Milan made it back-to-back wins on Sunday as we sealed a 2-0 victory over Roma in what could prove to be a crucial three points in the battle for European qualification.
The Rossoneri impressed against Lecce earlier in the week, but they had to grind this out in difficult conditions as both sides struggled in the first half.
However, goals from Ante Rebic and Hakan Calhanoglu, the latter from the penalty spot, sealed the win for Milan as the players will undoubtedly be buoyed by our form since the restart of the campaign.
Hugely important win
The win temporarily moves us clear of Parma, Verona and Cagliari, while it cuts the gap to fifth-placed Roma to six points with both sides having 10 games left to play.
In terms of the standings, it was absolutely pivotal that we picked up a victory this weekend, while it should also boost morale and belief within the group that we can beat the teams around us in high-pressure games.
With games against Lazio, Juventus and Napoli still to come, Milan have built some early momentum after the restart and particularly given the direct rivalry between the two sides for a Europa League qualification spot, it was a big win for us to see off Roma and start to put results together.
Heat key factor in first half
Both sides struggled in the opening 45 minutes as the tempo was poor and both battled to create clear-cut opportunities, with Edin Dzeko and Calhanoglu missing one apiece.
It was a real test of resolve as it was no more than walking pace at times, and so it was imperative that Milan stuck in the game and didn’t give Roma something to defend.
Fortunately we were able to do that, and eventually we found some quality in the final third to make a breakthrough as while we finished strong, Roma looked fatigued and certainly faded as the second half went on.
Rebic decisive yet again
That’s now eight goals in nine Serie A games for the Croatian international as he proved to be the difference-maker once again with the crucial opening goal.
After making the initial interception high up the pitch after he pounced on a mistake, he broke forward to get himself in the right position and while he needed two bites to put the ball into the back of the net, he managed to find the all-important goal to break the deadlock.
We’ve seen Rebic pop up in similar situations already this season and so while many would say he was ‘in the right place at the right time’, he’s proving it’s much more than just good fortune as he’s doing it time and time again, and so he’s got a natural goalscorer’s instinct to be on hand to get goals.
Positive impact from Paqueta, Saelemaekers
Credit must also go to Stefano Pioli for the changes he made in the second half, as there is no doubt that both Lucas Paqueta and Alexis Saelemaekers made a crucial impact off the bench.
Both added energy and fresh legs in attack to stretch Roma as the game opened up more, and they were both involved in the build up to the opening goal.
In turn, it was superb decision-making from the coach and the right attitude being shown by the players in question, the two elements combined to help us take control of the game in the latter stages and seal the win.
Big shift from entire team, Pioli gets it right
As noted above, Pioli deserves a lot of credit for the way in which he set the team up as we were difficult to break down, while he made the right changes at the right time to ensure we finished on top.
However, from the heat in the first half to having to grind out a win after turning on the style against Lecce, the entire Milan team put in a real shift on Sunday as we battled hard for the three points.
It’s another quick turn-around considering we play SPAL on Wednesday, and so we’ll have to continue to show the same resolve and character in midweek to make it three consecutive wins as we look to close the gap and get into those qualification spots.
For now though, the players deserve a lot of credit for holding their line in the first half and finishing strong to secure three crucial points.