The match started with a couple of weak attempts by AC Milan but changed quickly when Hakan Calhanoglu headed home a brilliant goal from a perfect Suso cross to score the game-winner in just the 12th minute. Unfortunately, Bruno Martella was unable to continue due to injury just two minutes later, replaced by Ales Mateju.
Milan perhaps felt a little comfortable, and although they continued to challenge, Brescia Calcio pushed back with chances of their own. Stefano Sabelli had a chance point-blank in the 19th minute but sent it over instead. He had another great chance in the 35th minute from the top corner of the box that forced Gigio Donnarumma into a great save.
The second half saw Florian Ayé come on for Ernesto Torregrossa, which added even more physicality after a first half that saw four yellow cards. Yet it was Samu Castillejo in the 49th who came in hard on Jhon Chancellor, and Davide Calabria got the next yellow for a mere shirt tug. The game was plenty physical, however. In addition to Brescia’s two early subs, Castillejo subbed off after taking a knock in the 80th, around the same time that Krzysztof Piatek had a bloody nose.
The match tempo stepped up after Piatek and Lucas Paquetá were subbed on in the 60th and 65th minutes respectively. Milan started to build plays better and create more chances. Despite being up a goal, they turned the thumbscrews for the final ten minutes, letting Brescia see very little of the ball except when it was dangerously near keeper Jesse Joronen.
Speaking of dangerous, after Calabria made a block on a dangerous play from Brescia at one end, Piatek shot from just a few feet away and Joronen made the incredible block in the 85th. Two minutes later, Franck Kessie made a run in and took the shot, only to shoot it over the bar.
Paquetá had a wonder strike from distance that miraculously hit the post, then Piatek had a fantastic shot that forced Joronen into an impossible save that required Goal Line Technology to convince it hadn’t gone in. The last minutes were intense and filled with almost goals for Milan, but in the end, they had to be satisfied with the one early goal from Calhanoglu and a very important three points. Brescia would be disappointed with the result, and couldn’t have been entirely happy with a performance that was not as strong as their winning performance last week.
Takeaways from the Match
After an abysmal opening match last week, there was much talk about the system that Marco Giampaolo used. With a slight tweak to his 4-3-1-2 system, he lined up the Christmas tree formation today, which allowed Suso to play a little closer to his natural role. But it wasn’t the system tweak that was impactful as the players.
Bringing in Ismael Bennacer as the regista was a godsend to Milan’s midfield. And after watching 60 minutes of Andre Silva play well enough, fans were rewarded when he brought on the far more dynamic Piatek. Additionally, Paquetá played further up when he came on, closer to his natural role as a trequartista. This was much improved from the five starting players played out of position last week. There is much work to do, but with changes to both the system and the players, Giampaolo reaped the rewards and showed that Milan have options.
Eugenio Corini’s side shouldn’t shove this match under the carpet. They were tough and some of the players that stood out last week didn’t have as good of a game. But in addition to the positive performances of players like Sabelli, and the return of Torregrossa from injury, they have a great goalkeeper in Joronen who kept them in the match. And they’ll only be missing Mario Balotelli for two more weeks, who should also give them a big lift when he comes in.
Stand Out Players
For Brescia, Sabelli really stood out. From the beginning, he was dynamic and fast and troubled Milan on defence as well as creating and taking chances. But the real stand out was Joronen, who was tested repeatedly and came up with three massive saves.
Milan had Suso, who rarely disappoints, and whose creative presence is always a boon. Calhanoglu got the goal early on, which gave him more confidence. Also playing on the left and more advanced helped a lot, too. But Bennacer was crucial to Milan’s play. His fluid and effortless passing helped Milan dominate possession and helped to build up so many more chances than they’ve been seeing.
Piatek and Paquetá were game-changers, even if neither of them got the goal. But another overlooked star in this match was Romagnoli, who at halftime was the only player to complete 100 per cent of his passes. The defender is a rock at the back, but also key to starting the plays that reach the other end, too.