AC Milan vs Juventus: Decisive Kessie can derail champions’ Scudetto dream
The Ivorian got here up trumps in Sunday’s battling win at Benevento, and will additional dampen the Previous Girl’s hopes of a tenth straight Serie A title
If any sport typified the expansion of this AC Milan aspect beneath Stefano Pioli, it was their 2-0 success over Benevento at Stadio Ciro Vigorito on Sunday night.
The guests confronted a barrage of makes an attempt (25-10), ceded territory and possession (60-40) and even received an enormous slice of luck within the second half when Gianluca Caprari despatched a 61st-minute penalty astray regardless of sending Gianluigi Donnarumma the incorrect means.
It was backs-to-the-wall stuff for the Rossoneri of their first sport of the 12 months largely resulting from Sandro Tonali’s sending off after 33 minutes. It put Milan within the lurch, however they held on for almost an hour; including a second via Rafael Leao minutes after half-time after which hit the woodwork via Hakan Calhanoglu and Franck Kessie within the second 45.
Throw in the truth that they have been with out injured pair Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ismael Bennacer, in addition to the suspended Theo Hernandez and the respect for Pioli’s staff grows.
Observers had tipped the Serie A leaders to wither following the Swede’s layoff, however gamers like Kessie have stepped up within the talisman’s absence, thus invalidating the lazy one-man staff trope that was repeated by some for almost all of 2020.
The Ghana star opened the scoring on Sunday from the spot and will have netted one other to make it 3-0 with seven minutes to play, solely to be denied by the publish. That strike took his league tally for the season to 5, with three of these coming since Zlatan’s damage in opposition to Napoli in November.
After all, critics will rush to level out the treble of targets have come from penalties, nonetheless, it doesn’t take away from the West African’s composure in tucking away necessary spot-kicks in opposition to Fiorentina, Sampdoria and Benevento.
4 aim involvements (he assisted Alessio Romagnoli’s headed strike in opposition to the staff from Florence) with Ibrahimovic absent takes his complete contributions for the season to seven and places him on tempo to higher returns in 16/17 and 18/19, the place he both scored or assisted 9 instances.
Nevertheless, Kessie’s significance to Milan can’t be measured by his output within the remaining third alone with the qualities in midfield, together with at the moment injured Bennacer, scrutinised on the backend of final season.
Piece on @GoalAfrica: Analysing Bennacer and Kessie’s affect in Milan’s Europa League chase.
The pair are actually multifaceted however will that suffice for Pioli’s troops of their run-in?https://t.co/XBZHkkEVjM
— Seye Omidiora (@theReal_SeyE) July 9, 2020
Towards the mid-table new boys on Sunday, the 24-year-old harried the person in possession extra instances than any participant on the pitch, a big contribution given the guests performed an hour undermanned.
Whereas Kessie additionally received again the ball for his aspect extra instances after making use of stress to the opponent, essentially the most noteworthy of these 24 pressures got here when he didn’t truly reclaim possession however did sufficient to drive the house aspect again into their field and a penalty was received instantly after.
The battling success over Benevento wasn’t a one-off, nonetheless, with this Milan aspect already proving their strong-willed nature in opposition to Parma — coming from two targets down to attract 2-2 — Genoa the next gameweek — twice equalizing after falling behind — and in opposition to Lazio — the place they discovered a late winner after throwing away a two-goal benefit.
Apparently, this Rossoneri resoluteness was birthed in that tremendous night time in opposition to Juventus in early July, the place Milan discovered themselves 2-0 down after 53 minutes however roared again to report an unexpected 4-2 victory.
Kessie was instrumental to that comeback post-lockdown, equalizing within the 66th minute after leaving Leonardo Bonucci for useless to provide Pioli’s rising staff the push they wanted to defeat a diminishing Juve aspect.
Their unbeaten run, nonetheless in its infancy on the time, stood at 5 after that turnround in opposition to the Previous Girl however they haven’t regarded again since to increase it by an additional 22 video games to 27 with out defeat.
Pioli’s aspect ended final time period in sixth, a staggering 17 factors behind the Bianconeri who ended the marketing campaign on 83 factors, their lowest tally in a nine-year dominance of Serie A. 15 video games into the brand new season, although, and Milan discover themselves high on 37 factors, 10 factors forward of the champions who sit fifth.
For a aspect whose goal this season was to finish within the Champions League spots for the primary time since 2012/13, they most likely by no means imagined this state of affairs almost midway into the marketing campaign.
Whereas Juventus have a sport in hand, the prospect of falling 13 factors behind the resurgent Crimson and Blacks places an enormous dent of their title aspirations, although Andrea Pirlo’s staff may have 23 video games to supplant the leaders and Inter Milan, who’ve regarded business-like beneath Antonio Conte within the final eight gameweeks.
Pioli acknowledged earlier than the Benevento conflict that the hiatus was well timed for his aspect, who have been starting to tire previous to that much-needed Lazio win in December, earlier than rallying his troops to get even higher as opponents will strive more durable to clip their wings.
Kessie and his colleagues have grown since beating Juventus six months in the past, and securing one other win over the aspect looking for a tenth straight Scudetto wouldn’t solely put a spanner within the works to the guests’ fading title bid, however immediate additional reward for this younger aspect proving to be higher than the sum of their components.
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