Milan Struggle But Overcome Bologna to Retain Serie A Top Spot

Milan will stay one more week at the top of the table as they beat Bologna 2-1 at the Renato Dall’Ara Stadium in Serie A Round 20. But troubles are not over for Stefano Pioli’s side, who were coming from two losses in a row, and had to struggle until the end to hold to their one goal advantage.

The Rossoneri dominated the game until the one-hour mark and scored twice from two penalties with Ante Rebic (who tapped the ball in from Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s failed conversion) and Franck Kessié. The gap could have even been wider if not for Lukasz Skorupski’s heroics in the first half.

But when Sinisa Mihajlovic reshaped his Bologna side by sending in Rodrigo Palacio and Andrea Poli, the Rossoblu found new forces and halved the deficit with a brilliant one-touch combination finalized by the former Milan man.

The Rossoneri wobbled until the end, kept afloat by a brilliant Gianluigi Donnarumma save (the goalie was also decisive in the first half), but managed to preserve their lead and collect three fundamental points on the way towards the Scudetto. But, what a sweat that was!

For Bologna, Sinisa Mihajlovic deployed for the first time newcomer Adama Soumaoro from Lille as center-back, while Nicola Sansone started on the left wing after returning from a long injury. Musa Barrow was once again the central striker, relegating Rodrigo Palacio on the bench for the third time in a row.

There was a new joiner in defense also for Milan, with Fikayo Tomori taking the place of injured Simon Kjaer. With both Hakan Calhanoglu and Brahim Diaz unavailable, Stefano Pioli placed Rafael Leao behind Zlatan Ibrahimovic, with Alexis Saelemaekers and Ante Rebic supporting from the sides.

After a pushy start from Bologna, Milan’s first chance came from Rafael Leao but the Portuguese didn’t quite seem to know what to do with the ball once he found it on his feet.

Theo Hernandez was quite more dangerous from a set piece, though one would wonder whether his intention was really to turn his free kick into a direct shooting attempt. Lukasz Skorupski struggled to save from his long-range lob but somehow managed to deflect the ball on the crossbar.

The first part of the game was a Milan monologue: Rafael Leao served Zlatan Ibrahimovic with a fine filtering pass, but the Swede was anticipated by Skorupski with perfect timing. On 22 minutes, the battle between the two continued as Skorupski came up with a brilliant double save on Ibrahimovic from point-blank range.

The deadlock was broken on 26 minutes as yet again Milan were awarded a penalty – the 13th of this Serie A campaign. Rafael Leao was held by Mitchell Dijsk in the box and that was enough for referee Daniele Doveri to point at the spot. Skoruspki bested Ibrahimovic again – mostly because Zlatan’s conversion was frankly poor – but Ante Rebic was ready for the tap in to draw Milan ahead.

Bologna woke up only in the last quarter of the first half but found a monumental Gianluigi Donnarumma on their way. The portierone‘s answer to a Nicolàs Dominguez’s shot was phenomenal.

Bologna came back to the pitch after the restart with a more offensive approach, but Adama Soumaoro’s naive handball in his own box put a damper on their hopes. Doveri could not but award a second penalty to the Rossoneri.

Franck Kessié proved to be a much better penalty-taker than Ibra (so much that one would wonder how come Zlatan continues to be first in the pecking order…) and was stone cold to bury the spot and double Pioli’s side lead.

But that’s when Milan made the mistake of believing the game was done and dusted and slowed down the match tempo. Too much. Sinisa Mihajlovic was still up for the fight and, on 79 minutes, threw Rodrigo Palacio and former Rossonero Andrea Poli in the mix.

His new joiners took only two minutes to put Bologna back in the game, as Palacio stole the ball to Theo Hernandez along the midfield line and ignited a beautiful one-touch combination that ended with Poli firing the ball past hapless Donnarumma.

The Milanisti‘s legs started to shake, and for a good reason. The last 10 minutes turned into a siege to Milan’s area. Donnarumma was once again decisive as he palmed away a Roberto Soriano diving header from close range, but also appeared hesitant when attempting to block a couple of crosses that could have costed his side a lot. He was the perfect image of a Rossoneri side who are discovering themselves more and more vulnerable.

In the end, Milan could breathe a deep sigh of relief. They are still top of the table, but their seemingly perfect machine is starting to show some cracks, despite Pioli progressively recovering all his regular starters (Ismael Bennacer made an appearance back on the pitch on 62 minutes, and Hakan Calhanoglu will also be available again soon).

Bologna’s situation, on the other hand, remain precarious. The Rossoblu are still six points clear of the drop zone, but have won only once in their last eleven games. Something needs to change at the Renato Dall’Ara. 



January 30, 2021 – Serie A 2020-21 Round 20

SCORERS: 26′ Rebic (M), 55′ Kessié (M, pen.), 81′ Poli (B)

BOLOGNA (4-2-3-1): Skorupski; Tomiyasu, Danilo, Soumaoro, Dijks (79′ Palacio); Schouten (79′ Poli), Dominguez (67′ Svanberg); Orsolini (67′ Skov Olsen), Soriano, Sansone (67′ Vignato); Barrow (Da Costa, Ravaglia, Hickey, Paz, Mbaye, Baldursson, De Silvestri) Coach: Mihajlovic
MILAN (4-2-3-1): G. Donnarumma; Calabria, Tomori, Romagnoli, Hernandez; Tonali (62′ Bennacer), Kessié; Saelemaekers, Rafael Leao (73′ Mandzukic), Rebic (62′ Krunic); Ibrahimovic (Tatarusanu, A. Donnarumma, Diogo Dalot, Castillejo, Hauge, Meité, Kalulu, Maldini) Coach: Pioli

REFEREE: Mr. Doveri from Rome
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Dijks, Soriano (B), Rebic (M); Extra Time: 1st Half 1′, 2nd Half 4′