Rafael Leao and Samuel Castillejo starred off the bench to inspire a tremendous comeback win for AC Milan and keep the Rossoneri close to the top.
AC Milan kept pace with league leaders Napoli and second-placed Inter Milan with a huge comeback win against Hellas Verona. Goals from Olivier Giroud, Franck Kessie and a Koray Gunter own goal secured three unlikely points for the Rossoneri, who were two goals down at half-time.
A dismal first-half performance from Milan at the San Siro opened the doors for Hellas Verona to exploit the hosts. They created their opportunities and scored from their chances, with Gianluca Caprari opening the scoring in the 7th minute. Antonin Barak then scored from the spot around the 24th-minute mark to double the visitors’ lead and place Milan in an improbable position.
Having seen rivals, Inter Milan lose their clash to Lazio; the Rossoneri sensed an opportunity to claim the table and create a vacuum between their San Siro rivals. This looked impossible after their first-half performance. However, that changed following the introduction of Rafael Leao and then Samuel Castillejo, with both the attackers sparking life in the final third.
Giroud opened the scoring around the hour mark, connecting to a superb Leao cross. Castillejo was then responsible for the ball that won them the penalty, as Franck Kessie made no mistake. The Spaniard then forced Gunter into scoring the decisive own goal to hand Milan all three points and help them take the lead in the table, albeit temporarily.
Here’s how Milan players fared against Hellas Verona.
Ciprian Tatarusanu – 5.5/10
The stand-in Romanian keeper got tested early on as Verona scored the opening goal, which he could do nothing about. The same goes with the penalty, although in other aspects, he was decent. Lucky that Maignan is out injured for some time, leaving him a clear path to play on for that duration.
Davide Calabria – 6/10
The first half was terrible for all Milan players, so criticising individuals for it seems unfair. Calabria was pinned back and continued the trend throughout the game, although he executed his defensive duties properly. He should contribute more in the final third if he wants to improve himself and the team.
Fikayo Tomori – 6/10
Barring that first Verona goal, Tomori rarely set a foot wrong in the game, keeping things calm at the back. Going back to that early goal, the former Chelsea man should have done much better to keep that one out.
Alessio Romagnoli – 6/10
A tough first period for the Milan captain, who came under intense pressure from Verona attackers. Romagnoli was heavily involved in the penalty decision, which was harsh in many ways. Connecting the spot-kick raised some questions, but the defender answered them all with a quality performance in the second period.
Fode Ballo-Toure – 5/10
Ball-Toure got undone with a dismal first-half display where he looked disconnected with his teammates. Such a showing proved many doubts about him being unable to integrate well into the team’s style. However, his second-half performances may have vindicated some of those questions as he steadied his ship.
Ismael Bennacer – 6.5/10
A brilliant midfield performance from Bennacer, who was the shining light in a horrible team display in the first period. Kept things tight in midfield and controlled the area with his experience.
Franck Kessie – 7/10
A composed performance from the midfielder. He was tasked with mopping up play and execute the ‘dirty work’ in the middle. This game should lift his spirits after a grim few weeks on and off the pitch. He tucked home his penalty with ease to equalise for Milan.
Alexis Saelemaekers – 5/10
Saelemaekers had a poor game. He was ousted in all aspects by Verona players. Achieved no success with contesting duels, while many of his misplaced passes put his team under tremendous pressure.
Daniel Maldini – 5/10
Maldini never got into the game. He was largely ineffective in a period when the entire team was struggling—taken off at half-time to be replaced by Krunic.
Ante Rebic – 5.5/10
After a lively start to the game, Rebic looked likely to make the necessary impact, especially given Milan conceded an early goal. However, his recent niggling injury problems caught up, and he had to be replaced around the 36th minute.
Olivier Giroud – 7/10
Clinical, decisive and just what Milan needed in the game. Giroud started the comeback by taking his chance well when the cross from Leao arrived.
Rafael Leao – 7/10
In the context of the final result, the rather unfortunate withdrawal of Rebic allowed the introduction of Leao, who changed the complexion of the match—involved heavily in the first Milan goal, which gave his teammates the route map for the comeback.
Samuel Castillejo – 7/10
Castillejo, like Leao, changed the outcome of the game in a big way. Came on at half-time, the Spaniard provided the crucial pass for the penalty while being directly involved in the Gunter own-goal, which happened to be the winner, taking Milan to the summit of Serie A.
Rade Krunic – 6/10
Krunic might not have got himself on the scoresheet or assist charts; the Bosnian’s contributions were equally important. He slotted into the No.10 role and gave Milan a platform to attack Verona, and the team played better with him on the pitch.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic – N/A
Ibrahimovic came on with 13-minutes left to play. Barring an acrobatic bicycle kick, he did nothing more.
Sandro Tonali – N/A
Tonali was the last substitute to take the field when Milan were trying to protect their slender lead. He slotted in well but didn’t do much to earn a rating.
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