AC Milan played their 30th match of the season in Rome, needing a strong bounce back after a horrendous draw to last place SPAL on Wednesday. Zlatan Ibrahimovic finally returned to the starting eleven, taking the place of Ante Rebić at forward. Samu Castillejo was also out with an injury, and 21-year-old Alexis Saelemaekers stepped in to replace him on the right wing. Lazio’s most noticeable absence was Ciro Immobile, Serie A’s leading goalscorer, who was out with a suspension.
The game got off to a slow start, with both sides trying to control possession, but Hakan Çalhanoğlu, continuing his recent good form, broke the game open in the 23rd minute. The Turkish midfielder took a difficult look from outside the box, and, fortunately for Milan, the Lazio defenders did a poor job of closing down the shot, and the ball took a wild deflection that ended up sailing over goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha.
Minutes later, the Milanese thought they had a second goal when Ibrahimovic was able to score after a beautiful cross from Andrea Conti found him at the back post. However, the goal was ruled offside, and subsequent replays confirmed this decision.
Milan managed to stretch their advantage to two in the 34th minute, when an outstretched hand by defender Stefan Radu blocked a cross from Saelemaekers inside the box. Zlatan’s strike from the spot was nearly saved by Strakosha, but the Albanian’s strong fist was unable to keep the ball out of the net.
For the remainder of the first half, neither of the sides slowed down or backed off. Both teams continued to create attacking chances, but they were unable to move the scoreline further. Concerningly, several Milan players took knocks in the first half, including Çalhanoğlu, who was replaced by Lucas Paquetá in the 37th minute, and Zlatan, who was replaced at halftime by Ante Rebić.
The second half got off to a fast start, with Lazio nearly getting a goal back in the 52nd minute. A counter attack sparked by Luis Alberto resulted in a two-on-two, but Andrea Conti played his line perfectly, stepping up just before Alberto found Manuel Lazzari, who easily scored, only to find out that he was in an offside position.
AC Milan put the match out of reach for Lazio in the 59th minute after Jack Bonaventura found Rebić unmarked on the Lazio backline, deep within the 18-yard box. Rebić took a great touch into space and easily slotted the ball past Strakosha, who had no chance at stopping the in-form Croatian. The goal put the Rossoneri up by three with just thirty minutes remaining, and the club held on to complete what is surely one of its best wins of the season.
The final eight rounds of the season are going to be fascinating to watch. Most teams will play every match just three days apart in brutal heat, which will surely lead to large numbers of injuries and suspensions. The heat and overall poor conditioning levels has already led to several ridiculous comebacks: no side will ever be truly be safe with a lead. Milan have seen how fragile these games can be, drawing against a truly bad SPAL team, but rebounding days later against 2nd-place Lazio. Milan will look to continue their run against Juventus in just three days at the San Siro, where grabbing any points against the title leaders would be a success.