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9 Things: HOW CAN YOU NOT BE EXCITED, AC Milan vs Juventus FC, 4-2

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Has there been a more fun moment in the last six years than beating Juventus? Maybe… but maybe not.

AC Milan v Juventus - Serie A Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

1: What The Analytics Said

This game was eerily similar to what happened when AC Milan lost to FC Internazionale In february. Juventus FC took a quick two-goal lead, but then sat off and let Milan back into the game, just as Milan did in their last fixture against Inter. Milan sat off and Inter clawed their way back. Against Juventus, the Rossoneri burst their way into the lead with three goals in six minutes. While it needs to be said that this turnaround was fortuitous, Milan certainly did not deserve to be losing by two. By the end of the game, Pioli’s men earned their victory with a declarative scoreline. Juventus had not given up four goals since the Champions League final in 2017. It is very impressive to be the first team since Real Madrid to score like this against the Bianconeri. This match was a statement.

There are a few issues to speak about for both teams in terms of the xG. Leonardo Bonucci was credited with an incredibly dangerous header in the ninth minute, however, he seemed to not touch the ball. If he did touch the ball, then he so slightly glanced it that his touch simply did not matter. This was a dangerous play, however, so do not forget it entirely. Zlatan Ibrahimović’s penalty was worth 0.76. The penalty was awarded after an Ante Rebić chest shot credited at 0.33. Each of these plays are part of the xG total, inflating both team’s xG performances.

Individually, Rebić had a game to remember. In the second half, he targeted Daniele Rugani to great effect and was able to get clear of the Italian center back a handful of times. His goal had an xG total of 0.43, so a dangerous chance, and he finished it superbly. Milan did better to get the ball deep in Juventus’s half as well. They had more deep completions and generally attacked more aggressively. From the fifty-sixth to the seventy-sixth minute, Juventus did not add anything to their xG total. Milan absolutely dominated this frame of the game. By the end of this stretch, Milan had added over an expected goal in chances but had scored three.

2: The First Half

For the first forty-five minutes, neither team seemed able to link their attack with the rest of the team. Alessio Romagnoli, Simon Kjær, Ismaël Bennacer, Franck Kessié, Lucas Paquetá, and Alexis Saelemaekers all had their own moments of quality play. These six players linked together well, defended admirably, and helped stifle Juventus’s attack. However, Juventus still found space within the Milan defense. Andrea Conti and Theo Hernández struggled to keep players in front of them. Theo’s issue, again, was a positioning problem, and Conti failed on some duels in dangerous areas.

The entire Milan team struggled to connect to Ibrahimović and Rebić. Neither the Croatian nor Swedish striker was a key part of the first half. They created a couple of shots, but none of them were dangerous enough to beat Wojciech Szczęsny. The beginning of the match was about the defense and the success of players like Kessié and Paquetá in preventing players from getting past them. They were not always successful, but when they were, they quickly transitioned into a counter-attack.

The set-piece defending was slightly chaotic, with the Bonucci missed header as the largest defensive lapse. Milan’s defensive set up was deep in their box and allowed Juventus players to run into space. This could have easily led to a goal, but luckily it did not.

3: Juventus’s quick one-two punch

At the beginning of the second half, the team from Turin came out swinging. Adrien Rabiot’s goal was conceded through some very poor defending from Theo, Bennacer, and Kessié. For each individual player to either sloppily give away possession, be outmuscled on a challenge, or get nutmegged was disappointing. The finish by the French Juventus midfielder was superb. Gonzalo Higuaín made a fantastic run to preoccupy the two Milan center backs and created enough space for Rabiot to shoot.

The second goal was worse defending than the first. Kjær committed a terrible error and you could see that he realized his mistake almost immediately. The Dutch center back fouled Romagnoli! This might surprise you because they are on the same team, but if they were not, it would undoubtedly have been called a foul. The lofted ball over both center backs fell kindly to Ronaldo who slotted home his goal. Milan switched off for six minutes and gave up two Juventus goals. It was certainly poor defending, but did not end the game.

4: If You Are Going To Make A Comeback... Do It With Aggression

The Bonucci handball was fortunate for Milan. Shooting the ball onto someone’s arm is lucky. Sometimes, you get lucky. However, this led to Milan halving the deficit. Then the Rossoneri pounced.

Ibrahimović, Rebić, and Rafael Leão all immediately attempted to victimize the Juventus backline. On the Kessié goal, Hakan Çalhanoğlu played a wall pass into the path of the Ivorian. Ibrahimović backed into Daniele Rugani and pulled him wide to create space for Kessié to run into. Then Bonucci and Danilo were both late to cover and Milan tied the game. Rugani, Bonucci, and Juan Cuadrado all failed to win a duel or provide cover for their teammates. This failure let Milan players break into the box and reach a dangerous area. If the Juventus backline had held firm then Milan’s attack would most likely have been stopped at the eighteen-yard line.

The Leão goal was spurred on by some truly abysmal defending. Yes, Ronaldo attempted a dribble that he failed entirely, however, that dribble was at midfield and that rarely leads to a goal. What did lead to the goal was a center back, Rugani, fouling a forward, Rebić, then having play continue on, only for the same center back to deflect the ball into the back of his own net. It was truly a mesmerizing piece of woeful defending. Give Leão credit for continuing the play, and even slightly disrupting Rugani’s stride with a little move before shooting. However, the Italian center back committed two massive errors that led to this goal.

This all happened within six minutes.

5: What Happened To Juventus

This was an issue of poor substitution usage and the players on the field switching off after the penalty. The main issue was with the backline which became chaotic after the goal. None of the four players were properly providing cover for one another. Cuadrado struggled to maintain his defensive shape and gifted too much room for Milan to exploit. Danilo lost his position on the left side too often. This let Milan grow in confidence around his side of the box. Rugani was targeted by Rebić and Leão. Both attackers made runs that bamboozled the defender. These three issues culminated in a quick turn around for Milan.

Maurizio Sarri should see some blame as well as he did not start to make substitutions until after Milan took the lead. At that point, the team had been blitzed by three goals and it would have been hard to recreate their previous momentum. Milan continued to hold back the Juventus attacks, but it seemed unlikely that the Bianconeri were going to win any points.

6: The Final Goal

This was an absolute gift of a goal. Alex Sandro played one of the more careless passes I have seen. At the end of the flight of the ball was Giacomo Bonaventura who did not waste a golden opportunity. He squared the ball to Rebić who emphatically placed the shot into the back of the net. With ten minutes to go, that sealed the fixture.

7: The Midfield Delivers Again

Rodrigo Bentancur and Rabiot were a tough assignment but Kessié and Bennacer both held their own against Juventus. They curtailed the Juventus attack for most of the game and helped provide defensive cover when the Bianconeri broke through them. Their largest successes were preventing players from running past them and then quickly redirecting play into a Milan counter. The Ivorian midfielder scored as well. Both players have shown how good they can be during the restart. I do think adding another midfielder for Milan would be smart, however, these two have proven that they can play with the best in Italy. Bravo to both.

8: The Wrench Milan has Thrown Into the Title Race

Somehow, SS Lazio lost to US Lecce. Their title contention seems to be slipping away from them as Atalanta B.C. starts to heat up. If Lazio had simply won then they would be four points off of Juventus. However, they seem like they are about to be overtaken by the team from Bergamo. I think Atalanta could find themselves within six points of Juventus with six games to play. They have to play the team from Turin in their next match and a win in that game could easily open the doorin the race for the Scudetto. But Atalanta still needs to play Milan and based on Milan’s recent form, that game could easily go either way.

This all adds interest to the Scudetto race, but I still firmly believe that Juventus will win the league. Milan has created a lot of chaos at the top of the table, but a seven-point lead at this stage in the competition seems insurmountable. This being said, chaos is fun and I love it. I am hoping for some more.

9: Overall Thoughts

The team has a legitimate amount of fight. This was certainly the set of fixtures that could have derailed the season, however, Pioli’s men have won two of the first three. The most important thing is that Milan has scored seven goals and only allowed two against the first and second-place teams in Italy. These are statement games. It is undeniable that Milan is now a force to reckon with.

In the last five years, Milan has struggled to win games against the undeniable top teams in Serie A. However, in four games, Milan has defeated Juventus, Lazio, and AS Roma. Taking the aggregate score from these three games means that Milan is winning nine goals to two. Milan has out- xG’d their opponents 6.81 to 2.30. Not only are they winning, but they have also kept their opponents at bay. The construction of this team is better than any team of the last five years. The age profile is young, large contracts are about to be taken off the ledger, and the team is putting on a strong push for finishing fifth. I am excited about next season. Every win leads the Rossoneri closer to the Europa League. I will be incredibly disappointed if they do not make the competition.