AC Milan travelled to face Lecce away and come up with a big 4-1 win where each of Rebic, Castillejo, Leao and Bonaventura got a goal whilst Calhanoglu bagged some assists. Leao scored his first since January, Castillejo his first in the league this season and Bonaventura his first since December. Here's the game in review:
Hakan Çalhanoğlu vs US Lecce | MVP pic.twitter.com/5moVyStSgM— Actualité Milan (@ActualiteMilan) June 23, 2020
Calhanoglu Pulling The Strings
Calhanoglu had an impressive post lockdown display at Lecce after a decent game against Juventus in the Cup. The Turkey international showed some of his qualities as he distributed the ball in the final third of the pitch, finding passes through tight spaces. He managed to get two assist with a great square ball for Castillejo’s goal and a fantastic through ball for Rebic’s run and goal. But his shot led to Bonaventura’s tap in as well which brought Milan right back into the game after conceding. More importantly, Milanisti will have noticed some swagger in his game with some nice touches and moves in his game. He seems more confident and this is benefiting the team.
The Kessie-Bennacer partnership in the heart of the midfield is a solid one. Kessie has put in back to back laudable performances whilst Bennacer has grown in influencing the games. The duo has interchanged much more than prior to the lockdown as the swapped wings and duties. Both of them are passing well and quickly helping play transition up the field. Kessie is tried a rocket of a snapshot that was well saved by Gabriel. The midfielders are doing well to pressure the opposition and have a good synergy with Simon Kjaer who often seemed to rush out and defend in between the two to shutdown attacks early.
Thin and Flaky Defence
Milan faced a defensive crisis last year at a similar point in the season but were lucky to have Zapata and Abate ready to step in. This time, the backline is looking very thin after Kjaer pulled up with the injury. Musacchio is out for the season and Duarte is still recovering from an injury thus Gabbia remains the only option to partner Romagnoli. The youngster is agile and aggressive but is inexperienced and can be exploited easily as with the penalty he conceded. He lacks composure as demonstrated by the unnecessary booking and although he is promising, it will be hard for him to face strong attackers.
The best part of Milan’s display at Lecce was a reflection of the best part of Gattuso’s tenure last season - when Milan press tirelessly. The team fought hard to win the midfield battle and the understanding around zonal marking paid dividends. As previously mentioned, Kjaer often ran of his line into the midfield to make the Lecce player’s scramble and lose the ball. Kessie and Bennacer did not stop running. But also in the attack Calhanoglu, Bonaventura and Castillejo pressed and forced errors as well as shot early leading to Bonaventura's goal. This further shut down Lecce early to avoid any build ups. Milan do best when they pressure their opponents.
LECCE - AC MILAN SERIE A TIM 2019/20 pic.twitter.com/MAUcP0KKFv— TeamMilanAC (@TeamMilanAC) June 22, 2020
Quiet Atmosphere and Mental Strength
Heading into the Lecce fixture, I spoke about Milan’s advantage of having played 180 minutes of football behind closed doors prior to the Serie A resumption. This cannot be understated, Milan slipped up at Genoa but held their own at Juventus which led to their ability to kill off Lecce early into the second half. Milan know how to play without the noise now, they know how to keep themselves sharp and this will be an edge over the first two or three rounds. This weekend against Roma, Milan will go in with 270 minutes of play behind closed doors while Roma have just the 90 minutes yesterday. Milan need to exploit that advantage and use it to overcome the opposition.