Rafael Leao and Brahim Diaz impressed while Franck Kessie delivered the goods again as AC Milan cruised to a 2-0 win over Torino on Saturday.
AC Milan were buoyed by the return of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who was on the bench after recovering from a calf injury. On Saturday, however, the Rossoneri did not really need their star striker as a tremendous first-half showing was enough for them to seal all three points against Torino.
The hosts made a bright start to the game and were deserving leaders midway through the opening period, as Rafael Leao finished off a fine move that included a brilliant run by Theo Hernandez and a first-time pass by Brahim Diaz, who grabbed the assist. Shortly after, Diaz earned a penalty for AC Milan after being tripped inside the Torino box by Andrea Belotti.
Franck Kessie took the resulting spot-kick and made no mistake in finding the back of the net to make it 2-0 for the hosts. Kessie had another brilliant chance to kill the game ahead of half-time but was denied by Salvatore Sirigu. The hosts then went into cruise control mode in the second half with Torino taking the game to them.
Gianluigi Donnarumma pulled off the save of the night late on to preserve his clean sheet, reacting brilliantly to keep out Jacopo Segre’s deflected effort. The result meant that ahead of Inter Milan’s game on Sunday, AC Milan stretched their lead atop the Serie A table to four points. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Stefano Pioli’s men.
Gianluigi Donnarumma: 7/10
With AC Milan thoroughly dominating the proceedings, Donnarumma hardly had anything to do on the night. Virtually a spectator in the first half, he was forced to make a couple of saves post the break, with the one to deny Jacopo Segre late on being absolutely splendid. As always precise with the ball at his feet.
Davide Calabria: 7/10
Back in his usual right-back role after playing in midfield last time out, Calabria did not see as much of the ball as Theo Hernandez on the opposite flank. However, he was at hand to keep Ricardo Rodriguez completely out of the game, winning 4 duels. However, he was a tad bit wasteful in possession, although he cleaned up well after moving into midfield.
Simon Kjaer: 7/10
Kjaer just continues to grow in stature at AC Milan and his performance against Torino was another step in the right direction for him. The Dane cleared everything in sight, making 7 clearances in all while winning 4 duels. However, he, too, gave the ball away cheaply at times, in what was the only down-point of his outing on Saturday.
Alessio Romagnoli: 7/10
Like his partner at the heart of the AC Milan defence, Romagnoli was a solid customer at the back for the Rossoneri. Dealt with the barrage of crosses superbly and was comfortable for the most part, keeping a check on his opposite number without much of a fuss.
Theo Hernandez: 8/10
The big difference-maker for AC Milan early in the game. It was Theo Hernandez who won the ball and initiated the move for Rafael Leao’s goal, linking up with Brahim Diaz brilliantly at the end of a smart run. Kept tucking away from the left flank and was a constant outlet for Milan. Reasonably solid at the back as well.
Sandro Tonali: 6/10
Back into the starting lineup after serving out his suspension, Tonali was solid in his partnership with Franck Kessie for the most part. Looked to transition from defence to attack quickly as well, which helped AC Milan in the first half. However, he was forced off the pitch with an injury, which will be concerning for Pioli, with Ismael Bennacer already unavailable.
Franck Kessie: 8/10
Among the players currently in Serie A, #Kessie has played the most games in all competitions (23) this season.
Franck the Tank 💪🔴⚫ pic.twitter.com/3MG9XwpJ8R
— MilanData📊 (@acmilandata) January 9, 2021
Another influential display by Kessie, who was at hand to convert yet another penalty. The Ivorian could and should have celebrated a brace, but was denied superbly by Salvatore Sirigu late in the first half. Put in the hard yards off the ball, though, and made 3 important clearances.
Samu Castillejo: 6/10
Stationed on the right-wing, Castillejo was not as involved as he would have liked, although he did keep things tidy when he saw the ball. The Spaniard even created a decent opening while boasting a solid passing rate of 86 percent. Supported Calabria and Diogo Dalot well in the defensive phase.
Brahim Diaz: 9/10
The man who made all the difference for AC Milan against Torino. Diaz first delivered the assist for Leao’s goal with a brilliant first-time release before winning the penalty for the second goal. Continued to put Torino to the sword whenever given the opportunity and misplaced just one pass all game. Finally proving his worth.
Jens Petter Hauge: 6/10
With Diaz starting, Hauge was deployed on the left flank, which reduced his effectiveness on the night. The youngster hardly saw the ball, attempting just 17 passes, three of which he misplaced. As a result, it was a largely quiet game for the Norwegian forward, who will have better days ahead.
Rafael Leao: 9/10
Starting as the focal point of attack once again, Leao continued his fine run of form, making no error in beating Sirigu for the opening goal. Thereafter, though, he was left isolated for large parts of the game, although he did set up a fine chance for Kessie, who was denied by the Torino keeper. Did his part.
Rafael Leão puts AC Milan 1-0 up against Torino!
That’s 3 goals and 1 assist in his last 5 games for the table toppers!
— Próxima Jornada (@ProximaJornada1) January 9, 2021
Diogo Dalot: 5/10
On for the injured Tonali, Dalot settled in the right-back slot, with Calabria moving into midfield. The Portuguese full-back, though, struggled to cope with the sustained pressure created by Torino early in the second half and conceded some needless fouls.
Hakan Calhanoglu: 6/10
Calhanoglu replaced Diaz and played his part in wrestling control of the game after Torino had piled the pressure in the second half. Created a fine opening and was generally error-free.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic: N/A
A late introduction, Ibrahimovic got some crucial minutes under his belt and will be raring to go as the second half of the season approaches.
Daniel Maldini: N/A
Maldini helped see the game out late on.