Matches against Carpi and Hellas Verona were meant to help AC Milan make up for points lost against some of the Serie A leaders. Instead, they have produced two infuriating draws.
The Rossoneri have taken two points from the two worst teams in the league, as Milan shared the spoils with Verona in a 1-1 draw Sunday at the San Siro.
The Rossoneri should have been up by two or three at the break, but the finishing touch was lacking. Carlos Bacca finally put Milan ahead in the 52nd minute. M'Baye Niang did well to find Luiz Adriano at the top of the box, and Bacca maintained his position in line with the collapsing Verona defenders, allowing him an open look at goal.
But five minutes later, Nigel De Jong destroyed any momentum Milan had created. De Jong stupidly brought down Leandro Greco in the box as he was about to wind up for a shot. Alessio Romagnoli probably could have gotten into position to stop the shot, but De Jong made a rash decision. It cost Milan a penalty kick, and the aging Dutchman was sent off. Luca Toni easily beat Gianluigi Donnarumma from the spot.
Why was De Jong playing anyway? He had not featured in two months, and when he returned to the lineup, Sinisa Mihajlovic put him next to Riccardo Montolivo. It is common knowledge the two cannot play side by side. Putting Montolivo and De Jong in the center of a 4-4-2 is the equivalent to missing oil and water.
Anyone who assumed Montolivo would move forward into attacking positions because he was playing next to defensive-minded De Jong was sorely mistaken. The lazy Milan captain was content staying back while occasionally completing a pass.
On the verge of signing a contract extension, Montolivo nearly killed Milan on a few occasions, none more glaring than his foolish play in the first half that nearly led to a goal for Verona. On the ball in the midfield, Montolivo turned back toward the middle, right into a Verona midfielder. He forced a stupid pass that went right to Federico Viviani, who strolled into the penalty area uncontested, only to puss his shot wide left.
When Montolivo was replaced by Andrea Bertolacci, who was making his return from injury, a fury of whistles from the Milanisti in the crowd bid the Milan captain farewell. The Italian veteran has been a liability.
As Milan started to climb the table and put the Serie A leaders on notice, the Rossoneri entered what looked like a golden stretch, with three consecutive matches against the bottom three in Serie A: Carpi, Verona and Frosinone. That should be nine points without a doubt for a club like Milan. It has generated two.
Surely, Mihajlovic is on the hot seat. The decision to play Montolivo and De Jong together was horrendous, and it ultimately played a key role in Milan failing to take three points. It was far from the only reason, but Mihajlovic had no need to alter the formation when the 4-3-3 was working, at least in relation to other lineups he has used.
Whatever the case, if Milan fails to beat Frosinone, it would be a fitting conclusion to the most embarrassing stretch of Milan football in a long time. The past few seasons have been terrible, and this is supposed to be the one when it turns around. How can it turn around when Milan takes two points from the two worst teams in the league?