Milan Dispose of Benevento Despite One-Hour One-Man Handicap

You spell it Benevento, you read it nemesis for Milan who had caught only one point from their previous two encounters with the Streghe, somehow also managing to concede a goal to the opposition goalkeeper in the process in what had been Gennaro Gattuso’s debut day as the Rossoneri coach.

But Milan broke the curse tonight as they disposed of Benevento’s opposition with goals from Franck Kessié and Rafael Leao despite having to play for more than one hour with one man less in view of Sandro Tonali’s send off.

The Rossoneri thus answered to cross-town rivals Inter – who had put six past Crotone earlier in the day to temporarily gain the top spot in the table – and will heading into next Wednesday’s big match against Juventus still from the top of the league.

Benevento didn’t make a poor figure, though they should have probably gotten more out of their one-hour one-man advantage. Filippo Inzaghi has found a pretty solid setup for his Giallorossi and made only one change compared to his winning raid in Udine as Roberto Insigne replaced Riccardo Improta.

For Stefano Pioli, there were some good news in defense as Simon Kjaer retook his starting spot after healing from his injury. However, the coach couldn’t count on Theo Hernandez who was serving a one-match ban – another chance, thus, for Portuguese left-back Diogo Dalot to shine.

Three minutes into the game, a right-foot curl from Brahim Diaz sent a warning sign to the home side, ending its run slightly above the bar. The sign quickly turned into an opener for the Rossoneri as Ante Rebic took advantage of an Alessandro Tuia defensive mistake and forced the Campanian defender to push him down in the box.

From the penalty spot – which Milan have been visiting nine times this season so far – Franck Kessie’ made no mistake, collecting his fifth campaign goal and placing Pioli‘s band in the driving seat.

Benevento were alive and kicking, however: On 19 minutes, the younger of the Insigne brothers came up with a magnificent strike that beat Gianluigi Donnarumma but was pushed back by the post.

Then, Inzaghi’s side got a hand to keep the match alive as Sandro Tonali was rightly sent off for a nasty tackle on Artur Ionita in the 32nd minute. Pioli promptly sent in Rade Krunic to reinforce his maimed midfield line, not before Donnarumma had kept the Rossoneri afloat with a fine save from a Gianluca Caprari challenge.

There was an early change also for Inzaghi, who had to send in Improta as Gaetano Letizia suffered a hamstring injury, while Insigne continue to test Donnarumma from afar once again missing the target by just a few inches.

Filippo Inzaghi’s second change right after the break – with midfielder Perparim Hetemaj giving way the more offensive-minded Gabriele Moncini showed how the coach wanted to make the best out of his one-man advantage.

But Inzaghi couldn’t predict what was going to happen early into the second half with Milan unexpectedly doubling their lead thanks to a brilliant finish from Rafael Leao.

Ante Rebic served the Portuguese with a long-range cross leaping past Benevento’s defense but goalkeeper Lorenzo Montipò seemed to have enough time to anticipate Leao. Still, the goalie somehow lost his tempo, allowing Milan’s number 17 to reach the ball first and drive it into the untended goal with a spectacular lob.

The Streghe had a chance to put themselves back in contention after 60 minutes of play as they were also awarded a penalty when Gianluca Caprari was pulled over in the box by Rade Krunic, prompting referee Fabrizio Pasqua to point at the penalty spot for the second time. Too bad that the former Sampdoria man squandered the opportunity with an awful conversion that sent the ball wide off target despite Donnarumma diving to the wrong direction.

Caprari tried to redeem himself eight minutes later with a tricky shot that tested Donnarumma’s reflexes and found the Rossoneri goalkeeper equal to the task. It was Milan, on the other hand, to come closer to score again as Hakan Calhanoglu gave another sample of his shooting skills and was only denied by Montipò’s right post.

There was still time to see Andrea Conti making his first seasonal appearance with Milan as he replaced Davide Calabria on 80 minutes, along with Pierre Kalulu who substituted an exhausted Simon Kjaer. The former Atalanta sensation had a chance to evidence himself for a brilliant defensive clearance during stoppage time.

Inzaghi replaced most of his front line, sending in Marco Sau and 19-year-old Gianluca Di Serio – only to see the Rossoneri having another go at Benevento’s goal, with Kessié hitting the post once again from a Rafael Leao service.

Benevento’s final assault didn’t bear any fruit, leaving Stefano Pioli and his Rossoneri side to breathe a sigh of relief. In their astounding season, Milan have pulled it off once again.  



January 3, 2021 – Serie A 2020-21 Round 15

SCORERS: 15′ Kessié pen., 49′ Rafael Leao

BENEVENTO (4-3-2-1): Montipò; Letizia, Tuia (62′ Foulon), Glik, Barba; Hetemaj, Schiattarella, Ionita; Insigne (82′ Insigne), Caprari (81′ Di Serio); Lapadula (Manfredini, Lucatelli, Gori, Pastina, Del Pinto, Basit, Tello, Dabo) Coach: F. Inzaghi
MILAN (4-2-3-1): G. Donnarumma; Calabria (81′ Conti), Kjaer (81′ Kalulu), Romagnoli, Diogo Dalot; Tonali, Kessié; Brahim Diaz, Calhanoglu, Rebic (70′ Castillejo); Rafael Leao (A. Donnarumma, Tatarusanu, Duarte, Musacchio, Frigerio, Hauge, Colombo, Maldini) Coach: Pioli

REFEREE: Mr. Pasqua from Tivoli
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Schiattarella (B), Calhanoglu, Diogo Dalot, Rafael Leao (M); Red Card: Tonali; Extra Time: 1st Half 3′, 2nd Half 4′

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