In a Serie A encounter that had the makings of a classic, AC Milan staged a stunning comeback to defeat Udinese 3-2 at the Bluenergy Stadium on Saturday. Stefano Pioli’s men showcased their resilience and winning mentality, overturning a deficit to snatch all three points in a pulsating affair.
UDINESE (3-5-1-1): Okoye; Ferreira, Pérez, Kristensen; Ebosele, Lovric, Walace, Samardžić, Kamara; Pereyra; Lucca. Subs: Padelli, Silvestri; Ehizibue, Giannetti, Kabasele, Masina, Tikvić, Zemura; Camara, Payero, Zarraga; Brenner, Success, Thauvin. Coach: Cioffi.
AC MILAN (4-2-3-1): Maignan; Calabria, Kjær, Gabbia, Hernández; Adli, Reijnders; Pulisic, Loftus-Cheek, Leão; Giroud. Subs: Mirante, Sportiello; Florenzi, Jiménez, Simić, Terracciano; Musah, Romero, Zeroli; Jović, Okafor, Traoré. Coach: Pioli.
Referee: Maresca from Napoli.
The build-up to the game was filled with anticipation. AC Milan, sitting third in the league, were looking to close the gap with the top two. Stefano Pioli, in his pre-match presser, stressed the importance of maintaining focus. He underscored the need for the team to perform at their peak, noting that Serie A was more competitive than ever.
Pioli lavished praise on Rafael Leão for his recent performances and singled out Yacine Adli for his contribution to the team’s dynamics. The Rossoneri’s line-up, set in a 4-2-3-1 formation, was a blend of experience and youthful zest, aimed at exploiting Udinese‘s 3-5-1-1 setup.
First Half – A Tale of Two Halves within a Half
The match kicked off amid a vibrant atmosphere, with both sets of fans creating a raucous backdrop. AC Milan started on the front foot. Ruben Loftus-Cheek broke the deadlock in the 32nd minute with a sublime finish, sending the traveling fans into raptures.
However, the game took an unexpected turn. The match was momentarily halted due to racist chants directed at Milan’s goalkeeper, Mike Maignan. This unsavory incident seemed to unsettle the visitors, and Udinese capitalized on the disruption. Lazar Samardžić found the net in the 42nd minute, drawing Udinese level.
Second Half – Udinese’s Surge and Milan’s Response
Udinese started the second half with renewed vigor. Florian Thauvin put the home side ahead in the 62nd minute, sending a clear message to the Milanese giants. Udinese’s tactics were spot on, stifling Milan’s creative outlets and launching counter-attacks with precision.
Stefano Pioli responded by introducing fresh legs – Luka Jović and Noah Okafor came on to inject energy into Milan’s attack. This move proved pivotal. Jović’s 83rd-minute header brought Milan back into the game, setting up a grandstand finish.
In the dying moments of the match, Okafor emerged as the hero. His emphatic strike in stoppage time completed a remarkable turnaround, ensuring Milan left Udine with all three points.
AC Milan’s victory was a testament to their attacking prowess. The team has now scored the most first-half goals in the Top-5 European Leagues (23). The win propelled them to 45 points in 21 games, a remarkable feat only eclipsed in their last two seasons.
Stefano Pioli reached a significant milestone with this victory, marking his 100th win in 166 Serie A matches as Milan manager. He joins an illustrious list of Rossoneri coaches, including Carlo Ancelotti, Nereo Rocco, Fabio Capello, and Nils Liedholm.
Pioli’s Reflections and the Maignan Incident
In his post-match reflections, Pioli praised his team’s character and resilience. Acknowledging the difficulty of the match, he emphasized the importance of winning consistently to keep pace in the title race.
However, the match will also be remembered for the unfortunate racist abuse directed at Mike Maignan. Pioli expressed pride in Maignan’s response, condemning the incident and calling for an end to such behavior in stadiums.
- AC Milan had 70% possession, underlining their control over the game.
- The Rossoneri had 15 shots, with 7 on target, showcasing their attacking intent.
- Udinese, despite less possession (30%), were efficient, registering 6 shots on target from 11 attempts.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek was a standout performer, with his goal and overall play in midfield. Luka Jović and Noah Okafor made significant impacts off the bench, changing the game’s complexion.
For Udinese, Lazar Samardžić and Florian Thauvin were key, with their goals keeping the team in the hunt until the final moments.
AC Milan’s victory keeps them firmly in the title race. The resilience and tactical astuteness displayed by Pioli and his team will be crucial as they face upcoming challenges, including a home game against Bologna.
The match against Udinese was a rollercoaster of emotions, a showcase of skill, and a statement of intent from a Milan side determined to fight for every point. As they continue their pursuit of glory, the Rossoneri have once again demonstrated their ability to overcome adversity, both on and off the pitch.