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The good news for Milan and Gennaro Gattuso is that they will never have to face Benevento again. The spell cast by Roberto De Zerbi’s Witches over the Rossoneri in the first leg continued to have effect, as the Giallorossi earned a stunning 0-1 win in San Siro last night, thanks to a lone goal by Pietro Iemmello.
Benevento continued to fight against mathematics, and pushed relegation a few more hours away. They were all set to be certified as officially relegated last Wednesday already, yet they are still there to fight, gain points, and give their supporters a blast.
Serie A will genuinely miss this club, which made their first season ever in the Italian top tier an all but forgettable one. Benevento started with a negative record of 13 initial losses in a row, captured their first Serie A point ever right against Milan with a goal scored during extra time by their goalkeeper (!!!), signed 13 new players during the transfer market window, (including old Premier League glories Bacary Sagna and Sandro), found an unexpected bomber in 29-year-old Cheick Diabaté, took the luxury of scaring Juventus, and climaxed with a shocking win at La Scala del Calcio last night.
They will leave Serie A after earning the unexpected title of Milan’s nemesis, as the Rossoneri left four out of six available points to Benevento. When the time comes for Gennaro Gattuso to take stock of this season, those four points may end up costing much to President Yonghong Li’s club.
The arrival of Ringhio on the Rossoneri’s bench initially seemed to have revitalized Milan, after a staggering start under Vincenzo Montella’s tenure. But the thrilling results that earned Gattuso a contract renewal until 2021 seem far away already, his club now stuck in a non-winning streak that lasts since six games already.
With the main goal of reaching a Champions League spot for the next season virtually missed, Milan will have to stake all they have left on the upcoming Coppa Italia final, as well as on defending themselves from the assaults from Atalanta, Sampdoria, and Fiorentina to capture at least a Europa League ticket, and wrap up a season well below expectations anyway.
It took only 16 minutes last night for the Rossoneri to understand that luck was not on their side, when a back pass by Ricardo Rodriguez almost surprised Gianluigi Donnarumma, the goalie forced to run back, and clear the ball out of his goal line with a desperate slide.
It went much worse 15 minutes later, with Fabio Borini also sliding, but only to give Benevento’s Midfielder Nicolas Viola the chance to serve Mario Iemmello dancing on the offside line. The Streghe’s number 33 made the best out of the pass, putting the ball under Donnarumma’s legs to give his Giallorossi side an unexpected lead.
Milan answered with one of Giacomo Bonaventura’s trademark long range left foot shots, but when the ball hit Christian Puggioni’s left post and the Rossoneri went down 0-1 at the break, Gattuso realized that something needed to be changed. Ringhio gave up his experiment of lining up Milan with an unusual 4-4-2 module, and replaced Borini with Suso to rebuild his three-man attacking line.
In the 62nd minute, he pulled out André Silva, once again well below expectations, sending in Nikola Kalinic – whose impact on the match was also insignificant. The best scoring chance for Milan came from a shot by Frank Kessié, this time hitting Puggioni’s crossbar. Porta stregata (“Cursed Goal”), and it couldn’t have been different with Milan facing the club from the city historically known for being the cradle of witchcraft in Italy.
Roberto De Zerbi played the Diabaté card, pulling out match winner Iemmello and replacing him with the Malian striker, hoping to replicate a common pattern from these recent weeks: Diabaté starting from the bench, getting in, and scoring two goals (!). However, the impact of the 29-year-old forward this time was a different one, as he scored two yellow cards in 20 minutes, leaving his teammates with one man less to parry back the Rossoneri’s final assaults.
Patrick Cutrone called Christian Puggioni to a great save from his header, then center back Berat Djimsiti used his whole body to block’s Bonaventura’s tap in attempt, and the score didn’t move from 0-1, despite a six-minute extra time.
The Devils went to hell, the Witches will likely do the same in one week or so, when their relegation becomes official. But, gentlemen, what a dazzling season they had!
April 21, 2018 – Serie A 2017-18 Round 34
SCORER: Iemmello (B) 29′
|MILAN (4-4-2): G. Donnarumma; Calabria, Bonucci, Zapata, Rodriguez; Borini (49′ Suso), Kessie, Biglia (72′ Locatelli), Bonaventura; Cutrone, André Silva (61′ Kalinic) (A. Donnarumma, Storari, Abate, Antonelli, Gomez, Musacchio, Mauri, Montolivo) Coach: Gattuso|
|BENEVENTO (4-3-1-2): Puggioni; Sagna, Djmsiti, Tosca, Letizia; Cataldi, Sandro, Djuricic; Viola (76′ Parigini); Brignola (68′ Venuti), Iemmello (61′ Diabaté) (Brignoli, Sparandeo, Gyamfi, Billong, Rutjens, Del Pinto, Sanogo, Volpicelli, Coda) Coach: De Zerbi|
REFEREE: Mr. Mariani from Aprilia
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Locatelli, Kessié (M), Sagna (B); Red Card: Diabaté (B)