Two good news and two bad. Let’s start with the good ones. The first: Milan sent the derby to the attic, locked in the trunk of disused objects: three days were enough to recover spirit and play.
The second: peace made with their own people, who have revised what they demanded. Right head and intensity. The bad: this, in the most logical projections of the group in the coming weeks, was a match to win at all costs. The other bad one: Milan would have deserved not only to win, but a comprehensive victory. And coming out of this match full of delicacies in front of goal without even a goal is football blasphemy. A target practice for the waste festival against an opponent decidedly far from the English standards one could imagine. Let’s also say that Ibra’s emergency room worked. It was a Milan that – under Cardinale’s eyes – regained vigor and vitality, even if two boulders loom over this match: the injuries to Loftus-Cheek and above all that of Maignan. Something that, waiting to find out more, plunges the Rossoneri world back into panic.
There are three changes from Pioli compared to the city nightmare. We can define one as automatic, with Tomori returning alongside Thiaw. The others, however, are considered choices: absolute debut for the Rossoneri from the first minute for Chukwueze in place of Pulisic and first as a starter of the season also for Pobega, with Reijnders – the best of the midfield, until the derby – on the bench. The manager’s intention to further strengthen the midfield is evident. The rest remained unchanged, with Loftus-Cheek on the centre-right, Giroud and Leao completing the attacking trident. Howe, without a cornerstone like Joelinton in midfield, placed Longstaff on the centre-right, with Tonali as left midfielder and Bruno Guimaraes in front of the defence. At the center of the attack was the Swede Isak, another boy from the “Ibra team”.
The good news is that the shock derby has been worked out and overcome. Milan, driven by an impeccable San Siro, started with personality and courage. Trivially: as if nothing had happened three days earlier. Whoever was hiding is now getting the ball. Those who didn’t go beyond the three-meter support now raise their heads and verticalize. Whoever remained in the shadow, the man leaps. Or at least he tries. Also thanks to a quicker ball turn (it didn’t take much) and more frequent, courageous and decisive insertions of some key figures who should never be missing: Hernandez and Loftus-Cheek, in particular. The Englishman moves very centrally, on Bruno Guimaraes’ ground, shielding the Portuguese’s ideas. Pobega breaks away at the right moments. If anything, it is the wingers who struggle a little more: both Leao and Chukwueze often try to take the lead, but they are too clumsy even if they achieve the goal of intimidating the Juventus defensive phase. Milan also directs and creates because, after an initial phase of well-organised pressure, Newcastle lose meters of the pitch and play with a very clear idea from the stands: to put the match to sleep as much as possible. Gradually deflate the Rossoneri ferocity.
Reviewable strategy because Milan is hungry for revenge and goals. The problem is that in front of the goal the Devil does everything. The emblem in the 34th minute, when Leao takes four Englishmen for a walk and incredibly, with the goal wide open, instead of finishing with his right foot he tries an absurd heel, smoothing the ball. He whipping stuff in the locker room. An action which then sees the right-footed Pobega blocked on the line by a defender and Loftus-Cheek blocked twice. Stuff you wouldn’t believe. A Milan that repeatedly targeted the Juventus goal defended by an unsure Pope. Pobega and Krunic tried from long range, generating difficult saves. Hernandez tried to head it from a few steps away: Pope, motionless, found the ball in his hands and thanked his guardian angel. And Giroud also tried, with his header, which bounced off the gloves of the Juventus goalkeeper. At the end of the first half: 14 shots to 1 for Milan. But zero goals.
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In the second half, Calabria was booked for Florenzi and the score was the same as in the first half. Milan with the ball at their feet, Newcastle waiting and, at game time, two more entries: Pulisic for Chukwueze and Reijnders for Pobega. The Dutchman has yet another golden opportunity on his conscience: a central slalom between two opponents, the goal opening wide, a shot as soft as a soufflé into Pope’s arms. Another cardinal sin. The shooting continued with Leao’s header twisting just a fraction high and with Pulisic and Hernandez blocked by the human dam in the middle of the English area. At half an hour Loftus-Cheek raised the white flag due to muscular problems (on Musah), but the big fear is all for Maignan: he is also out due to physical problems ten minutes from the 90th minute. Inside Sportiello. The Rossoneri’s pressure increased further towards the end, but it ran afoul of Leao’s poor streak, who once again lost the correct tempo a few steps from the goal. In the final, the Devil thanks Sportiello, who deflects Longstaff’s torpedo over the crossbar. That would have been really too much.