A brilliant strike from Ismael Bennacer made all the difference as AC Milan grabbed a 1-0 win over Cagliari to maintain their three-point lead atop the Serie A table.
Amid a tight race for the Serie A title, AC Milan are displaying more consistency than their rivals as Stefano Pioli’s side maintained their three-point lead at the top of Serie A with a narrow 1-0 victory over relegation-threatened Cagliari.
On a day where Inter Milan further slipped off following a 1-1 draw against Fiorentina, second-placed Napoli’s comeback victory over Udinese put the necessary pressure on AC Milan. But the visitors endured a frustrating first half in Sardinia, squandering several chances to take the lead, with Olivier Giroud one of the main culprits to miss out from eight yards.
Franck Kessie also struck the post from long range. On a rainy night in Sardinia, AC Milan dominated the game, mustering more than 20 shots. But they could not convert their clear-cut chances until the 59th minute when Ismael Bennacer scored with a stunning left-footed volley from the edge of the box after Giroud laid the ball off for him.
Davide Calabria then had a golden opportunity to seal the game, but the Italian defender failed to finish a free-flowing blistering counter-attack. AC Milan were almost made to pay for their profligacy in front of the goal when Leonardo Pavoletti’s last-gasp header thumped off the crossbar as the game went into stoppage time.
Inter—60 (game in hand)
Juventus—56 (game in hand)
The Serie A title race is good fun 🍿 pic.twitter.com/Gxb9LMPD7H
— B/R Football (@brfootball) March 19, 2022
The table-toppers held on after that incident to move onto 66 points after 30 matches, three above of second-placed Napoli and six clear of Inter Milan in third. The Hard Tackle will now run the rule over Pioli’s men after a deserved victory in Sardinia sustained their momentum.
Mike Maignan: 7/10
Maignan did not have a lot to do against Cagliari as he only faced one shot on target from the hosts. He again showed his aggression and great ability with the ball at his feet which is such an asset in the build-up play.
Davide Calabria: 7/10
Calabria was really strong defensively and brought quality to the final thirdwith his passing. He saw a lot of the ball on the evening and delivered some good crosses and long balls for the forwards. The Italian international also made some vital interventions at the back, completing a team-high four tackles. But he missed an absolute sitter that could have made things tricky for Milan late on in the game.
Pierre Kalulu: 7/10
It was another strong performance from the youngster, who is getting better with each passing game. The 21-year-old played as a sweeper centre-back and was composed with his passing, completing almost 96% of his 48 attempted passes and a match-high five accurate long-balls. His recovery pace is such an asset to keep the threat of the opposition in check throughout the game.
Fikayo Tomori: 7/10
Like Kalulu, it was a solid performance from Tomori. The Englishman occasionally played high as much as in the holding midfield position to push the defensive line and get AC Milan up the pitch. The defender held his backline well, made three tackles and kept a clean sheet. He is forming a blossoming partnership alongside Kalulu.
Theo Hernandez: 8/10
Despite his team’s lack of finishing, Hernandez provided vital creativity and attacking prowess to the Rossoneri attack. The French international was a consistent attacking presence down the left flank and was electric throughout, making a few nice bursting runs.
Hernandez also generated a lot of chances with his inside runs and had a great effort that Cagliari keeper Alessio Cragno somehow saved. He completed a match-high five key passes, two dribbles, and three tackles.
Ismael Bennacer: 9/10
🇩🇿🔴⚫ Ismaël Bennacer game by numbers vs Cagliari
🕐 90′ Minutes Played
⚽ x1 Goal
📉 93 Touches
☑️ 50/61 Passes (82%)
2️⃣ Key Pass
2️⃣ Blocked Shots
— TeamDZ English 🇩🇿 (@TeamDzEng) March 19, 2022
Bennacer produced a majestic screamer from just outside the box. The technique and power on the volley left the Cagliari goalkeeper stranded. The Algerian midfielder played a major role in the game, dominating the midfield and winning numerous vital battles. He was defensively astute, making three tackles, two interceptions, while having two shots blocked and also facilitating play by completing two key passes.
Franck Kessie: 6/10
AC Milan’s midfield general had a rare lacklustre match. Kessie was not assertive defensively and did not make a single tackle the whole game, while he occasionally hampered Milan’s attacks. The Ivorian playmaker was fairly good with his passing, albeit with a few errors and had his usual physical presence in the middle of the park. That said, he rattled the woodwork with a thunderous long-range effort.
Rafael Leao: 6/10
It was strange to see Leao so quiet, as he looked to have scarcely touched the ball in the first half. He did not see many chances falling to him, barring one great opportunity in the second half. He showed a decent work rate, but the Cagliari defenders did not offer him much space to work with, and he was rightly taken off for Rebic.
Brahim Diaz: 6.5/10
Diaz lacks physicality, but he did put up a decent display on the evening. At times, he struggled to create space and deliver those killer through-passes and wasted a golden chance early in the first half. However, he became more dangerous in the second half as Junior Messias and Rafael Leao made some buzzing runs down the flanks. Worked hard off the ball but could have done more to contribute in the offensive phase of the game.
Junior Messias: 7/10
Messias found plenty of joy working in the channel, and he made numerous effective runs down his wing. The 30-year-old looked dangerous every time he got the ball and was lethal at taking on the Cagliari players, generating some promising situations for his teammates.
The Brazilian winger also worked tirelessly to track back and make several defensive contributions. His rating would have been much higher if he had not shown some poor decision-making in the final third early in the game.
Olivier Giroud: 6.5/10
Giroud’s woes away from home continued as he missed a glorious chance from point-blank range. He also misplaced a couple of basic passes, scuffed his shots and lacked confidence with his back to goal. That said, his lay-off assist for the goal was exquisite as he set Bennacer up perfectly for the volley.
Rade Krunic: 6/10
Krunic distributed the ball efficiently upon his introduction. He got stuck in, and protected the ball when in possession.
Ante Rebic: 6/10
Rebic saw little of the ball but tried to make things happen and looked dangerous after replacing Leao. He almost grabbed a wonderful assist on a fast counter-attack for Calabria, who somehow missed the chance.
Alexis Saelemaekers: N/A
Did not play enough to warrant a rating.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic: N/A
Did not play enough to warrant a rating.