Francesco Vicari Late Own Goal Saves Milan Against SPAL

A draw that is of no use to either team. SPAL and Milan ended on a 2-2 score their Wednesday night battle at the Paolo Mazza Stadium in Ferrara, courtesy of a shocking own goal by Biancazzurri defender Francesco Vicari which helped the Rossoneri grab at least one point after going down 0-2.

SPAL needed a full score to keep their safety hopes alive and the Milan test – with the Rossoneri coming from a two-game winning streak – surely didn’t look like the easiest one. Still, Luigi Di Biagio’s Ferraresi came up with a fiery performance and gained a surprising double lead in the first half already, embellished by a true gem of a goal by Sergio Floccari.

SPAL managed to hold on despite playing with one man less for one hour after Marco D’Alessandro was sent off but saw their lead halved when Rafael Leao found the right spot in the 78th minute. Then came Vicari’s incredible own goal during stoppage time which deprived Di Biagio of a hard-earned win. SPAL gained one point versus direct relegation contenders Lecce and Genoa – who both lost their Round 29 games – but the narrowly missed win will likely hit on their morale.

Milan, on the other hand, took quite a step back compared to their winning games against Lecce and Roma. The Rossoneri appeared confused and disorganized, lacking precision and effectiveness when it came to shooting. Snatching the equalizer at the last minute was a prize won thanks to their determination as the Rossoneri did attack for the full second half in view of their one-man advantage. However, Milan were supposed to one bite of the relegation-battling Ferraresi.

Good news for Stefano Pioli were the encouraging performances of Hakan Calhanoglu – the best Rossoneri man since the post-COVID restart – and Lucas Paquetá, as well as of newly-acquired Alex Saelemaekers. Despite lacking accuracy, the Belgian produced a huge quantity of crosses from the right flank, including the final one that propitiated Vicari’s own goal.

Pioli made three changes versus his win against Roma, deploying Matteo Gabbia as a center back and Lucas Paquetá instead of Giacomo Bonaventura behind lone striker Ante Rebic. Davide Calabria was chosen as right-back instead of Andrea Conti. Zlatan Ibrahimovic reappeared on the bench after his injury. SPAL responded with a seasoned attacking pair featuring Andrea Petagna and Sergio Floccari.

In the 12th minute, from a corner kick, SPAL’s Mattia Valoti got all the time in the world to put the ball past Gianluigi Donnarumma, with four Milan defenders looking at him while standing motionless. Just a few minutes later, Samu Castillejo had to leave the pitch due to an injury and was replaced by Alex Saelemakers. Not a good start for the Rossoneri.

Mattia Valoti shots for SPAL's first goal in Wednesday night 2-2 tie against Milan in Serie A Round 29
Mattia Valoti shots for SPAL’s first goal in Wednesday night 2-2 tie against Milan in Serie A Round 29

Milan reacted with a magic trick by Lucas Paquetá which served Hakan Calhanoglu. The Turk’s curl shot forced SPAL goalkeeper Karlo Letica to a difficult save. Calhanoglu continued to be the more active on the Rossoneri side, together with Paquetá but the visitors lacked effectiveness despite putting much effort.  

In the 28th minute, SPAL doubled their lead as Sergio Floccari drew his trump card with a formidable lob shot from 30 meters. The Biancazzurri number 10 – 38 years old and still kicking – saw Donnarumma a few meters ahead of the goal line and pierced him with a deadly spiovente shot. Just brilliant!

Paquetá tried a reaction with Brazilian-style dribbling, but his shot was too central and easily pushed back by Letica. Milan were active and kept pushing, but their crosses were a disaster. Calanhoglu ultimately seemed to reduce the gap, fishing from a cross from the left by Ante Rebic but the Croatian was caught in offside by the VAR.

It was still the VAR, a few minutes later, to leave the Ferraresi with one man less as Marco D’Alessandro was sent off for a killer tackle on Theo Hernandez’s shinbone. But Milan couldn’t take advantage and, at half time, the score was still 2-0 for SPAL.

Pioli decided for some early changes: Rafael Leao replaced Davide Calabria and Alex Saelemarkers moved to a right-back position. Milan switched to a 4-3-1-2 lineup as the Portuguese took place next to Rebic, with Calhanoglu supporting them. Times also seemed mature to see Ibrahimovic back in action as the Swede began to warm up. Luigi Di Biagio also made two changes to cover himself up, sending in Mohamed Fares and Simone Missiroli in place of the two goalscorers.

In the 49th minute, another shot by Paquetá was well saved by SPAL’s Croatian goalkeeper. Milan continued to pressure and Saelesmakers’ dangerous header in the 56th minute was saved by Francesco Vicari on the goal line. Leao and Rebic struggled to find each other, while among the Biancazzurri lines Bryan Dabo did a great job in breaking Milan’s momentum.

Diego Laxalt eventually replaced Theo Hernandez – quite disappointing so far after the restart – and, moreover, Zlatan Ibrahimovic made his comeback on the pitch with 25 minutes to go. Di Biagio’s answer to that was a clever one – as he sent in gigantic defender Bartos Salamon to mark him and keep him at bay. Mission accomplished. Pioli’s last change was like a poker player who has nothing to lose and goes all in as he pulled off Ismael Bennacer to add Giacomo Bonaventura to the offensive mix. 

The pressure eventually bore fruit in the 79th minute, when Rafael Leao finally managed to hit the target from the center of the box, taking advantage of a failed clearance by Nenad Tomovic.

Then, the most unexpected conclusion, with Francesco Vicari incredibly deflecting into his own net a cross from the right by Alex Saelemakers when the clock was striking minute 94. A true blessing for Milan, and a major disappointment for SPAL which honestly deserved to take home the three points.


July 1, 2020 – Serie A 2019-2020 Round 29

SCORERS: 14′ Valoti (S), 30′ Floccari (S), 79′ Rafael Leao (M), 94′ Vicari (S, o.g.)

SPAL (4-4-2): Letica; Sala, Vicari, Bonifazi (68′ Salamon), Tomovic; D’Alessandro, Dabo (82′ Cionek), Valdifiori, Valoti (46′ Missiroli); Petagna, Floccari (46′ Fares, 75′ Strefezza) (Thiam, Meneghetti, Murgia, Castro, Cerri, Cuellàr, Tunjov) Coach: Di Biagio
MILAN (4-2-3-1): G. Donnarumma; Calabria (46′ Rafael Leao), Gabbia, Romagnoli, Hernandez (65′ Laxalt); Kessie, Bennacer (71′ Bonaventura); Castillejo (17′ Saelemaekers), Paquetà, Calhanoglu; Rebic (65′ Ibrahimovic) (Begovic, A. Donnarumma, Conti, Biglia, Kjaer, Krunic, Maldini) Coach: Pioli

REFEREE: Mr. Mariani from Aprilia
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Valdifiori, Dabo (S); Red Cards: D’Alessandro, Di Biagio (S); Extra Time: 1st Half 6′, 2nd Half 6′

Feature Photo: Chris Ricco/Getty Images