AC Milan hosted Greek side Olympiacos in the Europa League, and while Milan fell behind early, and went into half-time down 0-1, a pair of second-half substitutions by Gennaro Gattuso ended up leading the way as Milan won 3-1 to take full control of Group F of the Europa League.
Milan had an early goal disallowed after Samu Castillejo decided to tap in Giacomo Bonaventura’s goal-bound header only for the referee to flag Castillejo for offsides. It was a moment of some brilliance interrupted by a moment of forgetfulness.
And of course, because Milan fans can’t have nice things, Olympiacos went down the pitch a few minutes later and scored a goal after Miguel Ángel Guerrero got an open, uncontested header on net, despite him being shadowed by two Milan defenders. Cristian Zapata jumped far too late to challenge for the ball, so the Spanish striker had more than enough time to pick his spot from the header and put it in the back of the net.
Milan continued to misfire up front, as Higuain and Castillejo both had chances that went begging, as none of the Milan players seemed able to steer a ball toward the goal, despite the numerous opportunities.
Once again, when the chips were down, the club seemed to resort, once again, to Suso-ball, as the ball seemed to end up at his boots every time Milan went on the attack. Olympiacos seemed to have prepared for this, as there was usually at least two to three players directly by Suso at almost all times, and when he got set up for a cross, there were as many as six players looking to deny Suso time and space to pick out a cross or test the defense with a pass into the box.
Milan started the second half much as the first half ended, with Milan constantly looking for Suso over the top and while the Spanish forward started getting the ball in some space, he was left without many options . Milan had also had a few attempts from corner kicks, only to put those chances wide of the post each time.
Çalhanoglu and Cutrone replace Bonaventura and Castillejo— Milan Eye (@MilanEye) October 4, 2018
Gattuso made some offensive-minded changes, bringing on Patrick Cutrone on as a second striker and also bringing on Calhanoglu to play on the wing for Bonaventura.
Com as entradas de Cutrone e Çalhanoglu, Milan mudou a plataforma tática para um 4-4-2 em linha: Suso, Bakayoko, Biglia, Çalhanoglu; Higuaín, Cutrone. pic.twitter.com/zv4bzlSqhC— AC Milan Brasil (@ACMilan_Brasil) October 4, 2018
With the changes in personnel, it appeared that Milan started to play in a 4-4-2 formation, with both Higuain and Cutrone playing up top as strikers, with Bakayoko and Biglia playing in central midfield and Suso and Calhanoglu going out wide as the wingers/ outside midfielders.
Both Suso and Calhanoglu, when playing on the wing, tend to try and dribble in, with their favored foot as the “inside” foot, looking to get shots off instead of slinging in corners, leaving the fullbacks to get forward and provide width.
An example of the width that the fullbacks started to provide was on Cutrone’s first goal, as Ricardo Rodriguez sent in an early cross that Cutrone was able to head directly into the back of the net, as he was left in acres of space. It also provided an outlet for passes up the pitch, as Olympiacos was doing a decent job of covering Higuain and Suso, but couldn’t cover all three.
Higuain would get in on the fun as well, scoring a nice goal after getting a good pass from Calhanoglu in the box and doing great work to get a shot off despite being surrounded by a few players in the box and having the goalkeeper to beat as well.
Cutrone would get his second goal a few minutes later, as once again Calhanoglu provided an assist. His driven loss cross caught the Olympiacos defenders unaware and Cutrone made a run in from the back post to tap home a good goal while the goalkeeper stood helpless.
In the end, Milan cruised to victory over Olympiacos, and have now won both of their Europa League matches ahead of the big match against Real Betis on October 25th, which will be played at the San Siro. Betis beat Dudelange 3-0 as they are also looking to progress to the knockout rounds of the Europa League.
All’s well that ends well, and now Milan will move on and play Chievo Verona this Sunday before the international break.