Milan fell to Juventus by a score of 1-0 on Saturday night in a game that was anything but a classic. The game was scrappy from the start, and from the opening moment of the game both teams struggled to find their rhythms.
Milan struggled to move the ball from the defence to the midfield. On too many occasions, the ball would be spread out to one of the fullbacks, whose passing options were limited. Ignazio Abate and Alessio Cerci both had an absolute nightmare of a first half, as they were unable to combine to produce any offence. When Abate found the ball at his feet he looked totally lost and resorted to belting the ball up the pitch, wasting precious possession. Cerci was no better as his control was atrocious. In way too many instances, Cerci failed to control the most routine of passes and gave away throw-ins regularly.
Milan's break of the first half came when Bonaventura whipped in a perfect cross to the onrushing Alessio Cerci, who was completely unmarked at the far post. Instead of testing Gianluigi Buffon, Cerci headed the ball back into the middle of the box, where there were none of his teammates to be found.The defensive pair of Romagnoli and Alex worked together fairly well and made life difficult for Mario Mandzukic in particular. Mandzukic's strike partner Paulo Dybala was a constant threat in the first half. His pace and movement caused Milan's defence headaches for the entire first half, despite the fact that he was unable to get a clear chance. The half ended with both clubs struggling to create chances, despite the fact that Juventus controlled most of the play.
The second half began, and Milan's inability to complete routine passes in midfield continued. While Juraj Kucka did exceptional work to contain Paul Pogba for most of the game, his passing was abysmal, and only outdone by the wasteful Riccardo Montolivo. Montolivo was supremely average in this encounter, and toggled between playing fifteen back passes, or sending hopeless through balls forward to the isolated Carlos Bacca. Both Kucka and Montolivo could not stop Pogba from moving forward, and that came back to bite them.
In the 65th minute Pogba slipped in a world class pass to Alex Sandro, who had made an intelligent overlapping run on the left wing. The Brazilian then set up Paulo Dyballa, who was camped out just above the six-yard box, and the Argentine made no mistake, smashing the ball past Gianluigi Donnarumma.
Mihajlovic then tried to throw the kitchen sink at Juventus, substituting Juraj Kucka for the Brazilian Luiz Adriano, and later taking off M'Baye Niang for Keisuke Honda. None of the substitutions worked, and Juventus just ran out the clock and earned all three points.
This was a truly awful game from Milan. The midfield, which has been a glaring weakness of this squad for at least three seasons, was once again the determining factor. Their inability to complete routine passes, provide the ttackers with quality chances, and prevent Juventus' midfielders from running through the centre of the pitch was the difference. In a game were Juventus were thoroughly average, a competent Milan midfield could have resulted in a different outcome.