AC Milan suffered an embarrassing 5-2 defeat to Sassuolo on Matchday 20 of Serie A action at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, and not only is their title defence in total shambles, but qualification for the Champions League in 2023/24 could be at risk.
Neroverdi talisman Domenico Berardi was inspirational for his team in the Matchday 20 lunchtime match, supplying a hat-trick of assists and also scoring once. This result meant that the Rossoneri dropped to equal third with Atalanta in the league table, and both Lazio and AS Roma were a point behind prior to their respective games.
AC Milan produced such an insipid performance, one must wonder if Stefano Pioli is capable of turning the fortunes of the Rossoneri. Although he has to contend with a plethora of absentees, the Diavolo coach has displayed a lack of tactical flexibility since the turn of the new year.
Pioli bizarrely starts Leao on the bench
When the AC Milan starting line-up was named prior to kick-off, a star name was left off the bench. Pioli decided to leave his star winger Rafael Leao on the bench and brought him on at half-time for Charles De Ketelaere when the Rossoneri were 3-1 down.
It proved to be of little significance as Armand Lauriente made it 4-1 two minutes into the second half with a penalty and substitute Matheus Henrique added a fifth before Divock Origi scored a consolation goal. However, given Leao‘s pace, skills, and ability to create something out of nothing, perhaps he could have created some headaches for Sassuolo early on.
There are some players that really should not be playing for AC Milan, such as Ciprian Tatarusanu and Matteo Gabbia. The Romanian goalkeeper has been woeful trying to deputise for Mike Maignan, and the Italian defender is probably there just to fill the quota home-grown players, otherwise his awareness and positioning have been atrocious.
However, this should not mask Pioli’s deficiencies as a coach. He was praised for his motivational skills and man management when he arrived in late 2019, but he has rarely moved away from the 4-2-3-1 formation. The Rossoneri look pedestrian in possession and playing with a high defensive line left the defence completely exposed.
Pioli has done some great things for AC Milan in the last three years, but it seems that the magic has finally burst for him at Milanello.
Berardi back to his best at Sassuolo
This emphatic victory for Sassuolo allowed them to move to 16th in the Serie A table with 20 points and it was their talisman Berardi that orchestrated this comprehensive win.
His low cross from the right found Gregoire Defrel at the back post to open the scoring and the Neroverdi captain supplied his second assist two minutes later when Davide Frattesi ran onto his pass and squeezed the ball past Tatarusanu.
Berardi got a much-deserved goal after heading in Hamed Traore’s corner and then Sassuolo made it 4-1 just two minutes in the second half when Calabria fouled Armand Lauriente and the French winger converted the resulting penalty.
Berardi got his third assist after winning the ball on the right and providing a low cross for substitute Matheus Henrique to make it 5-1. Divock Origi also came on as a sub and pulled it back to 5-2 with a superb strike from the Belgian.
Berardi had three goals and no assists before this match so this complete turnaround in form was much needed for Sassuolo and their inspirational winger as they try to avoid the drop.