Marco Giampaolo is safe for now. Milan’s coach found a last-minute ally in his goalkeeper Juan Manuel Reina, who stopped a late penalty by Lasse Schone to preserve his side’s 1-2 win at Genoa. That’s the least the Spaniard could do to redeem himself after a colossal blunder of his had put the Rossoblu ahead in the first half, before Theo Hernandez and Frank Kessié could turn the tables in favor of the Rossoneri.
In a battle between two managers severely at risk of being sacked, Genoa collected another loss, the fourth in the last five games. And so, it was Rossoblu coach Aurelio Andreazzoli to see his position getting worse, despite an encouraging first half where his side cashed in on their predominance. But nothing seems to be going in the right direction these days for Genoa, which also lost their captain Domenico Criscito after just six minutes due to a hamstring injury.
Giampaolo, on the other hand, lost his starting goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma during warm-up, and had to resort to 37-years-old Juan Manuel Reina. Brazilian defender Leo Duarte made his debut from the start as he replaced disqualified Mateo Musacchio, and Lucas Biglia took Ismael Bennacer’s place in midfield after the Algerian’s disastrous performance against Fiorentina on Monday.
Lucas Paquetá and Rafael Leao were also rumored to be in the starting eleven, yet Giampaolo left them out in the end – only to hastily push them in both in the second half, when things were taking a pretty bad turn for the Rossoneri. Was that a sample of tactical cleverness on the part of former Sampdoria’s coach, or simply his acknowledgment of the mistakes made when lining up his side?
Only time will tell, as Saturday’s thrilling win at the Luigi Ferraris Stadium couldn’t give enough indications as of whether Milan are out of darkness despite breaking a three-game losing streak. Against a dismayed Genoan side, the red-and-blacks struggled for the full first half, never managing to test opponent goalkeeper Ionit Radu.
Conversely, it was the Rossoblu to pose a few threats to Milan’s substitute goalie. Pepe Reina successfully dealt with long-range shots by Lukas Lerager and Paolo Ghiglione. But when Danish midfielder Lasse Schone challenged him with a free-kick from out the box, the Spanish keeper surprisingly let the ball slide through his hands, gift-wrapping an unexpected – yet not totally undeserved – lead for the Grifone.
Center-back Cristian Romero went close to make it two for the home side in the 45th minute with a header that ended a few inches above Reina’s crossbar. “We were underwater,” coach Marco Giampaolo admitted in his post-match remarks, referring to his squad’s initial 45 minutes. But then, he came up with the two substitutions that steered the game in his direction.
One of the changes must have been a particularly significant one for the 52-year-old manager, as he pulled out a disoriented version of Krzysztof Piatek – who’s becoming a paler and paler copy of last season’s infallible finalizer – to replace him with 19-year-old Rafael Leao, the Portuguese being the most positive note in Milan’s tormented season start.
Milan’s equalizer was however a courtesy of Lucas Paquetá, another one who has found little space in Giampaolo’s choices to this point. Perhaps the coach will change his mind, after having seen the guile by which he shot a free kick to catch Genoa’s defense by surprise and ignite Theo Hernandez’s attack on the left side.
The Spanish left back concluded his progression with a shot that caught Ionit Radu unprepared, and suddenly reanimated the Rossoneri. Two minutes later, Paquetá breached Genoa’s defense from the same side, forcing their Romanian goalkeeper to put the ball in corner.
Milan smelled blood, and took advantage of the positive momentum to complete their comeback: Rafael Leao’s juggling in the box forced defender Davide Biraschi to help himself as he could to prevent the Portuguese from shooting from point-blank range. Referee Maurizio Mariani called a halt as he spotted something suspicious, and resorted to the VAR.
He saw well: The video replay evidenced a handball by Biraschi. The referee allowed a penalty, and inflexibly waved a red card at Genoa’s defender, as he had interrupted a clear scoring chance. Frank Kessié buried the spot to put the Rossoneri ahead in the 56th minute.
With one man more, 30 minutes to play, and a discouraged opponent side (Lukas Lerager and Lasse Schone were eventually booked due to frustration fouls), the Devils looked like they could finally make full score after a three-game abstinence, hadn’t Davide Calabria decided to rebalance the playing field with a useless foul on Christian Kouamé.
“This is not good,” the Rossonero right-back wrote on his Instagram page after collecting his second red card of the season. “I want to turn page and delete these first months of the season (…) I want to find myself back again.” And while Calabria started his soul searching, Giampaolo covered up by sending in defender Andrea Conti for Giacomo Bonaventura.
Genoa’s coach Aurelio Andreazzoli, on the other hand, resorted to Goran Pandev’s experience to try snatching at least one point, and the North Macedonian highlander served him well: It was a filtering pass of his, with just one minute to go, to put Christian Kouamé right in front of Pepe Reina. The two briefly connected, and while the Spaniard seemed to try avoiding him, the 21-year-old Ivorian went for a dive that convinced referee Mariani to allow another penalty.
Lasse Schone put the ball on the penalty spot to renew his duel with Milan’s goalkeeper, but this time Juan Manuel Reina stopped his shot, redeeming himself at the last breath and most likely extending Marco Giampaolo’s permanence on the Rossoneri’s bench a little more.
October 5, 2019 – Serie A 2019-2020 Round 7
SCORERS: 41′ Schone (G), 51′ Hernandez (M), 57′ Kessié (M, pen.)
|GENOA (3-5-2): Radu; Romero, Zapata, Criscito (11′ Biraschi); Ghiglione, Lerager (88′ Pandev), Radovanovic, Schöne, Pajac; Kouamé, Pinamonti (73′ Favilli) (Marchetti, Jandrei, Goldaniga, Sanabria, El Yamiq, Jagiello, Cassata, Favilli, Ankersen, Saponara) Coach: Andreazzoli|
|MILAN (4-3-3): Reina; Calabria, Duarte, Romagnoli, Hernández; Kessié, Biglia, Calhanoglu (46′ Paqueta); Suso, Piatek (46′ Rafael Leão), Bonaventura (81′ Conti) (G. Donnarumma, A. Donnarumma, Gabbia, Rodríguez, Bennacer, Krunic, Borini, Castillejo, Rebic) Coach: Giampaolo|
REFEREE: Mr. Mariani from Aprilia
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Zapata, Schone, Lerager, Romero (G), Biglia, Paquetá (M); Red Cards: Saponara, Biraschi (G), Calabria, Castillejo (M); Extra Time: 1st Half 2′, 2nd Half 5′