The irony of spending 240 million Euro in the Summer market, only to realize that the best breakouts in your season are two players raised within your youth team. The essence of Milan’s rollercoaster season is all in the goals that Patrick Cutrone and Davide Calabria put into Roma’s net, to push the Rossoneri further in their chase to a European competition spot.
But if Milan seems to have stepped down from the rollercoaster, and is now confidently flying on autopilot, the next ride is all for the Giallorossi, as Eusebio Di Francesco’s side fell from the third to the fifth position of Serie A within one week – during which they also risked compromising their Champions League run with a 1-2 loss to Shakhtar.
Milan left the Stadio Olimpico in Rome in triumph, extending their non-losing streak to 12 games and answering Sampdoria’s call – as the Blucerchiati had won their game earlier in the afternoon to push themselves to 44 points in the standing.
Hakan Calhanoglu won the Turkish sensation duel with his fellow countryman Cengiz Under, the only noteworthy occasion for Roma’s number 17 being an early shot that forced Gianluigi Donnarumma to concede a corner kick.
Eusebio Di Francesco put the responsibility of his side’s offence on the shoulders of Patrick Schick, leaving Edin Dzeko on the bench. A new chance for the Czech forward to redeem himself from a so-far disappointing season, and indeed Schick was the most proactive in a soporific first half – which could have legitimately prompted supporters on the stands to ask for their tickets to be refunded…
A shot by the Czech in the 24th minute was deflected with instinct by Donnarumma, who was turning 19 right today. Then, Leonardo Bonucci stopped his offence into Milan’s box with an experience tackle a few minutes before the break.
Di Francesco’s second tactical move was placing Kostas Manolas to mark Patrick Cutrone: It worked well for 45 minutes, in which the Greek center back didn’t hesitate to recur to rough stuff to stop Milan’s young sprite. But Manolas’ mistake in occasion of the Rossoneri’s first goal was evident – with the defender failing to stop a cross by Suso, and leaving Cutrone free to hit the ball with a delicious heel shot. We were just two minutes into the second half.
Milan kept playing on enthusiasm, and in the 53rd minute, Frank Kessié produced a new shot, which Alisson deflected over his crossbar. Hakan Calhanoglu kept Roma’s Brazilian goalie alert with a couple more conclusions in the following minutes, then Alessio Romagnoli and Gianluigi Donnarumma had to cooperate to defuse a tricky situation in the visiting team’s box.
Di Francesco still saw the possibility to rebalance the match, and sent in a new striker – Edin Dzeko – de facto switching to a 4-2-4 module. Gennaro Gattuso’s answer was pulling out match-winner Cutrone, to leave the floor to Nikola Kalinic. A wise move, as the impact of the Croatian on the match was a most definitely meaningful one.
Kalinic quickly caught a pass by Calhanoglu to deliver a powerful right-foot shot, but Alisson is in excellent shape these days, and answered with a wonderful save.
Still, that was just the prelude to Milan stinging again, just one minute later, with Davide Calabria finalizing a perfect combination with the former Fiorentina forward. The movement of Milan’s 21-year-old home-grown defender – who wasn’t even supposed to play tonight – was a true striker one, with Calabria penetrating straight through the Giallorossi’s defense to put the ball past Alisson, doubling the lead for his side.
With Roma on their knee, the Diavoli went close to make it three in two more occasions, with Calhanoglu missing a tap in from a right-side cross by Suso, and then with substitute Fabio Borini – who missed a clamorous chance with the goal wide open in front of him.
But two goals were still enough for Gennaro Gattuso’s boys to maintain their sixth spot in the league – and move with confidence towards next Wednesday’s Coppa Italia Semi Final against Rome’s other club Lazio, as well as the upcoming Derby della Madonnina next weekend.
For Eusebio Di Francesco and his Lupi, on the other hand, new doubts arise about their mental fortitude. Next Saturday, they are expected to pay visit to capolista Napoli in San Paolo Stadium. That’s what you call bad timing.
February 25, 2018 – Serie A 2017-18 Round 26
SCORERS: 48′ Cutrone (M), 74′ Calabria (M)
|ROMA (4-2-3-1): Alisson; Bruno Peres, Manolas, Fazio, Kolarov; Pellegrini (80′ Gerson), Strootman; Under (73′ Defrel), Nainggolan (64′ Dzeko), Perotti; Schick (Lobont, Skorupski, Juan Jesus, Capradossi, De Rossi, Florenzi, J. Silva, El Shaarawy) Coach: Di Francesco|
|MILAN (4-3-3): G. Donnarumma; Calabria, Bonucci, Romagnoli, Rodriguez; Kessie, Biglia, Bonaventura (90′ Montolivo); Suso (82′ Borini), Cutrone (67′ Kalinic), Calhanoglu (A. Donnarumma, Guarnone, Gomez, Zapata, Abate, Musacchio, Mauri, Locatelli, André Silva) Coach: Gattuso|
REFEREE: Mr. Mazzoleni from Bergamo
NOTES: Attendance: 42537; Extra Time: 1st Half 1′, 2nd Half 4′