After defeat to Torino weekend, AC Milan went within minutes of a second consecutive Serie A slip on Saturday night, before substitute Olivier Giroud arrived to perform his usual heroics and secure a 2-1 win and three valuable points. Without the suspended Frenchman against Cremonese, Milan were held to a goalless draw.
Before kick-off against Spezia, the Rossoneri were trailing league leaders Napoli by nine points – the Partenopei having just overcome Atalanta – and they were watching their title defence beginning to falter, but originally opted for the stuttering Divock Origi to lead the attack.
Since arriving from Premier League side Liverpool, out of contract, during the summer, the 27-year-old has scored just one goal in all competitions.
Although the impressive performance of Spezia goalkeeper Bartlomiej Dragowski suggested the visitors were fortunate to go into the break just one goal behind, the lack of involvement from the Belgian international was equally noticeable from his absenteeism. Against Cremonese he had the ball in the net, but his effort was ruled out as he was offside.
Origi’s only contribution to the opening 45 minutes against the Ligurians was a volley 12 yards from goal that soared high over the crossbar and then deflecting a Rafael Leao shot off target. More telling was Brahim Diaz clearly choosing to ignore the striker, despite him being in a better position, and passing to the Portuguese.
When the second half began, the ex-Lille frontman at least forced a save from Dragowski on 50 minutes after bursting forward, but when Daniel Maldini, on loan from Milan to help make room for the Belgian, equalised for Spezia moments later, it again highlighted his shortcomings.
Shortly afterward Origi stood on the ball when running towards his own goal attempting to avoid a trio of Spezia players and, although playing a clever pass to assist Sandro Tonali’s disallowed goal, coach Stefano Pioli had seen enough. Against Cremonese, there was no Giroud to replace him.
Dependence on Giroud, but…
There was an obvious sense of relief and expectation when Giroud replaced the former Liverpool striker at the San Siro, given the Frenchman’s contribution to the Rossoneri’s 2021/22 title win. The match-winning displays of the 36-year-old during the latter stages of that campaign will live long in the memory.
Thus, when Tonali drove towards the edge of the visitors’ box and floated a lofted ball towards the back post, it was unsurprising to see Giroud rising majestically to volley home a stunning 89th-minute winner. However, having received a caution for an altercation with Ethan Ampadu, his decision to remove his shirt in celebration and get sent off has proved to be as important as the goal, as he then missed the draw in Cremona.