Milan vs Venezia 2-0 – Pioli Second Half Changes Get the Job Done

Milan brushed aside Venezia in Serie A Round 5 with goals from Brahim Diaz and Theo Hernandez but the score doesn’t make full justice to the visitors, who held the Rossoneri to a nil-nil draw for almost one hour. Stefano Pioli won the game with his changes, as substitutes Alexis Saelemaekers and Hernandez were involved in both his side’s goals.

Paolo Zanetti’s Venezia came home empty-handed but did not disappoint. Their plan was obviously to let Milan play and try to contain them – which worked well at least for while, though one might have expected that the Rossoneri were going to open a breach into the Arancioneroverdi‘s defense sooner or later.

Milan were still in an emergency phase. On top of several injuries, Stefano Pioli’s turnover choices made room for Matteo Gabbia, Pierre Kalulu and Fodé Ballo-Touré’s seasonal debut from the start in a back-four defense. Sandro Tonali and Ismael Bennacer featured as double pivots, while Alessandro Florenzi played as a right winger behind lone striker Ante Rebic.

Paolo Zanetti also had his share of injuries to deal with. Niki Maenpaa played between the sticks in absence of starter Mirko Lezzerini. Former Rossonero Mattia Caldara was deployed in the middle of the defense, while the eternal (38-year-old!) Cristiano Molinaro played at left back. Zanetti’s three-man front line featured the trio that led Venezia to an expected promotion last season – Mattia Aramu, Francesco Forte and Dennis Johnsen.

The Lagunari‘s 4-3-3 turned into a 4-5-1 when defending as Venezia mostly left the initiative to Milan. The Rossoneri‘s ball possession peaked at 70% in the first half and yet it took a long time for Milan to make themselves dangerous.

The first chance came around the half-hour mark and it was the result of a thunderous progression from Kalulu. The Frenchman anticipated Johnsen in his defensive third and exchanged the ball with Rebic, before firing a shot that ended just a few inches wide. On 36 minutes, Kalulu crossed for Alessandro Florenzi but the former Roma man’s header sailed past the left post.

That was all Milan managed to do during the first 45 minutes as Zanetti’s containment plan seemed to be working. Venezia even came close to take the lead when Dor Peretz headed the ball from a corner kick, but he also missed the target despite being close to the goal line.


The trend didn’t seem to change after the restart, with Milan’s only chance coming from a Brahim Diaz volley from the center of the box that the Spaniard should have addressed better.

Then, on 59 minutes, Stefano Pioli decided that his second lines had had enough time and went for a triple change that brought regular starters Theo Hernandez, Fikayo Tomori and Alexis Saelemaekers into play. That was the move that changed the game.

The substitutions reshaped Milan’s setup in a more offensive fashion with Hernandez basically acting as a left wingback. It was the Frenchman indeed to put his stamp on Milan’s opener as he progressed along the left channel to receive a Bennacer cross and whip the ball into the middle of the box, where Brahim Diaz only had to slot it home from point-blank range.   

On 82 minutes, Hernandez took the matter into his own hands and made it to the scoresheet with a clinical finish from a brilliant Saelemaekers pass. Now two goals down, the Lagunari risked losing their concentration but somehow managed to stop the bleeding and the score didn’t change anymore.

Venezia held their own as much as they could but Stefano Pioli took all three points on offer as he made the right substitutions. That basically sums up the game at the San Siro, which sent the Rossoneri at the top of the table in cohabitation with cross-town rivals as they wait for Napoli to take on Sampdoria tomorrow.

Paolo Zanetti’s Venezia, on the other hand, remain with three points out of five games but there was some good in their performance from tonight. Their battle to avoid relegation might not necessarily be a lost cause. 



September 22, 2021 – Serie A 2021-22 Round 5

SCORERS: 68′ Brahim Diaz, 82′ Hernandez

MILAN (4-2-3-1): Maignan; Kalulu, Gabbia (58′ Tomori), Romagnoli, Ballo-Touré (58′ Hernandez); Tonali, Bennacer; Florenzi (58′ Saelemaekers), Brahim Diaz (81′ Kessié), Rafael Leao; Rebic (73′ Pellegri) (Tatarusanu, Jungdal, Castillejo, Conti, Maldini) Coach: Pioli
VENEZIA (4-3-3): Maenpaa; Ebuehi (74′ Mazzocchi), Caldara, Ceccaroni, Molinaro; Peretz (53′ Crnigoj), Vacca, Busio (82′ Tessmann), Johnsen (74′ Okereke); Aramu, Forte (53′ Henry) (Neri, Bjarkason, Heymans, Kiyine, Modolo, Schnegg, Svoboda) Coach: Zanetti

REFEREE: Mr. Pezzuto from Lecce
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Forte, Caldara (V); Added Time: 1st Half 1′, 2nd Half 4′