May 18, 2024

AC Milan 2-1 PSG: Five things we learned – incredible transformation from reverse fixture

After handing Udinese their first league win of the season on Saturday it was vital that AC Milan produced a response, and we saw a completely different side in the Champions League against Paris Saint-Germain.

 

Stefano Pioli was able to get Christian Pulisic, Theo Hernandez and Ruben Loftus-Cheek back into the starting line-up after their respective recoveries from injury, which was a big boost following a few weeks with plenty of injuries.

The Rossoneri kept it tight this time, unlike the reverse game in the French capita, but they did concede first again after a corner kick which Milan Skriniar tapped in after Marquinhos’ flick-on.

 

Milan showed their character this time and reacted quickly as it only took two minutes for Rafael Leao to score an equaliser with a bicycle kick from close range after Olivier Giroud’s shot was saved.

 

They got ahead in the 50th minute through Giroud, after a lovely cross by Theo and an even better header by his compatriot. They would see out the lead with a resolute defensive effort to reopen the possibility of reaching the knockout stages.

 

Below are five things we learned from the stellar performance against PSG…

 

1. Leading the way

Rafael Leao won the Man of the Match award from UEFA and rightfully so, the Portuguese couldn’t have found a better game to step it up a notch.

 

It was pitted as another chance to compare himself with Kylian Mbappe who is probably the world’s best. Leao scored the equaliser for his side and was a constant threat going forward creating plenty of chances for his teammates and causing a lot of trouble for his opponents.

 

Despite the fantastic performance in attack, Leao was also very lively at the back helping at crucial moments and really putting in the effort needed to help his side win the game.

 

It was a world-class performance by a player that has been heavily criticised as of late. Leao said after the game that he does his talking on the pitch, and what better way to speak than that?

 

💪 @RafaeLeao7 responds on the pitch

🗣

2. Defensive metamorphosis

After weeks of defensive instability, Milan finally looked solid at the back and against a tough opposition as well. Malick Thiaw and Fikayo Tomori held the line well whilst Theo and Davide Calabria had a lot of work to do on the flanks but did well against Dembele and Mbappe, respectively.

 

It’s fair to mention that Pulisic and Leao also helped a lot as did the whole midfield, meaning that it really was a team effort to limit how much the visitors were able to create favourable situations as they did in the 3-0 game in Paris.

 

Calabria in particular was fantastic as he had the tough job of keeping Mbappe at bay and for the better part of the game he did that really well allowing the Frenchman a bit more space just on a couple of occasions.

 

The captain has really stepped up in recent weeks showing leadership and passion that has to be recognised.

 

No player has made more interceptions than @fikayotomori_ (10) in the Champions League so far this season.

 

3. A tank in the middle

Loftus-Cheek missed a month due to an injury and therefore had to watch the games with Borussia Dortmund and PSG from the sidelines. He was finally back in the starting XI, and he certainly showed what the team have been missing.

 

He was partly at fault on the opening goal as Skriniar was left unmarked but that only seemed to spark him into life as he was a complete tank afterwards.

 

The former Chelsea man carried the ball forward on multiple occasions showcasing his great physical strength as the only way players were taking the ball off him was with a foul, otherwise they just bounced off him.

 

Loftus-Cheek also won 10 duels and was vital in that three-man midfield, which happened to look very very good with Tijjani Reijnders in the middle and Yunus Musah on the left. Judging by what we saw, these three have to be the starting midfield in every big game.

 

.@RLC’s ranking among #ACMilan players during the game against Paris Saint-Germain:

 

🥇 262 metres of ball carry distance (1st)

🥇 183 metres of ball carry progress (1st)

🥇 3 fouls won (1st)

🥇 10 duels won (joint 1st)

🥇 5 dribbles completed (joint 1st)

 

4. RLC not the only one

Reijnders started off the season in a positive manner before his performances dropped drastically in terms of quality, but against PSG and with a lot more quality and energy around him he played a very good game.

 

The Dutchman had a lot of good moments on the ball showing great ball control and quick feet to exploit the empty space and then provide the pass. It’s the kind of game-unlocking ability that he promised upon arriving from AZ Alkmaar.

 

He did struggle a bit defensively, but it must be remembered that he isn’t really a defensive midfielder by his own admission and some difficulties against such a talented possession-based side were to be expected.

 

Musah also played his part and after an early miss, he contributed a lot in both phases of the game but especially in defence where he ran tirelessly helping his team neutralise PSG’s attack.

 

#ACMilan have won a Champions League match after being trailing for the first time since 21 October 2009, when they did so in the group stage against Real Madrid.

 

5. Vintage, again

Olivier Giroud started off the season well, even if a lot of his goals came from penalties, but his overall game was positive too as he linked up well with former Chelsea team-mate Christian Pulisic.

 

After the positive beginning, the 37-year-old struggled both with finding the net (though he didn’t always get good service) and with getting involved in the game in general.

 

However, the Frenchman picked up a brace against Napoli and managed to score an impressive header against PSG to help his side win the game, showing that he still warrants that starting spot on the big nights.

 

It is unfortunate that Milan had injury issues and was forced to play more than he probably should have, and in addition to that Jovic hasn’t really impressed when given the chance either with Pioli hesitant to give him more minutes.

 

Thus, Giroud has been forced to work overtime again, though he rose to the challenge almost as well as he rose to posterise Skriniar for the winner.

 

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