Milan got their second win from two home games on Saturday night with a 3-2 win over Palermo.
Carlos Bacca’s brace either side of a beautiful free kick from Giacomo Bonaventura was enough for the three points to secure a perfect fightback following the derby defeat.
However, the win wasn’t without it’s drama, as Palermo levelled twice through former-PSV midfielder Oscar Hiljemark, thanks to some pretty suspect defending.
So, what did we learn from the second win of the season?
1. Big money, big value?
Carlos Bacca, as aforementioned, scored a couple of lovely goals that were fundamental to the victory.
So many times in that situation last season the team would succumb after being pegged back twice and only managed to get a point, but thanks to Bacca the team was able to pull out a win.
For the first goal, it was wonderful work from Bonaventura to spot the Colombian running round behind him, and Carlos produced a lovely finish with the outside of his boot to put the ball past a motionless Sorrentino.
As for his second, the cross from Kucka was perfect, but the header from Bacca was even better. A superb glance into the far corner that again left Sorrentino with no chance at all.
It was a huge goal and one that carried more meaning than just retaking a lead. It was a change in mentality, and a belief that Milan would secure the three points and start again after the disappointment of a week ago.
For that, I tip my hat to Carlos, who won a lot of people over with his performance.
2. Kucka continues to impress
Juraj Kucka stood out for me yet again as a consistent performer across the 90 minutes.
As already mentioned, his cross for the winning goal was fantastic, and will be the lasting statistical contribution for which he will be remembered in the game.
Aside from that though, he put in a real shift, and never seemed to stop working hard along the right side. Technically he was good also, possessing a good touch and looking pretty composed while on the ball.
And it is his work-rate that helps keep the balance in the team with Montolivo in the Regista role, as his contributions on both ends of the ball make the midfield tick along better than before.
It begs the question, will Kucka end up making more of an impact than Bertolacci? Early days it may be, but hopefully Juraj continues to show why Milan were so keen on snatching him at the end of the window.
3. Defensive naivety on show
Sadly, despite the win, I can’t not mention the negatives of what was hardly a squeaky-clean victory.
Hiljemark’s two goals did demonstrate a lack of decision, albeit the first a perfect cross from the set piece.
Unfortunately I have to blame Diego Lopez for the first concession. There seemed to be a mix up between himself and the defenders around that allowed Hiljemark to get the decisive touch.
Maybe there was a question of a foul on Lopez, but it is his duty to command his area and ensure nobody gets between him and the ball, and that didn’t happen. I will add though that I would never criticise Lopez where it is unwarranted, as he has been a standout performer for Milan over the last season and a bit.
The second goal is all on De Sciglio, sadly, as it is painful to have to point out his mistake following what had been a good spell of games for him.
Instead of tracking Hiljemark, he let him go through completely unobstructed. Whether he was expecting Romagnoli to ‘take the baton’ so to speak and continue tracking we will never know, but there’s no reason why that should have been the case.
Realistically though, it made the game more interesting and certainly the first half seemed to be played at lighting speed compared to the tactical probing we saw in the derby.
4. Montolivo adapting to starting position
Riccardo Montolivo has taken to his starting role very well, putting together two good performances and beginning to look like a true Regista.
His passing and ball distribution was exceptional again, and in the formation I feel that a Regista is definitely needed to balance the side and provide a creative outlet from deep.
Also, positioning wise Monto got into the key areas of the pitch and the right time, and looked composed defensively, almost cutting off the pass into Gilardino that led to the second equaliser.
He does offer a lot more in a game than Nigel de Jong, who was relied upon mainly for his defensive contribution and the ground that he covered. Yet again, though, Montolivo covered the most space of any Milan player statistically, following on from achieving the same feat against Inter.
For me, Montolivo has retained his starting place for Udinese on Tuesday night.
5. Bona-fide brilliance
Giacomo Bonaventura deserves all the praise that is about to come his way for another superb showing.
At times, he does look like the only player on the field for Milan with the drive and technical ability to really make a big impact. Never has he seemed rushed in possession, and the amount of decision errors he makes could be counted on one hand.
I am a big fan of Bonaventura, who struggled a little bit (by his own high standards) beginning the season, but he has come into his own.
When Bertolacci comes back, I feel like Mihajlovic has to deploy a midfield trio of Kucka-Montolivo-Bertolacci and let Bonaventura play Trequartista, because he can create and is always a threat.
Oh, and the free kick he buried was absolutely glorious. Keep it up ‘Jack’.
So, those were the five things I took from a very strange but very entertaining game between two good sides.
Milan have to kick on from the win and record another on Tuesday night, while Palermo must avoid going back to the drawing board, as what they did would have got them three points against most sides in the division.
Special mentions have to go to Davide Calabria, who took to the fullback role like a duck to water, and continues to be such an exciting young talent. Also Keisuke Honda, who was largely ineffective again, and Mario Balotelli, who may be in the mix for a start against Udinese.
Roll on Tuesday!
Article by Oliver Fisher