Milan got back to winning ways in style of Monday night as we secured a 4-1 win at Lecce to find solutions to our problems in front of goal so far this season.
The Rossoneri had the unwanted tag of the fourth-worst attack in Serie A prior to Monday’s encounter, as while we have created plenty of chances, we haven’t been consistent in converting them into goals.
We put that right against an albeit poor Lecce side, and while it is a major confidence boost for Stefano Pioli and the players, there will no doubt be tougher tests ahead.
That said, there were plenty of positives to take from the game, notably the performances from the attacking players in the side…
Castillejo impresses on return
Aside from producing a brilliant finish to break the deadlock, the Spaniard’s energy, work rate and desire off the ball coupled with his movement and all-round threat ensured he made a positive comeback.
His presence was missed in Turin last week, and he showed why against Lecce as he worked tirelessly for the team as he pressed from the front and not only helped force Lecce into mistakes, but he also set the tempo and standard for the rest of the XI.
Castillejo still needs to be more decisive with his goal proving he’s capable, but with this performance he arguably showed why he has become a mainstay in the starting line-up.
Rebic can lead the line
There was pressure on the Croatian after his red card against Juventus, as some were perhaps still questioning whether or not he could play as the lone frontman too.
He answered those questions on Monday as he showed great composure to bag his seventh Serie A goal of the season after springing forward on the counter.
Further, he was also a real headache for the Lecce backline with his intelligent movement and runs up top while also showing a good touch to bring others into the game in an impressive display.
Front four show promising form
While Hakan Calhanoglu was involved in three of the four goals, Giacomo Bonaventura also got on the scoresheet as our attacking quartet were all in good form.
Their energy, movement and ability to float and interchange positions caused Lecce real problems, and so it’s no surprise that three of them got on the scoresheet while Calhanoglu ultimately pulled the strings given his decisive influence.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is still working towards a comeback from his calf injury, but with Roma and SPAL to come next, it looks as though Pioli has the quality needed in the final third to cope without him and the pieces came together on this occasion.
Leao makes impact off bench
“Leao has to do more than tonight’s goal, but scoring is important, he came on and did very well, I’m happy,” Pioli told Sky Sport Italia. “I have to expect more because he has so much to give. He has the physicality but still some difficulty in playing centrally, we are working on it.”
It’s hard to fault Pioli’s handling of Leao and his comments publicly as he is arguably spot on in his ongoing assessments. The 21-year-old was a huge disappointment against Juventus last time out as he made little to no impact on the game after coming off the bench.
This time round, he got himself on the scoresheet for a much-needed goal. That aside, he showed some good touches when given the ball, but as Pioli alludes to above, there is still something lacking from Leao and he’ll need to really grit his teeth and prove a point when he gets a chance as he may find himself on the bench again at the weekend.
Confidence boost, but tougher tests to come
This was a real boost for Milan as it was crucial we started on a positive note as Serie A returned to set us up for a strong finish to the season in order to stay in contention for European qualification.
Keeping within striking distance to Roma and Napoli has to be the aim as it could be argued we’ve given ourselves too much to do to catch Atalanta in fourth place, but while it was good to get back to winning ways at Lecce, there will be more difficult tests ahead.
That starts with Roma on Sunday, and it’s hoped that we can take this goalscoring form into that game as we’ll certainly need to show the same clinical edge against the Giallorossi to secure a pivotal win and to close the gap on our rivals.