Theo Hernandez scored a brace while Zlatan Ibrahimovic was also on target as AC Milan breezed past Venezia to secure a 3-0 victory on Sunday afternoon.
It just took two minutes for AC Milan to break the deadlock at Stadio Pier Luigi Penzo as Zlatan Ibrahimovic produced a simple tap-in after being found by Rafael Leao’s cross from the left. The Rossoneri were in cruise control for the rest of the first half and had shots saved from Pierre Kalulu, Theo Hernandez, Leao and Alessandro Florenzi, while Venezia hardly posed a threat in front of goal.
Three minutes after the break, Milan’s pressure paid off as Hernandez made it 2-0 with a fine finish after being played through by Leao. Ten minutes later, Venezia were reduced to ten men as Michael Svoboda was sent off for blocking a goal-bound effort with his hand inside the box. Hernandez then stepped up and converted from 12 yards out with ease to make it 3-0.
Stefano Pioli’s side pushed hard in search of a fourth but could not add another to the scoreline. On the other hand, Venezia had one or two moments when they looked dangerous but failed to test Mike Maignan as Milan held on for a comfortable victory, which sent them to the top of the Serie A standings.
Here are our player ratings for the Milan stars after a crucial victory that puts their neighbours and reigning champions Inter Milan under pressure.
AC Milan Player Ratings
Mike Maignan: 6.5/10
The summer signing was not tested much on the afternoon, with Venezia hardly posing a threat in front of goal. The only save he had to make was a straightforward one from Thomas Henry’s header. The Frenchman was alert to deal with set-pieces and crosses in the box.
Alessandro Florenzi: 6.5/10
There were one or two moments where he was sloppy in defence, but he was largely solid at the back and provided a handy outlet going forward. Florenzi even forced a save from Sergio Romero in the first period.
Pierre Kalulu: 7.5/10
Pierre Kalulu: 25 successful tackles out of 28 in 678 minutes with Milan.
One of the best in Europe in this statistic. pic.twitter.com/gNZzrmN7hw
— Rossonero (@rossonero_fans) January 9, 2022
Starting at the heart of the backline, the young defender put in an assured display against Venezia. Kalulu dealt comfortably with the threat of Mattia Aramu and Henry. He is growing in confidence and staking a claim for regular involvement amidst an injury crisis for Milan.
Matteo Gabbia: 6.5/10
The 22-year-old did not do much wrong at the back and made a few important clearances on the rare occasions that Venezia pushed forward. However, he lacked composure on the ball and looked shaky with his distribution from the back.
Theo Hernandez: 9/10
The best player on the field on the afternoon, Theo Hernandez was in rampant mood against Venezia. The Frenchman drove forward at will down the left flank, with his combination play with Rafael Leao being a key aspect of Milan’s attacking play. He forced a save from Romero in the first half and then found the back of the net twice in the space of ten minutes in the second period to put the game to bed.
Let’s gooo…??✈️ 2️⃣ goals + 3️⃣ points ?⚫️ pic.twitter.com/Om1W66ymxF
— Theo Hernandez (@TheoHernandez) January 9, 2022
Sandro Tonali: 7/10
An accomplished performance in the middle of the park from the 21-year-old as Tonali kept Milan on the front foot with his sharp distribution and industry off the ball. He moved the ball well throughout the game and made some vital defensive contributions as well, with one tackle on David Okereke particularly standing out.
Tiemoue Bakayoko: 6.5/10
After getting the nod ahead of Rade Krunic in the middle of the park, the Chelsea loanee put in a decent shift. Bakayoko protected the defence effectively and was neat and tidy with the ball at his feet, keeping things ticking along nicely.
Alexis Saelemaekers: 5.5/10
The Belgian had one or two moments of quality but was largely quiet and failed to threaten the Venezia defence. Booked and was taken off at half-time.
Brahim Diaz: 5/10
Not good enough from the Spanish playmaker, who was found wanting in the attacking third. Diaz just could not stitch together play in the way Milan have come to expect of him, while his passing and shooting were off the radar as well.
Rafael Leao: 8/10
Rafael Leão vs. Venezia:
◉ Most touches in opp. box (7)
◉ Most successful take-ons (6)
◉ Most chances created (3)
◉ Most assists (2)
A superb start to 2022. ? pic.twitter.com/V2nHDgKPvF
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 9, 2022
Back into the starting XI, the Portuguese speedster was a handful for the Venezia defence with pace, movement and link-up play. Got the assist for the first and second goals on the afternoon, had a shot saved and had a hand in the move leading to the penalty.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic: 7/10
The Player to Watch in our match preview, Zlatan found the back of the net just two minutes in with the simplest of finishes. In the process, he became only the second player since 2000 to score a goal against 80 different clubs in the Big Five European leagues after Cristiano Ronaldo. He linked up well with those around him, while his movement helped create space for the other forwards.
Zlatan Ibrahimović joined Cristiano Ronaldo today as the only two players to score against 80 different teams in the top five leagues since 2000.
76 years between them ?? pic.twitter.com/uLINYloaLT
— B/R Football (@brfootball) January 9, 2022
Junior Messias: 6/10
Replaced Saelemaekers at the half-time interval and was much livelier in the final third. He got involved in moves and saw an effort drift just wide.
Ante Rebic: 6/10
On for Leao just after the hour-mark. Showed good energy and tried to make things happen.
Daniel Maldini: 6/10
He came on for Diaz in the 73rd minute and displayed some neat passes and touches.
Olivier Giroud: 6/10
On for Ibrahimovic with a little under 20 minutes left. Provided a physical presence at the top and played a key pass.
Luca Stanga: N/A
Late substitute for Florenzi.