Cagliari 0, Milan 2: No Island Getaway

Despite the difference on the table, this match was not some kind of vacation. With Theo Hernandez and Calhanoglu both late misses due to COVID-19 positive tests, Milan were missing another six players yet again, at least five of them starters. They had added Meïté, who did debut as a substitute, but it is still incredible that they won again in spite of missing half of their starting lineup. Cagliari didn't make it easy, and Saelemaekers earning back to back yellows to be sent off left Milan on ten men. This was three points, another clean sheet, but it was no island getaway.

Papa Ibra is back

The match started off with Ibrahimovic earning a penalty after being taken down by Lykogiannis in the fifth minute. Yes it was definitely a penalty, but if you understand the connotations behind the Italian word "furbo," as Di Francesco described Ibrahimovic postmatch, then you will know why I used the word "earning" instead of "winning" a penalty. Ibrahimovic took Kessie up on his offer to allow the Swedish striker to take penalties again and converted it in the seventh minute. 1-0 Milan.

Calabria had a shot that was deflected wide in the 25th, and another in the 36th that just hit the inside of the post and miraculously bounced out. There were a few other chances, but the other big event of the first half when Romagnoli was given a yellow in the 39th for man-handling Simeone. This means he will be suspended vs. Atalanta on Saturday for card accumulation.

Massive for Milan

The second half started with Kalulu being subbed on for Kjaer, who it turns out was subbed off only as a precaution. No worries, Kalulu has learned extraordinarily fast and become an important defender for moments like his brilliant clearance in the 70th. Just a couple of minutes in, Lykogiannis mistook the match for a WWE event and as a birthday gift, treated Castillejo to some WWE style love. No foul was given because the birthday boy had been marginally offside before the Cagliari defender took him down.

In the 52nd, Ibrahimovic made an amazing run from a Calabria long ball and slotted it home with power like only he has. A lengthy VAR review determined that Lykogiannis' back foot kept the striker onside, so the goal stood. 2-0 Milan, and a brace for Ibrahimovic. That makes 12 goals in only seven starts for Ibrahimovic this season. Shortly thereafter, Cragno would make a big save on Ibrahimovic just a minute after Gigio made a big save on Simeone at the other end.

Tried, tested, and true

A 2-0 lead was not enough for Milan to put on the sunglasses and lie on the beach, though, as Cagliari, to their credit, fought fiercely, even when down two goals. The key for them, however, was when Saelemaekers was subbed on in the 66th. Two minutes later, he got a stupid yellow, and six minutes after that, another, with Abisso showing him the red and Milan going down to ten men. He will also be suspended for Saturday's match. Not a great way to return from injury, but Pioli said that he apologized to the whole team for his naïveté. 

At the same time, Milan's newest signing, Meité, subbed on to make his debut for the Rossoneri. Although Ibrahimovic didn't stop, both defending at one end and troubling Cragno at the other, Cagliari had their greatest number of attempts after Milan were down a man. They would take17 shots in all, but only two were on target, whereas Milan only took 10 shots, but six were on target. Being clinical really does pay.

Welcome to Milan, Meïté

Lykogiannis had a bad night on paper, being at least partially at fault for both goals conceded, but was actually very good for Cagliari throughout the match. Meité's short appearance was encouraging, Tonali takes amazing corners and Conti played what was likely his last ten minutes for Milan. Gigio was epic as usual, making some very important saves to keep his seventh clean sheet in the league this season.

The price of winning seemed high, with two more players suspended for the next round and Kjaer's precautionary exit worrisome. But it is still such a joy to watch this team play literally against all odds, and see their quality and mentality pull them through once again. This team make me so proud, they fight so hard for the shirt, and staying top of the table just makes it that much better. However happy the result was, however, this was no island getaway.

This post inspired by the music of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'"

Our next match is 
Serie A Week 19
Milan vs. Atalanta
Saturday, January 23rd • 18:00 CET (12noon EST)

Cagliari 0, Milan 2: No Island Getaway Cagliari 0, Milan 2: No Island Getaway Reviewed by Elaine on 10:30 PM Rating: 5
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