AC Milan traveled to Rome to take on Lazio in the first leg of semifinal of the Coppa Italia, and while it wasn’t always very pretty, Milan walked out with a 0-0 draw and everything to play for in the second leg in Milan. A draw looked almost certain from the very beginning, as it appeared that Gennaro Gattuso was always looking to leave with a clean sheet.
Milan looked second best to Lazio throughout the first half hour, as Lazio put pressure on the Gigio Donnarumma on a couple of different occasions with shots that really should have either tested the young Italian keeper or gone into the back of the net.
Lazio’s Patric came close in the 24th minute, but his drug his shot just wide of the far post, and while it appeared that Donnarumma might have had it covered, the shot was bending away from the keeper and would have at least made life a little difficult for him.
Lazio would get a better chance from the boot of Ciro Immobile a few minutes later, but his shot again just missed the far post. Alessio Romagnoli cleared the ball in the box, but it only went as far as Immobile. And while Donnarumma looked to have the previous chance covered, he was absolutely beaten this time and it would have gone into the back of the net had the shot been just a tad more on target.
Franck Kessie had picked up what appeared to be a muscle injury earlier in the half and had to be substituted in the 28th minute, with Hakan Calhanoglu coming on for the Ivorian midfielder. Calhanoglu has been used almost exclusively as a winger by Gennaro Gattuso, but he would have to slot into the midfield here for Kessie.
Sergej Milinković-Savić had a shot that also went wide in the first half, and Lucas Leiva had a shot that was easily saved by Donnarumma. Milan, on the other hand, barely had a sniff of goal, and Krzysztof Piatek often cut a lonely figure up top, with nary a Milan player or even a pass coming within yards of him for long periods of the first half.
There was a clear with Kessie and without Kessie divide to that first half defensive performance— David Swan (@DavidLSwan) February 26, 2019
While Milan struggled in the first half, the difference between when Kessie was on the pitch and when Kessie was not on the pitch was striking. Milan’s success as of late has come from the stability of the central midfield, and with Kessie going down injured, that balance seems to have become a tad suspect.
The second half continued in much the same fashion as the first half did, with very little seeming to go the way of Milan as Lazio continued to put pressure on the visitors. The match largely descended into a midfield slog, as neither team was able to grab the match by the scruff of the neck and really properly have a good chance at goal, except for a few moves that were snuffed out by tackles, legal or otherwise.
Samu Castillejo came into the match in the 73rd minute for Suso, as it appeared that Gattuso wished to insert a bit more pace into the side, but it didn’t appear to work very well as Milan still struggled to control the ball.
Lazio hit the post in the 80th minute after it appeared that Immobile had been offside in the build-up. The flag was never raised, and Donnarumma got a yellow card for his complaints to the referee about the missed off-side call.
Gattuso showed his lack of attacking intent in the 86th minute, as he took Lucas Paquetà off for Lucas Biglia. The introduction of the former Lazio player casued boos and jeers from the home crowd, however, the bigger sign was that instead of introducing a more attacking player, Milan had instead gone with a defensive midfielder who would help limit the chances of Lazio while locking the game down for a 0-0 draw, something that the match had written all over it from the very beginning.
And that’s how it ended, a goalless draw with neither team looking very dangerous in the second half. It means that everything is left to play for in the second leg of the semifinal, which won’t come for almost two months, as the next leg is set to be played on April 24th at the San Siro.