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Match Analysis: Silva uninspiring in return to Milan XI

Andre Silva’s first start since November was underwhelming as Milan squandered a chance to close the gap in Serie A

Udinese Calcio v AC Milan - Serie A
Andre Silva struggled in his first Serie A start for Milan under Gennaro Gattuso.
Photo by Dino Panato/Getty Images

Milan had a chance to get within eight points Inter for fourth place in Serie A Sunday. They squandered it.

A red card to Davide Calabria preceded a gut-wrenching own goal, as Milan surrendered their lead at Udinese and were forced to settle for a draw.

Milan and Udinese are pretty evenly matched this season, and this match was reflective of that. Udinese have really turned the corner under former Milan fullback Massimo Oddo, and the Rossoneri have seem an improvement under Gennaro Gattuso.

The Stadio Friuli is a challenging place to play, so a draw isn’t the most shocking result, but it still feels like a big opportunity wasted for Milan.

Suso’s strike in the ninth minute should have been the spark that prompted a big win for Milan on the day. It wasn’t. So what happened? Here are some observations from Sunday’s draw in Udine.

Will the real Andre Silva please stand up?

It was a pleasant surprise to see Andre Silva show up in Gattuso’s XI. In Gattuso’s first 12 matches in charge, the Portuguese forward only started twice and made six appearances as a sub. For all the money Milan spent to bring him to Italy from Porto, he has failed to score in Serie A or Coppa Italia this season.

Perhaps Sunday was an opportunity for Silva to get himself into Gattuso’s good graces. But if this was an audition for a bigger role the rest of the season, Silva shouldn’t expect a callback.

Silva was hard to watch against Udinese. Every touch was insignificant and indecisive. He looked lost whenever the ball was in his vicinity.

No moment was more consequential than his misread of a brilliant pass into the box by Giacomo Bonaventura. Milan had a chance to go 2-0 in front, which should have been enough to secure the win, but Silva looked like he clammed up as the ball came near him, and he wasted the chance.

It’s hard to imagine Gattuso can leave Silva sitting on the bench the rest of the way and rely solely on Nikola Kalinic and Patrick Cutrone, so Silva has to work through whatever is going on. Until he does, we’ll probably have to copy and paste this bit into every match analysis after he plays.

Who wants some Lasagna?

Wherever Milan fans watched this match, everyone surely heard the collective sense of fear every time Kevin Lasagna touched the ball. The Udinese striker was a thorn in Milan’s side in both matches between the two sides this season. His pace, movement and eye for goal make him a threat to score every time he touches the ball.

Of course, he has been a bit streaky this season. He only has seven league goals and hasn’t scored since he closed out 2017 with goals in five straight matches. But goodness, he always looks threatening. He’s a great weapon for Oddo to have as he continues his effort to revitalize Udinese.

Focusing on Sunday, he menaced Milan throughout the match, and his run into the box and attempted cross resulted in the own goal that kept Milan from victory.

Milan may need to add a couple players in the summer. Perhaps Lasagna will be on the menu. He is certainly a player worth keeping an eye on.

Suso: the man, the myth, the legend

Suso is so much fun to watch. What a special player Milan have on their hands. We all know this by now, but it bears repeating on a regular basis, especially after a miserable result like Sunday’s.

That goal was the kind that gets you jumping off your couch and shouting. The Spaniard executed perfectly. After creating just enough space for himself, he launched a perfect strike toward the top corner. Using the crossbar to his benefit, Suso left Udinese goalkeeper Albano Bizzarri with no chance.

What a way to score your first goal since the start of November. Suso needed that goal like Milan needed a win Sunday.

Milan relented after Suso’s goal

Almost immediately after Suso’s goal, Milan looked like they started to sit back. It was like watching Vincenzo Montella’s Milan, the Milan where one goal seemed like it was enough. They got themselves out of this mindset after a little lull, but it was disappointing to see. With the shakiness of Milan’s back line, matches where one goal will be enough are going to be incredibly rare.

Calabria’s foolish red card proved costly

Obviously, going down a man when you’re still searching for a second goal to guarantee a win is going to be problematic. Such was the case a the Friuli Sunday for Milan. Once Davide Calabria got sent off, Gattuso was forced to put Milan into a defensive shape and try to bunker down.

Calabria’s red card was foolish. It should have never happened. Already on a yellow card, the young defensive hero of Milan’s win over Lazio went to ground and initially made a good challenge. But a second swing of his leg led to a foul, one worthy of a yellow card. There was no need for the second swing, and he was rightly sent off.

Things still looking up under Gattuso

The draw was disappointing, but Milan are still a better team now than they were a few months ago. It looks like Gattuso has gotten his players to buy into what he’s selling after Montella seemingly lost the squad. The formation change under Gattuso – moving from a three-back system to a 4-3-3 – has been a welcome change. It’s a process, but a Milan side that couldn’t string together three results earlier this season is now unbeaten in five in the league, on the cusp of the Coppa Italia final and looking a lot more positive ahead of the Europa League knockout stage. Milan missed an opportunity to close the gap on the European spots in the Serie A table, but there is a sense of optimism despite Sunday’s circumstantial draw.