Rafael Leao scored a one-touch volleyball as Milan returned to first place with a 2-0 win over Genoa.
The game was a defensive affair, with much of the offense coming late in the second half as both sides began to tire. Rafael Leao and Theo Hernandez were effective on the left wing, forcing the Genoa defense into desperate tackles. Likewise the Rossoneri The defense was in good form and only missed one real chance in 90 minutes.
After a string of disappointing results, Stefano Pioli made significant changes to his starting XI. Once again, the manager tried to play Franck Kessie as an advanced midfielder, while Matteo Gabbia started as a central defender and Pierre Kalulu switched to left-back.
Genoa deployed a 4-3-3, with Caleb Ekuban and Atalanta loanee Roberto Piccoli as the two forwards. Nadiem Amiri supported the duo as a creative number ten/false nine, while youngster Leo Skiri Ostigard anchored the defense at centre-back.
– AC Milan (@acmilan) April 15, 2022
It only took ten minutes for Milan to open the gate. Kalulu, pushing high over the wing, played a brilliant ball towards the back post and searched for Leao. The winger beat his man and easily put a first volley into the back net.
After the sudden opening goal, both sides seemed to relax and the game turned quite defensive. Gabbia and Fikayo Tomori performed well in knocking out Piccoli, while Leao struggled to find space on the wing against Mattia Bani and Silvan Hefti.
Milan’s next chance came when Kessie found Alexis Saelemaekers open in the box. However, the Belgian, who had time and space, inexplicably missed the opportunity and sent the ball well over the bar from just ten yards.
Pablo Galdames received the ball in Gabbia’s penalty area in added time. The midfielder easily created a chance and fired a shot on target, but it just flew high to end the first half 1-0.
— Genoa CFC (@GenoaCFC) April 15, 2022
At the beginning of the second half, a poor rally from Ostigard Saelemaekers gave a chance to escape. However, Genoa’s defense rallied exceptionally well and with no options, Saelemaekers was left with no choice but to force an unlucky shot on goal.
Later, Saelemaekers had another opportunity to double Milan’s lead. He played a cross into an open Giroud in the box, but he was just behind the striker, who failed to get his volley on target.
At some point Pioli felt that his team needed an attack boost. After an unconvincing performance from Giroud and Saelemaekers, the manager removed the pair and replaced them with Junior Messias and Ante Rebic.
As time went on, Leao became more and more comfortable with the ball. With 15 minutes to go, he made a nice slice towards goal and fired a shot, but it wasn’t enough to beat Salvatore Sirigu.
With the game almost over, Milan unleashed a breakaway and Junior Messias received the ball from a cross. The Brazilian didn’t miss from close range and fired a wild shot into the net to confirm victory for them Rossoneri.