The full importance of a world-class forward was on clear display in the San Siro tonight as one world class man stole the match for Juventus.
Despite the expectation that Milan were in for a beating, the Rossoneri started off rather brightly. Indeed, their pressing showed a slight bit of desperation and that’s because a lot relied on a positive Milan showing today. If you’re not in the know, a negative result would likely end Vincenzo Montella’s managerial stint at AC Milan.
It was the Argentine Gonzalo Higuain who reversed Milan’s early dominance, by scoring a video game-esque effort from the edge of the penalty area. Donnarumma was well beaten, and despite his enormous talent, no goalkeeper in history would have saved such a powerful effort from so close. Luck was not on Milan’s side, but could be found lining up next to the Bianconeri.
Milan almost bounced back immediately, with Fabio Borini’s cross just edging past Nikola Kalinic. The big man has to make that chance go in, it’s exactly why he was brought over from Fiorentina! Milan’s front free of Calhanoglu, Suso and Kalinic fail to gel, and will continue to do so as long as they are laying balls in, hoping that Kalinic can fall or lean into one. In theory, it should work - but in practice, their slip ups opened up the counter attack for Juventus far too easily.
However, an early positive for Milan despite conceding was the play of Fabio Borini, who seems to mirror Frodo Baggins in that he is the unlikeliest of heroes for AC Milan. His work rate outstrips his talent, but the Italian has too often bundled Milan back into games. Far too often he will be the one man trying to win the game for Milan. That’s appreciated.
Nikola Kalinic became the villain once again, this time missing from point blank range. Although Gigi Buffon was charging him down, Kalinic should have buried this, but instead found the frame of the goal. He was bought EXACTLY because he buries these type of chances. Having missed two in the first half, there was no reason for Milan to end the first half a goal behind.
The removal of Lucas Biglia for Manuel Locatelli was a welcome change. Despite Biglia’s obvious talent, he became anti-locomotive in the middle and became an additional source in the middle, that Milan didn’t need. With Milan lacking fluidity, Biglia was an additional source of frustration as Milan attempted to move the ball.
Paulo Dybala unlocked Milan halfway through the second half with a neat outside of the box dummy that fooled the Milan defense into stepping out of place, just in time for Gonzalo Higuain to snipe the ball past Donnarumma at the post. Juventus easily doubled their lead, but let’s not forget - Milan didn’t take any chance at all in this game, while Higuain scored two goals he had no right to score, thanks to two world class finishes.
At the other side of the pitch, Milan’s Kalinic had chance after chance - but his positioning betrayed his team and stole a potential hat-trick. If Milan’s attacking was better on the night, the chances they had crafted would have pulled them back into the match. Quality finishing? It’s the difference between Milan and Champions League qualification, let alone a title.
Did Milan play badly? Not at all. Nikola Kalinic’s dog day in front of goal meant that Milan will simply have to deal with a 2-0 loss.