Simon Kjaer and Franck Kessie were the standout performers, as AC Milan eked out a narrow 2-1 win over Genoa at San Siro on Sunday.
AC Milan were off to a flying start, grabbing the lead in the 14th minute, as Ante Rebic produced a peach of a finish with a left-footed volley to break the deadlock. Soon after, the Rossoneri could have been two to the good, as Hakan Calhanoglu released Rafael Leao, who could only shoot straight at Mattia Perin.
Thereafter, the hosts were firmly in control of the proceedings, but were pulled back on level terms against the run of play, when Mattia Destro equalised in the 37th minute. Post the interval, Milan started off strongly once again, but this time around, Ante Rebic failed to find the back of the net.
Soon enough, Genoa settled into their shape and frustrated their hosts but were rather unfortunate when AC Milan took the lead for a second time, as Gianluca Scamacca scored an own goal that he knew nothing about, midway through the second half. Chances came few and far between, with AC Milan in control again.
However, the Rossoneri did suffer a nervy moment late on when Genoa nearly capitalised on a spill by Gianluigi Donnarumma, who was bailed out by Simon Kjaer and Fikayo Tomori. Having held on to their slender advantage, AC Milan consolidated second place on the Serie A table and The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Stefano Pioli’s men.
Gianluigi Donnarumma: 6/10
A largely quiet evening for Donnarumma, with AC Milan firmly in control of the proceedings. Could not have done much to keep out Mattia Destro’s effort though, and made one fine save. Spilled a simple catch late on before his blushes were spared by both Simon Kjaer and Fikayo Tomori with a pair of big blocks in quick succession.
Pierre Kalulu: 6/10
Given another chance to impress as the right-back in the absence of Davide Calabria, Kalulu failed to grab his opportunity with both hands. Did play 3 key passes, including the chance he set up for Ante Rebic. However, his end product was not quite there at times either. A blow-hot-blow-cold display.
Simon Kjaer: 8/10
Who needs a goalkeeper when you have Kjær & Tomori ✋ pic.twitter.com/FAHtSQIPDe
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) April 18, 2021
A solid performance at the heart of the AC Milan defence by Kjaer, who marshalled Mattia Destro superbly for the most part. However, it was his late block that bailed out Donnarumma that was instrumental in earning all three points for the Rossoneri. Pure numbers were impressive as well – 6 duels won, 3 tackles, 2 interceptions, 2 blocks.
Fikayo Tomori: 7/10
The busier of the two AC Milan central defenders, Tomori was dogged in his performance at the back, keeping a check on Gianluca Scamacca with aplomb. However, as good as he was when defending during open play, Tomori was beaten rather easily by Destro when dealing with Miha Zajc’s corner. Did not really put a step wrong otherwise, though, and made a big block late on to earn Milan the win.
Theo Hernandez: 6/10
One of the undisputed starters for AC Milan. However, against Genoa, Theo Hernandez was a bit off the boil with his first touch not being quite there. Nevertheless, it was his free-kick that found its way to Rebic before he scored the brilliant first goal. Apart from that, though, he did not really progress the ball as well as he usually does. A rare off day.
Ismael Bennacer: 7/10
Starting alongside Franck Kessie in the midfield double pivot again, Bennacer managed to impress with his solid performance in the centre of the pitch. The Algerian international, like Kessie, kept things simple in the middle of the park, although a few touches were sloppy. Resolute behind the ball, though, winning 7 duels.
Franck Kessie: 8/10
A major reason why AC Milan were on top of Genoa for much of the game, Kessie won balls high up the pitch – and won each of the 6 duels he contested – while being efficient with his utilisation of the ball, completing 89 percent of his attempted passes. Does not always look to indulge in the spectacular, but it is the simple things that he executes to perfection.
Alexis Saelemaekers: 6/10
A bundle of energy on the right flank, Saelemaekers worked hard to carve out the openings and did manage to play a couple of key passes. Even came close to scoring close to half-time when his shot whizzed past the woodwork. Perhaps a tad bit unfortunate to be taken off for Brahim Diaz, but with games coming thick and fast, it is important to preserve him.
Hakan Calhanoglu: 6/10
The Player to Watch in our Preview, Calhanoglu seemed to be in his elements early on, setting up Rafael Leao at the end of a fine move. However, the Turkish playmaker struggled to make things happen once Genoa settled into their shape. Calhanoglu, though, had a role to play in AC Milan’s win, as it was his corner that deflected off of Gianluca Scamacca into the goal.
Ante Rebic: 7/10
Made the perfect start to the game, unleashing a brilliant volley to put AC Milan in front. Should have double his tally with an easier finish early in the second half, but he inexplicably shot over the crossbar from point-blank range. Looked to make things happen from the left flank, but not all that he tried come off, which meant he had a paltry 59 passing rate to show for his efforts. Did pretty well, still.
⚽️ vs. Parma
⚽️ vs. Genoa
Ante Rebic has scored in back-to-back Serie A games for the second time this season. pic.twitter.com/OtWRqo0U2B
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 18, 2021
Rafael Leao: 6/10
Should have done better when set up with a superb chance by Calhanoglu. However, that is as good as it got for the Portuguese forward, who did not really get into too many scoring positions while also being left isolated on a few occasions. Rightly taken off for Mario Mandzukic, who provided a much-needed focal point.
Diogo Dalot: 7/10
On for Kalulu, Dalot was an upgrade over the incumbent even if slightly so. The Portuguese full-back was an outlet in the final third when given a chance, but it was his output in the defensive phase that made him impressive, as he made a few important clearances when Genoa looked to heap the pressure on AC Milan. Should be handed a start next time out.
Brahim Diaz: 6/10
Sent on in place of Saelemaekers, Diaz saw very little of the ball and did not really look at home in the right wing berth, although he did play 1 key pass. Much better suited when playing through the middle.
Mario Mandzukic: 6/10
Introduced just past the hour mark in place of Leao, Mandzukic did not really see a lot of the ball and did not know much about Calhanoglu’s wicked corner, which ricocheted into the goal via Sczmacca. However, he will be glad to have contributed to an AC Milan win in his own way.
Sandro Tonali: N/A
On for Bennacer, Tonali was solid in the middle of the park and helped Milan see the game out without much of a fuss.
Rade Krunic: N/A
A late introduction, Krunic barely had any time to make an impact late on, as AC Milan aimed to keep Genoa at bay rather than go for more goals.