Pioli gets three much-needed points as Pulisic goal edges AC Milan past Sassuolo

The pressure was on Stefano Pioli ahead of AC Milan's Serie A Matchday 18 clash with Sassuolo and Christian Pulisic provided the goal that his coach needed.

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STADIO SAN SIRO (Milan) AC Milan have Christian Pulisic to thank for ending their 2023 on a positive note as the American scored the only goal of the afternoon in the Rossoneri’s 1-0 win over Sassuolo in their last Serie A match of 2023.

Pulisic found his sixth league goal of the season in the second half to break the deadlock in what had been an extremely tight contest for the opening 45 minutes, during which both sides didn’t seem willing to take any risks.

Sassuolo had their three-match winning streak at the San Siro against Milan halted but, above anything else, they should probably start worrying about their proximity to the relegation zone, which they are now just two points above.

Milan‘s victory will probably have the effect of alleviating the recent mounting pressure on coach Stefano Pioli, besides restoring the Rossoneri’s three-point cushion over fourth-placed Fiorentina.

Sassuolo frustrate AC Milan in goalless first-half

AC Milan midfielder Tijjani Reijnders carries the ball forward (@acmilanar)

Despite their desperation to get the three points, the Rossoneri opted for a cautious approach which involved calmly working their way from the back, preventing the visitors from taking control of possession in their usual fashion.

After Ismael Bennacer had a goal ruled out for a clear offside in the build-up, Tijjani Reijnders scared the Neroverdi by stubbornly winning the ball back in the last third and carrying it to the edge of the box, only to drag his low-drive wide.

Another shot from outside the box, this time from Bennacer, was all the Rossoneri could muster in the opening 25 minutes against a Sassuolo side that, despite struggling to pose a threat, seemed organised enough to deal with Milan‘s attacks.

The Neroverdi’s compactness in defence made it difficult for Pioli’s side to find gaps, and when they actually spotted one to set up Rafael Leao‘s for an opener, the linesman’s flag went up once again to rule out the goal.

Milan’s repeated long balls made the task even easier for Sassuolo‘s defenders, with Gian Marco Ferrari and Martin Erlic looking like particularly comfortable.

Pulisic capitalises on Bennacer’s spark

AC Milan midfielder Christian Pulisic controls the ball (@acmilan)

Jeremy Toljan registered the first shot on target after the break as he came infield to send the ball straight at Mike Maignan, but it was just one of the moments that highlighted a bolder attitude from the visitors.

Reijnders‘ meek shot from a promising position was blocked by a defender before Domenico Berardi’s deflected effort gave the hosts something to think about it.

Eventually, the decisive spark came from Bennacer who played a swift and precise ball that was deflected by Ruan Tressoldi into Pulisic’s path, presenting the American with the chance to calmly round Consigli to make no mistake in front of an open goal and put Milan ahead.

Sassuolo‘s first reaction to falling behind only came 15 minutes later, but Armand Lauriente’s fierce low drive was confidently stopped by Maignan, who faced no further test in the closing minutes of a game that once again confirmed how Alessio Dionisi’s side are going through a patch of very poor form, having lost three of their last four Serie A games.

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