Zlatan Ibrahimovic made all the difference as AC Milan grabbed a 2-0 win over Cagliari to stretch their lead atop the Serie A table on Monday.
AC Milan were hot off the gates and earned an early penalty when Zlatan Ibrahimovic was brought down inside the Cagliari box by Charalampos Lykogiannis. The Swedish striker stepped up to take the resulting spot-kick and made no error in beating Alessio Cragno and finding the back of the net.
The Rossoneri continued to push forward, with Davide Calabria, in particular, coming close on a couple of occasions. The game, though, was put to bed early in the second half when Ibrahimovic doubled his tally and Milan’s advantage with a brilliant finish from an equally brilliant defence-splitting long pass by Calabria.
On the opposite end, Gianluigi Donnarumma was hardly tested, but the match still ended on a disappointing note for AC Milan, as substitute Alexis Saelemaekers got sent off for two bookable offences late on. Nevertheless, the result did not change, with Milan re-opening their three-point cushion atop Serie A. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Stefano Pioli’s men.
Gianluigi Donnarumma: 7/10
While Donnarumma was hardly tested on the night, which usually warrants a lower rating, he gets a bumped point due to his efforts on the ball. The AC Milan no. 1 moved the ball quickly and precisely while keeping charge of his area expertly.
Davide Calabria: 8/10
Davide Calabria vs. Cagliari:
➤ 90 minutes played
➤ 96 touches
➤ 1 shot against the post
➤ 1 assists
➤ 1 key pass
➤ 80.6% pass success
➤ 7 long balls completed
➤ 1 big chance created
➤ 3 interceptions
— MilanData📊 (@acmilandata) January 18, 2021
A top-class display from a top-class full-back. Calabria was on the money on both ends all through the night. Did well to keep out his marker by winning 6 duels and completing 3 interceptions. But, it is when he charged forward that he made the difference, even coming within whiskers of scoring. The moment of the night for him, though, was the magnificent long pass to assist Ibrahimovic.
Simon Kjaer: 7/10
Kjaer was only on the pitch for the first half, but he was so solid in that period that AC Milan did not look troubled for a single second. The Dane made 4 clearances to keep the danger away from Donnarumma while hardly misplacing a pass during the build-up, losing possession just twice before making way for Pierre Kalulu.
Alessio Romagnoli: 7/10
Another solid effort by the AC Milan captain, who hardly gave an inch at the back. Romagnoli made 4 clearances and 3 big blocks to deny Cagliari while completing 67 of the 69 passes he attempted. However, despite all his efforts, his rating gets docked slightly for the yellow card he received, which means that he will miss the game this weekend.
Diogo Dalot: 6/10
A forced decision for Pioli after Theo Hernandez was ruled out due to a positive coronavirus test, Dalot blew hot and cold in the left-back slot. The Portuguese full-back was largely solid at the back with 4 clearances, 4 interceptions and 4 tackles. However, he hardly made an impact going forward, playing no key pass from his flank. Will hope to grow in the role in the coming games.
Sandro Tonali: 6.5/10
Starting alongside Franck Kessie in the double pivot, Tonali was a solid customer for the most part, with 3 duels won, 2 interceptions and a block. Kept play ticking with quick passes and even created a chance, but was also overrun on a couple of occasions. A step in the right direction nonetheless.
Franck Kessie: 7/10
AC Milan’s midfield general was once again professional in his display. The Ivorian hardly made a misstep on the night, with Cagliari finding it difficult to overpower him in the middle of the park. Created the most chances on the night (4) and helped assert the Rossoneri’s dominance on the game. Such an asset for Pioli.
Samu Castillejo: 6/10
Stationed on the right flank again, Castillejo produced a tireless performance while also taking a few bumps along the way. The Spaniard kept things simple with the ball at his feet, which meant that he did not really create anything for Zlatan Ibrahimovic. However, he also helped Calabria in the defensive phases, which helped AC Milan initiate efficient transitions.
Brahim Diaz: 6.5/10
With Hakan Calhanoglu unavailable after testing positive for COVID-19, Diaz was given a chance to reprise his preferred no. 10 role. The Real Madrid loanee, though, flitted in and out of his game. Having said that, it was his pass that Ibrahimovic latched on to before being brought down for the early penalty. Worked hard off the ball, but faded in the offensive phase as the game progressed.
Jens Petter Hauge: 6/10
Deployed on the left-wing, Hauge endured a hit and miss game as well. The young Norwegian was a willing runner and even created a fine opening. However, he was also anonymous for parts of the game and had to will his way back into action. All a part of the learning curve, though.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic: 9/10
Making his first start in Serie A since recovering from his injury, Ibrahimovic once again proved that age is just a number for him. Won the early penalty before converting from the spot without much of a fuss. Ibrahimovic then completed his brace when he hit a first-time shot from a brilliant pass by Calabria. There is just no stopping the AC Milan talisman.
Zlatan Ibrahimović in Serie A this season:
👕 8 appearances
⚽️ 12 goals
He really is something else. 💥 pic.twitter.com/RxmPG3syDu
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) January 18, 2021
Pierre Kalulu: 7/10
On for Kjaer at half-time, Kalulu continued from where his senior teammate had left off, hardly giving the Cagliari attack an inch. Will have a big role to play next time out with Romagnoli suspended.
Alexis Saelemaekers: 5/10
On for Jens Petter Hauge, it was a night to forget Saelemaekers, who was sent off for two fouls in quick succession. Perhaps a tad bit unlucky but he should have held his nerve as well.
Soualiho Meite: 6/10
On for Tonali, Meite came on to make his AC Milan debut and did a solid job for the most part.
Andrea Conti: N/A
A late introduction, Conti helped see the game out.