After his heroics against Udinese last time out, Ante Rebic was at it again on Friday night as he secured a 1-0 win for Milan over Brescia.
That’s now five games unbeaten, four wins on the bounce across all competitions and four clean sheets in our last five games, which all comes after that embarrassing defeat to Atalanta prior to Christmas.
While it wasn’t convincing at Brescia, winning ugly is still winning and the sooner Milan make a consistent habit of it the better as the victory temporarily lifts us up into sixth place and seven points adrift of Roma in fourth spot.
Rebic the hero for Milan again
After finally making his mark last weekend, Rebic made a big impact off the bench again on Friday night as his goal proved decisive in securing all three points.
It was a case of right place at the right time again as his goalscoring instincts no doubt played a part too, but it’s not just the goal that is so impressive about him.
From facing real doubts, scrutiny and criticism after his poor form to start the season, his urgency, desire and work ethic gave us a real lift after he came on and he’s playing with confidence and getting in great positions.
It’s perhaps only a matter of time before he has forced his way into Stefano Pioli’s starting XI.
If it wasn’t for Gianluigi Donnarumma, we wouldn’t have been in a position for Rebic to seal the win. Not for the first time and it certainly won’t be the last, the shot-stopper produced several vital saves, particularly in the second half, to keep us in it.
While he won’t get as many headlines as Rebic, he was equally as important in this win as he continues to show real consistency and reassurance that we have a safe pair of hands between the posts.
He’ll know himself that mistakes like the one we saw last weekend need to be cut out, but he’s playing a pivotal role in our improved form and is racking up the clean sheets to prove it.
Bennacer absence will be huge vs Verona
While he needs to work on tidying up his game defensively as that’s now 10 bookings so far this season, Ismael Bennacer’s influence is increasing each week.
From his combative style off the ball to get stuck into a midfield battle to his ability to show a turn of pace to get out of trouble or to pick out a pass and get us moving up the pitch quickly, he has shown real quality in recent weeks.
There is perhaps still an imbalance in midfield as we can get overrun at times, but it’s about building around Bennacer now after his initial struggles at the start of the season to cement his place in the XI.
More needed from Rafael Leao
Leao has the talent in abundance, but the problem right now is that we’re only seeing it in short bursts when he takes on his man and looks a threat with his pace, and it’s not enough as he was substituted in the second half.
Compare his efforts with those of Rebic, and the contrast is huge when you focus on the work-rate and desire that the Croatian forward showed off the ball too.
Leao needs to work harder out of possession as Zlatan Ibrahimovic is going to be limited in the closing down he does, and he must find ways to become more involved in games to be a constant headache for defenders as he’s got the ability to do so.
Credit to Pioli for making change
In order to win games, our coach has to put us in the best possible position to go out and do so. The game was screaming out for Rebic in the second half, and the Milan boss duly delivered.
His system change and tinkering has worked since the turn of the year, and he’s now reaping the rewards with an upturn in form.
Milan can still be much better as our build-up play was often slow and lacking in intensity and incisiveness. That will naturally lead to difficulties in breaking well-organised sides down, and so Pioli must make that adjustment moving forward with the tempo of play picking up in the final third.
However, we’re now putting a run together and it starts with the preparation and guidance from the coaching staff.