When AS Roma defender Roger Ibanez rose to power a Lorenzo Pellegrini corner kick past AC Milan goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu on 87 minutes, Milanisti were cursing a second consecutive week of defensive complacency, but confident of another three Serie A points.
However, while the Rossoneri escaped Salerno with a valuable win on Matchday 16, they were not so fortunate at the San Siro on Sunday night. Giallorossi frontman Tammy Abraham thumped a close-range strike into the net deep into added time, as the Milan players looked on helplessly.
It was clear from the start of the match that the team from the capital had gone to San Siro determined to frustrate the Rossoneri, but after midfielder Tommaso Pobega had added to Pierre Kalulu’s first-half goal with just 15 minutes left to play, few expected the Romans to recover.
A comfortable start for AC Milan
For the third time this season (Napoli and Torino the others), the Giallorossi did not have any attempts on the opposition goal and, on this occasion, were clearly focused on reducing the attacking threat of the Rossoneri. Yet the hosts responded to that tactic almost perfectly.
While Stefano Pioli’s men failed to get in behind the Roma defence or test goalkeeper Rui Patricio until half an hour into the match, they did not panic and were clinical enough when poor marking at a corner kick provided the perfect opportunity for Kalulu to give them the lead.
The Giallorossi continued to allow Milan possession, rather than risk creating space for the likes of Rafael Leao to exploit, but this youthful Rossoneri side showed their increasing maturity and experience by not getting frustrated by the deep defensive line and passive approach of Roma.
When Milan broke downfield and scored a second through Pobega on 72 minutes against this seemingly goal-impotent Roma, had the final whistle blown at 2-0, many would have praised a performance full of professionalism and character.
Late collapse highlights room for growth
48% of the Giallorossi’s goals this season have come from set pieces, therefore, if the Rossoneri should have been wary of anything as the clock ticked down at San Siro, it should have been the Roma prowess from dead ball situations, but it is nothing to be too concerned about.
An older head at the heart of the Milan defence might have been able to calm those around them when the visitors pulled a goal back, but the likes of Fikayo Tomori and Kalulu will learn from the setbacks they face in the coming years. If anything, the 36-year-old Tatarusanu was the biggest contributor to their downfall, showing neither the experience to help organise them nor the ability to stop the initial effort from Nemanja Matic before Abraham swept home the rebound.
However, should the Rossoneri find themselves in similar circumstances during the rest of the campaign, they will be better prepared to contest and resist an opponent smelling blood and walk away with all three points.