Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Brahim Diaz and Hakan Calhanoglu were on target as AC Milan defeated Fiorentina 3-2 in a thrilling encounter in Serie A on Sunday night.
It took just nine minutes for AC Milan to break the deadlock as Zlatan Ibrahimovic latched onto a long ball from Simon Kjaer before finishing past the Fiorentina goalkeeper. The Viola, however, hit back within minutes with Erick Pulgar’s fantastic free-kick in the 17th-minute nestling into the back of the net.
Both teams had chances to increase their lead but Fiorentina defender German Pezzella struck the woodwork with an audacious backheel flick while Ibrahimovic also saw an effort bounce off the bar as half-time arrived. Six minutes into the second period, Fiorentina did manage to go ahead courtesy of a lovely curling effort from Franck Ribery.
However, the lead did not last for long as Brahim Diaz pulled Milan back on level terms scoring from close range before Hakan Calhanoglu produced a fine finish in the 72nd minute to seal a crucial victory for AC Milan, which takes them to within six points of Serie A leaders Inter Milan.
And, here’s how we rated the performances of Stefano Pioli’s men on the night at Stadio Artemio Franchi.
Gianluigi Donnarumma: 5/10
Got a hand to Pulgar’s free-kick and could maybe have done better to keep it out. Left without a chance for Ribery’s strike. Not tested a great deal other than that in the rest of the game.
Diogo Dalot: 5/10
Back into the starting XI at the expense of Pierre Kalulu, the Manchester United loanee endured a torrid first half during which he struggled to offer any sort of defensive solidity. Some improvement after the break as he made four tackles and a couple of interceptions.
Simon Kjaer: 8/10
Lost Dusan Vlahovic in the lead-up to Fiorentina’s second goal but apart from that one moment was solid at the back. But his most vital contributions came in the attacking side of things as he set Ibrahimovic up for the opener with a brilliant long ball before getting the assist for Diaz’s goal with a precise header inside the box. Also made a game-high seven clearances.
A word of appreciation for our best CB pairing.
– Kjær exactly playing the role we expected Bonucci to (pass for 1st goal).
– Tomori winning almost every 1v1 vs Vlahovic.
– Milan able to maintain a high line and more freedom for the double pivot. pic.twitter.com/WSYPF7Hn2J
— Rohit Rajeev (@milantactics) March 21, 2021
Fikayo Tomori: 7.5/10
Another step in the right direction from the Chelsea loanee who just seem capable of doing anything wrong in Milan colours. Aggressive and solid at the back, Tomori made four tackles and six clearances. Wasn’t afraid to step out of the line to win possession, with one such moment playing a role in Milan’s third goal. Precise with his distribution, as he misplaced just one of his 47 passes.
Theo Hernandez: 6/10
Played with his typical vigour and adventure on the left side, which was key to Milan’s attacking play but that also meant spaces were left open at the back while there were occasions when he was a tad sloppy on the ball. Had a good chance in the second half but sent his effort into the side-netting. Finished with two dribbles, two clearances and four tackles.
Sandro Tonali: 5.5/10
A middling performance from the Italian midfielder who didn’t always look comfortable but at the same time did not make any major mistakes. Wasn’t able to provide that bit of incisiveness with his forward passes and made way for Ismael Bennacer early in the second half.
Franck Kessie: 7/10
Another display full of industry and hard work, the Ivory Coast international popped up at both ends of the pitch to help his team out. Made a joint game-high four tackles along with an interception and clearance each while also playing in two key passes one of which led to Calhanoglu’s winning goal. Such an important member of the team.
Alexis Saelemaekers: 5.5/10
A game wherein the Belgian wasn’t able to have much impact on the attacking side of things. Did put in the hard yards off the ball but failed to take a single shot or play a single key pass before making way for Samu Castillejo early in the second half.
Hakan Calhanoglu: 7.5/10
— SempreMilan (@SempreMilanCom) March 21, 2021
The Player to Watch in our match preview, Milan needed Calhanoglu to step up in a big way and he did just that. Played a game-high four key passes on the evening, including creating a wonderful chance for Zlatan who struck the woodwork. Then went on to win the game for the Rossoneri with a fine finish in the second period. Clutch.
Brahim Diaz: 6.5/10
Started off in a quiet manner offering next to nothing in the first half. However, got more into the game in the second period and got Milan back on level terms with a close-range strike. Also managed to play a key pass while completing 88% of his passes. Has much more to offer though.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic: 7.5/10
Making his first start since return from injury, Ibrahimovic made the perfect start to the game, getting on the end of Kjaer’s pass to hand his team an early lead. Came close to doubling his tally not long after but hit the woodwork, before doing so again after the break with a looping effort. Won a game-high six aerials and played a key pass as well.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has now scored 25 goals in 33 Serie A games since returning to Milan.
Still going strong at 39. pic.twitter.com/bTbsg1SEOF
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 21, 2021
Samu Castillejo: 6/10
Replaced Saelemaekers soon after Milan’s second goal. Managed one key pass and put in a lot of defensive work, helping Milan protect their lead in the latter stages.
Ismael Bennacer: 6.5/10
Made his return from injury replacing Tonali in the 59th minute and the improvement in Milan’s game with him on the field was palpable. Offers so much calm and composure in the middle, while also being more progressive with his passes than Tonali.
Rade Krunic: N/A
On for Diaz for the final ten minutes.
Soualiho Meite: N/A
Stoppage-time substitute for Calhanoglu. Booked for dissent.