Milan Get Back to Winning Ways as Kessié and Rebic Sink Roma

Milan came back to winning ways on Sunday night as they came out on top of a tricky away game at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. Jordan Veretout equalized for Roma after Franck Kessié opened the scoring from the penalty spot, but Ante Rebic scored the second for the Rossoneri, frustrating Roma’s hopes of reaching the third spot in the Serie A table.

With this win, Milan managed to maintain a four-point gap versus table-leader Inter but, moreover, got the boost of confidence they needed after a few troubled weeks. Stefano Pioli’s men appeared focused and hungry for points against an opponents whose form was among the best in Serie A recently.

Paulo Fonseca had to face quite an emergency in defense and once again had to use Bryan Cristante as a center back, placing him between Gianluca Mancini and Federico Fazio in a three-man defensive line. With Ediz Dzeko unavailable due to injury, the command of the offensive operations was given to Borja Mayoral, supported by Lorenzo Pellegrini and Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

Among the Rossoneri lines, the news of the day was Stefano Pioli dropping captain Alessio Romagnoli to the bench, giving way to Fikayo Tomori. Pioli placed him to guard Roma’s Borja Mayoral and the former Chelsea man didn’t go easy at all on him, repaying the trust with an impressive performance.

Sandro Tonali took his place next to Franck Kessié in midfield to make up for Ismail Bennacer’s absence. Ante Rebic was chosen in place of Rafael Leao to support Zlatan Ibrahimovic from the back, along with Hakan Calhanoglu and Alexis Saelemaekers.

Milan’s start was furious to say the least. The Rossoneri collected one chance after another, pushed forward by a Zlatan Ibrahimovic who seemed in a good mood.

Ibra’s first shot, right after the get-go, was tipped over by Pau Lopez. From the subsequent corner kick, Milan put the ball into the back of the net but an offside position frustrated their effort.

Roma were caught by surprise by the Diavolo‘s relentless assault and were forced into mistakes. Pau Lopez’s control on a risk back pass was so-and-so and Ibrahimovic was fast to take advantage of it. However, he went a bit too far in trying to find the target with a back heel shot and saw his effort finishing past the end line. 

On nine minutes, the assistant referee’s flag was up again, reporting Ibra’s offside position as he slotted the ball home from an Ante Rebic pass. It all started with Frank Kessié snatching the ball out of Gonzalo Villar’s feet and igniting the Rossoneri breakaway. 

Milan’s pressure continued and, on 16 minutes, Rebic went for a long-range conclusion that drew another save from Roma’s Spanish goalkeeper. The battle between the two would continue later on in the first half, with Pau Lopez again able to defuse the Croatian striker’s rocket.

From a Davide Calabria corner kick, it was then Simon Kjaer’s turn to give a go at the Giallorossi‘s goal. The Dane rose above his marker and headed the ball towards Roma’s goal, only to see his effort pushed back by the crossbar. Gianluca Mancini did the same for the home side and did manage to find the back of the net, but trampled Theo Hernandez in the process and saw his effort disallowed.

Roma started to grow towards the end of the first half. On 37 minutes, Rick Karsdorp sent the ball in for Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who surprised Milan’s defense but couldn’t find the target past Gianluigi Donnarumma.

It was just a short illusion for Roma as soon enough the Rossoneri brought themselves ahead – though only from the penalty spot. Federico Fazio knocked down Davide Calabria in the box and Referee Marco Guida had to check the VAR before pointing at the spot. Franck Kessié stepped up to the task as usual and his execution was once again perfect.

Milan restarted with Brahim Diaz in place of Hakan Calhanoglu. Theo Hernandez should have made it two for the Rossoneri right after the restart but his left-foot effort ended just a few inches too wide.

Instead, it was Jordan Veretout to draw level for Roma with a beautiful right-foot curl from a Leonardo Spinazzola service that left no chance to Donnarumma. It was goal number 10 this season for the French midfielder.

Things seemed to be taking a bad turn for the visitors as Ibrahimovic run out of fuel in the tank and gave way to Rafael Leao. The Portuguese was quick to show some of his magic: His double shuffle on 68 minutes was worth the ticket price – if only there was one – but his shot was central and gave Pau Lopez no reason for concern. 

Ante Rebic did much better and was fast to turn the tables again with a brilliant finish from an Alexis Saelemaekers service. The Croatian spun on himself to get rid of Gianluca Mancini and beat Pau Lopez with a sharp shot that found the bottom left corner of the goal.

Rebic soon picked up a hamstring injury, forcing Pioli to replace him with Rade Krunic. Paulo Fonseca also started to make some changes, adding to his offensive options with Stephan El Shaarawy in place of Gonzalo Villar.

The next chance was for Roma as Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s curl on 72 minutes ended just inches away from the post. Milan reacted with Fikayo Tomori – who came up with a point-blank range deflection from a Theo Hernandez cross that only resulted in drawing another brilliant stop from Pau Lopez.

The final stages of the game became more fragmented as tension and nervousness arose. Pioli understood that it was better to defend their lead, while Roma took control of the operations – though Donnarumma was never really in trouble again despite the mounting pressure.

It was a good show at the Stadio Olimpico but the three points on offer were taken by the recovering  Rossoneri side – whose next test is against Udinese at the San Siro on Wednesday. Roma, on the other hand, will need to brush their disappointment aside soon as they prepare to pay a visit to Fiorentina.



February 28, 2021 – Serie A 2020-2021 Round 24

SCORERS: 43′ Kessié (M, pen.), 49′ Veretout (R), 58′ Rebic (M)

ROMA (3-4-2-1): Pau Lopez; Mancini, Cristante, Fazio (62′ Bruno Peres); Karsdorp, Villar (70′ El Shaarawy), Veretout (79′ Diawara), Spinazzola; Pellegrini, Mkhitaryan; Borja Mayoral (79′ Pedro) (Mirante, Fuzato, Juan Jesus, Kumbulla, Pastore, Carles Perez) Coach: Fonseca
MILAN (4-2-3-1): G. Donnarumma; Calabria, Kjaer, Romagnoli, Hernandez; Tonali (83′ Meité), Kessié; Saelemaekers (83′ Castillejo), Calhanoglu (46′ Brahim Diaz), Rebic (67′ Krunic); Ibrahimovic (56′ Rafael Leao) (Tatarusanu, A. Donnarumma, Diogo Dalot, Gabbia, Kalulu, Romagnoli, Hauge) Coach: Pioli

REFEREE: Mr. Guida from Pompei
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Fazio, Mkhitaryan, Pellegrini (R), Saelemaekers, Calabria, Castillejo (M); Extra Time: 1st Half 2′, 2nd Half 4′