STADIO SAN SIRO (Milan) – AC Milan returned to winning ways in Serie A and they couldn’t do it more convincingly, with their 3-0 victory over Monza proving all their desire to bounce back from the disappointment left by their recent Champions League‘s exit.
Tijjani Reijnders was undoubtedly among the main architects of the hosts’ win, as he opened the scoring after three minutes with a brilliant solo play that worked as an immediate morale booster for the Rossoneri.
This day is likely to linger in Jan-Carlo Simic‘s mind for a long time as the 18-year-old came in to replace the injured Tommaso Pobega and scored shortly after on his Serie A debut to double AC Milan‘s advantage before the break.
Substitute Noah Okafor added a third about 15 minutes from time, sealing the Rossoneri’s third consecutive win at home that sees them retain their five-point cushion over fourth-placed Napoli.
AC Milan inflict early and late blows on Monza
Christian Pulisic created an immediate chance for Milan as his cross from the right was headed by Olivier Giroud slightly over the bar but it was just the prelude to the hosts’ early breakthrough.
Faced with finding a gap between Monza’s defenders, Reijnders opted to go solo as he stubbornly slalomed through three opponents before finishing with the tip of his boot to send the ball past Michele Di Gregorio.
Monza’s goalkeeper was tested again shortly after but the visitors looked far from resigned and started to bring men forward with Andrea Colpani and Lorenzo Colombo particularly lively in orchestrating the team’s attacks.
The Rossoneri benefitted from playing as a compact block in the opening 15 minutes, which allowed them to be particularly effective in ball recovery, something that changed with the passing of time when Monza’s dynamism made it difficult for the hosts to keep pressing them with the same effectiveness.
As a result, the Rossoneri gradually squeezed into their own box, with Raffaele Palladino‘s side establishing their presence in the final third, but Colombo’s turn and shot on the outside of the net was the only significant threat of the period.
On the other side, it took Milan a single break led by Rafael Leao to inflict another blow on the Biancorossi, as the Portuguese teed up Alessandro Forenzi, who hit a rocket from distance that forced a miraculous save from Di Gregorio.
From the resulting corner, the ball fell again to Leao who almost reached the byline to put a low cross that substitute Jan-Carlo Simic, who had replaced injured Pobega after 24 minutes, simply had to tap in to make it 2-0 on his Serie A debut.
There was still time from a spectacular left-footed effort that Pulisic curled against the underside of the crossbar at the end of the first-half to further prove that the Rossoneri deserved the lead.
Maignan’s save and Okafor’s goal wrap up victory
Having already lost several points from winning position lately, the Rossoneri knew that the opening stretch immediately after the break would be crucial to cement their lead and discourage potential attempts of a comeback from the visitors.
Simic could have added his second goal of the day had he hit the target after Tomori’s flick from a corner, while a shot from substitute Patrick Ciurria that flew over the bar was all the Biancorossi seemed able to muster even after a double change from Palladino.
The Biancorossi eventually managed to create the opportunity that could have turned the game on its head but Mike Maignan pulled off another superb save to stop Colpani’s shot from an excellent position.
Ciurria wasted another chance when he popped up at the far post to pick up Dany Mota‘s cross, only to miss the target from close range.
Di Gregorio was at full stretch again as he denied Noah Okafor‘s curling shot but was left helpless a couple of minutes later when Olivier Giroud‘s laid the ball off to the Swiss who slotted it into the bottom corner through a precise first-time finish from the centre of the box.
There were more potential chances for the hosts to round off the scoring in the closing minutes but the likes of Samuel Chukwueze, Giroud and Theo Hernandez all lacked precision and clarity of mind when called upon to beat Di Gregorio again.