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Recap: Milan Earn Three Crucial Points For The Chase To An European Spot, Defeat Lazio 3-1 At Stadio Olimpico

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Milan didn't keep the clean sheet tonight but still found the way to defeat Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico and earn the three points.

The team celebrates after Mexès' header.
The team celebrates after Mexès' header.
Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

Milan faced Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico after three consecutive positive results against Torino, Sassuolo and Chievo Verona, aiming to extend the streak and continue their chase to an European spot. Now, thanks to these three points, they can officially compete for the upper half of the standings.

Tactically, Sinisa Mihajlovic didn't make any major changes, except for Mattia De Sciglio, who replaced Ignazio Abate. Otherwise, things stayed much the same as Wednesday's lineup, with Mihajlovic electing to keep on with the 4-3-3 after the team's improved performance.

First Half

The first 20 minutes of the game were balanced thanks to the great job made by both team's defenders. Alessio Romagnoli and Alex, who played two consecutive games together for the first time ever, showed improved chemistry in the heart of Milan's defense. That chemistry lead to a good launched a counter into acres of open space for Giacomo Bonaventura and Alessio Cerci, who in turn created the opportunity for Andrea Bertolacci to cut into the box and finish with the decisive tap-in after Federico Marchetti's save on Carlos Bacca. It was a gorgeously worked counter that showed off just what Milan can do when they're playing well, something we'll hopefully see much more of this season.

Unfortunately, Bertolacci's game ended just a few minutes later due to a muscular injury, so Mihajlovic was forced to send Andrea Poli on the field after 33 minutes. Lazio continued to keep the ball possession, but they struggled to make dangerous plays for Milan's defenders to deal with.

Good sign: Donnarumma showed confidence under pressure and that's good for a 16-year-old goalkeeper.

Bad sign: Bertolacci's injury seems serious and he could miss 3-4 weeks.

Second Half

Scary moments at the beginning of the second half: Juraj Kucka accidentally hit Alex on the head  and knocked him out cold, forcing the defender out of the match after needing to be carted off the pitch. Luckily, Philippe Mexes, who went in for Alex, scored with an easy header with his very first touch on a set piece situation, setting the result to 0-2. As Sky Sport Italia reporter Maurizio Compagnoni said, Milan is the best team in Serie A at scoring on headers with five goals, and this is a great improvement compared to last year.

Lazio's manager Stefano Pioli decided to change to a 4-4-2 when Alessandro Matri replaced Segej Milinkovic-Savic after 25 minutes in the second half in order to put more pressure to Milan's defenders and take advantage of numerical superiority at midfield. It took only four minutes for them to make their most dangerous chance at a goal thanks to Felipe Anderson, but Donnarumma made a great save once again and then Kishna was caught offside on the ensuing tap-in.

Lazio's good moment was suddenly interrupted by Bacca's goal on a counterattack situation to bring the score to 0-3. Riccardo Montolivo left the field for a few minutes due to a muscular injury just after Mihajlovic had made his last substitution, so the Biancocelesti took advantage of this situation and scored thanks to Kishna's powerful shot from close range.

Good sign: Donnarumma kept playing well, maybe better than in the first half.

Bad sign: Montolivo and Bertolacci had muscular problems, Alex was accidentally elbowed by Kucka and had to leave the field early in the second half, so injuries are a big problem now.

Milan's overall performance was good -- the defense looked solid again, and the three-men setup at midfield seems to be the right choice for this team. Unlike in their last game, the Rossoneri had to leave the ball possession to Lazio, but they were great at attacking their opponents whenever they could and finishing -- finally -- with accuracy. The team seems to be improving physically, technically and tactically but they still have to work if they want to reach the top three positions in the standings.