Gennaro Gattuso walked into the pre-match press conference cautioning fans not to consider this an easy venture. Whether that was a message to his players, reinforcing the gravitas of this fixture, or because Rino wanted to temper expectations, either way it seemed to have worked.
It’s almost storybook the way events have unfolded for Patrick Cutrone. The boy joined AC Milan when he was eight years old and now looks to be the answer none of the €230 million spent in transfer funds could produce. Eleven new players joined the squad over the year, but it would be the 20 year old homegrown talent that would lead the charge in this year’s campaign.
With the trio of Andre Silva and Nikola Kalinic barely putting up 12 goals in their combined 51 outings, it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone to see Cutrone be the forward of choice moving forward for the remainder of the season.
The Rossoneri looked comfortable, well, for the most part. The 3-0 victory didn’t tell the whole story, as there was still some defensive shakiness on the back line. Ludogorets did manage to get a few solid chances that either found the post, or skirted by. I worry against better opposition, this team could be in trouble if they don’t keep up a high level of intensity. Ludogorets seemed to control the match at times, and put Milan on their back heels.
The first half was hard fought and it looked as if Gattuso’s praise for the Bulgarian side was well earned until Cutrone showed up in the 44th minute. Right before the end of the half, he did this:
The first half would close out 1-0 in favor of the Rossoneri, though at the time, the atmosphere was still very tense, with both sides fighting hard. When the start of the second half began, it would be Ludogorets who would look to be more lethal in midfield. A few chances saw the Milanistas clench in fear, particularly a shot from the Bulgarians that rattled the crossbar. A 60th minute substitution brought on Ricardo Rodriguez for Ignazio Abate, who was clearly not having his best match. A good move for Gattuso, considering what happened next:
After that, the rest of the match was all Rossoneri. Andre Silva and Fabio Borini would come on for Patrick Cutrone and Hakan Calhanoglu, to see out the rest of the match. Not to be overlooked was the wonderful link up play between Hakan and Cutrone - they’re really starting to click and it’s a pair that should bring in continued results. Fabio Borini would cap off the match late. While the loanee has had trouble moving the ball around, he’s certainly been comfortable in front of net as of late. While the finish was impressive, let’s not gloss over the incredible awareness from Andre Silva to flick that pass on.
Remember, Milan is now unbeaten in nine straight matches. With this comfortable win away from home, the second leg should be a walk in the park.