AC Milan ran out 2-1 winners against Salernitana at the Stadio Arechi in a tense Serie A Matchday 16 game. Milan started superbly with goals from Rafael Leao and Sandro Tonali, but they failed to take the game fully away from Salernitana and Federico Bonazzoli’s goal set up a dramatic finish in Salerno.
Milan knew that they needed a big start to this second phase of the season as they had been eight points behind league leaders Napoli through the mid-season break.
Leao and Tonali show Milan’s best work
Something that has been lacking for Milan early in the season is the intensity that they showed throughout last season, but it was inside the first 10 minutes that their pressure paid off and it was Leao at the centre of it.
The Portuguese international was released by Sandro Tonali and his touch took him wide around Guillermo Ochoa but a precise finish saw the ball roll over the line before a defender could reach it. He may be the subject of much transfer and contract speculation, but he did not look distracted in the early stages.
Stefano Pioli’s side knew they could build on the lead early and in 15th minute it became 2-0. Tonali’s shot was parried by Ochoa to Brahim Diaz who calmly played it back to Tonali who lashed it into the bottom corner.
Milan continued to pile on the pressure both towards the end of the first half and at the beginning of the second. Leao looked supremely confident, possibly too much. He was bringing out a few flicks and tricks that Stefano Pioli may have liked to see if the score was 3-0 or 4-0 with less of the game left to play.
Salernitana did still pose a threat on the break and there was a feeling that one misstep from the Rossoneri could turn it into a very different match as the second half wore on. The Granata started the day in 12th and have looked much better than last season, meaning Milan could not afford to get complacent.
The Diavolo looked to have rectified the situation just before the hour mark though with a very scruffy goal. A free-kick was swung in which after bobbling around, was fired at goal by Tomori and ended up being claimed by Diaz after it trickled into the net through the bodies. A VAR check soon ruled it out though. Diaz was in an offside position and was ruled to have touched the ball, although it was a very tough one to call.
Milan’s complacency almost punished
With less than 10 minutes to play at the Arechi, Salernitana got back into the game with a great goal. A looping cross from Lassana Coulibaly was met at the far post by Bonazzoli who volleyed past Ciprian Tatarusanu. It would be unfair on the Granata to say that it came out of the blue.
It will be of major concern to Milan that they did not get the result secured much earlier in the game given they had 10 shots on target throughout the game. Multiple chances and situations were wasted by the Rossoneri and it was a needlessly nervy finish in Campania.
The eight minutes of added time became a basketball game with Salernitana posing a threat, whilst Milan looked very capable of making it 3-1.
The win takes Milan within five points of Napoli who will face Inter at 20:45 CET on Wednesday. Salernitana drop to 13th on goal difference.