. Although e overcommitted himself at times, the 24-year-old had the wherewithal and the awareness to quickly get back into position. Bakayoko also picked the right passes, completing 85 percent of his attempts against Lazio. What a little confidence can do.