Three days after their first match A.I. (After Ibra) and with Juventus, Lazio and Atalanta all struggling in their Serie A weekend tests, Milan were called to a proof of maturity to confirm their lead in the ranking. But Master Zlatan, watching his fellows from the stands, could smile and relax as Alessio Romagnoli and Franck Kessié secured their side an important win against Fiorentina.
The Rossoneri’s duty, with Daniele Bonera again on the bench, was expected to be tough, especially after the last-second unplanned absences of Ismael Bennacer and Samu Castillejo – who added themselves to the list of unavailable players.
There were no other surprises for Milan in the lineup, with Brahim Diaz, Hakan Calhanoglu and Alexis Saelemaekers playing behind falso nueve Ante Rebic.
La Viola, on the other hand, were called to a quick comeback on the field, after the unlucky home debut for Cesare Prandelli, and started the match with a brave 4-3-3 formation with Franck Ribery and José Callejon backing up Dusan Vlahovic on his sides. Both former-Rossoneri Giacomo Bonaventura and Patrick Cutrone started from the bench.
The remembrance of Diego Armando Maradona enlighten the San Siro with good feelings and Milan quickly tagged along. Both the home side wings hit the gas right from the start, creating some troubles to the opposition defenders and Bartlomjei Dragowski.
The pressure from Bonera’s guys was powerful and decisive: Fiorentina’s resistance lasted only 17 minutes, until captain Romagnoli simply had to push the simplest tap-in in the net, thanks to a brilliant header assist by Kessié from a corner.
Fiorentina immediately tried to get back on track, but Vlahovic’s effort from an angled position was deflected into the post by Gianluigi Donnarumma with a brilliant save.
The distance between coming close to equalize and conceding another goal was short, as Fiorentina switched off the light, and Franck Kessié promptly took advantage of that to wrap the match. Davide Calabria offered a fine service to Alexis Saelemaekers and the Belgian found himself face to face with Dragowski. German Pezzella slide-tackled him, prompting referee Rosario Abisso to point at the penalty spot.
Kessié was stone-cold to bury the spot and show Ibra why he should be the first penalty taker for Milan. Or maybe not?
Milan kept controlling the game as Fiorentina quickly sunk under the Rossoneri attack waves. In the 37th minute, Sandro Tonali served Theo Hernandez on the left side and the Frenchman had the best of Martin Caceres in the box – leaving him with no other option than knocking him down. Penalty again.
Kessié stepped up to the spot one more time, but the extended VAR control likely cooled his spirit. After a two-minute long check, in fact, the Rossoneri no.79 was denied by Dragowski – who became the first shot-stopper to deny the Ivorian from the spot since Stefano Sorrentino a long time ago.
Despite the error, the Rossoneri were in full control also during the second period and came closer to making it three than the Viola to reduce the gap.
Both goalkeepers stole the show and denied some excellent opportunities from both sides. Dragowski closed the door to Chalanoglu, Tonali, and Saelemaekers while Donnarumma was merciless in denying Cesare Prandelli at least one joy for the day.
Ribery managed to go one-on-one against Milan’s portierone, but Gigio showcased his sense of position and was not caught unwary by the Frenchman’s lob attempt. Donnarumma’s giganting hand neutralized his effort and kept the score unchanged.
Prandelli tried one last desperate move by throwing Cutrone and Bonaventura into the mix as he hoped for a classic goal dell’ex from his former Rossoneri.
Our run goes on with a solid win and we extend our lead in the league! ❤️?— AC Milan (@acmilan) November 29, 2020
Altri 3 punti, un'altra grande prestazione. Rimaniamo in testa! ❤️?#MilanFiorentina #SempreMilan@emirates pic.twitter.com/mHJUB288t8
But Milan showed why their present lead in the Serie A has to be taken seriously: Rather than attacking and risking a fast break, they switched to cruise control mode, just like they used to do a few decades ago when they were topping the world.
The Rossoneri may still be struggling from the penalty spot, but today they showed their supporters that Milan are really coming back and are not afraid of any team – with or without Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
November 29, 2020 – Serie A 2020-2021 Round 9
SCORERS: 18′ Romagnoli, 27′ Kessié pen.
|MILAN (4-2-3-1): G. Donnarumma; Calabria, Kjaer, Romagnoli, Hernandez; Tonali (81′ Hauge), Kessie; Saelemakers; Calhanoglu; Brahim Diaz (74′ Krunic); Rebic. (Tatarusanu, A. Donnarumma, Conti, Diogo Dalot, Duarte, Gabbia, Kalulu, Colombo, Maldini) Coach: Bonera (substituting Pioli)
|FIORENTINA (4-3-3): Dragowski; Cáceres (60′ Lirola), Milenkovic, Pezzella, Biraghi; Amrabat, Pulgar, Castrovilli (76′ Borja Valero); Callejon (52′ Bonaventura), Vlahovic (76′ Kouamé), Ribéry (68′ Cutrone) (Terracciano, Barreca, Igor, Duncan, Eysseric, Martinez Quarta, Saponara) Coach: Prandelli
REFEREE: Mr. Abisso from Palermo
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Rebic, Kessie (M), Pezzella, Castrovilli, Amrabat (F); Extra Time: 1st Half 2′; 2nd Half 3′