Salernitana 1, Milan 2: Like a Lion

Milan kicked off 2023 like a lion, despite missing nine players to injury and playing away. Salernitana were saved by their new goalkeeper, Guillermo Ochoa, because Milan were far more clinical than usual as they pulled off the 2-1 victory at the Arechi. While Milan traditionally struggle with the early timeslot, and suffered a dreadful performance away to PSV on Friday, the return of World Cup players made it seem like they were in prime form. It was a pleasant surprise given so many missing players and the disappointing results over the break. A statement win to start the year right.

Pioli dug deep to bring back that winning mentality

After another tribute to the late Pelé, Milan made their presence known immediately and repeatedly, and while many chances were wasted, there were 16 shots with 10 on target, a much more clinical performance than we had seen perhaps all season before the break. It only took ten minutes for Leão to take a great pass from Tonali and introduce himself to the veteran Ochoa, as he dribbled around him and sent the shot in at a perfect angle to make it 1-0 Milan. 

Leao welcomes Ochoa to Serie A properly

Just five minutes later, Tonali took a powerful shot from distance, but Ochoa saved it. He was not as lucky the second time around, though, as Tonali sent it in even more powerfully and it practically burned a hole in the back of the net. 2-0 Milan.

Ochoa would be busy stopping efforts from Brahim Díaz, Giroud, Theo, and a free kick from Tonali before the halftime whistle would blow. Giroud was frustrated by Ochoa's stops, so much so, he got frustrated and hit the ball down to the pitch, earning himself a yellow card. But luckily, our old gunslinger friend Piatek was absolutely no match for Milan's defense, either.

Lightning doesn't strike twice, but Tonali does

Tomori took a great shot in the 58th, but Brahim Díaz decided to make certain it went in by tapping it past the line, only he got the goal called off.  VAR shockingly worked this time, as it showed that Milan's number 10 was offside, and calling the goal off was unfortunately the perfect call. I think Brahim Díaz owes Tomori dinner, though, for stealing his goal. And it really should have been at least 3-0 at this point.

After that, Pioli decided to bring in the subs, as De Ketelaere replaced Brahim Díaz in the 62nd minute. I do not know if the press watched his performance, but he looked a lot more like the player who first came to Milan, and had two great shots saved, too. Gabbia also replaced our captain, Calabria, ten minutes later, who had just returned from injury after being out since October.

An encouraging display from the young Belgian

VAR was used properly once again in the 75th, when Bradarić was shown a straight red for a challenge on Kalulu by Fourneau, the referee. After looking at the challenge on screen, he actually rescinded the red card and gave him just a yellow, which was exactly the right call (even if it would have been nice for Milan to have the man advantage.)

Salernitana were increasingly dangerous, and after an impressive double save by Ochoa on Giroud and De Ketelaere in the 82nd on one end, Bonazzoli came back and scored at the other end. 2-1 Milan. Pioli brought on Vranckx for Giroud and Dest for Saelemaekers in the 85th, and Dest even had a shot saved in the 90th. Tatarusanu only conceded the one goal, answering the question, at least for this match, about Milan's goalkeeping dilemma.

Ochoa probably learned a few French curse words in this one

It was a very tense last eight minutes, plus the eight minutes of stoppage time (on account of the two VAR reviews.) But in the end, Milan had the three points, and that was the important way to start the year. Even more impressively that they played fairly well against all odds, kicking off the new year like a lion.

This post inspired by the music of Måneskin's "Zitti e buoni"

Our next match is 
Serie A Week 17
Milan vs. Roma
Sunday, January 8, 2023 • 20:45 CET (2:45pm EST)

Salernitana 1, Milan 2: Like a Lion Salernitana 1, Milan 2: Like a Lion Reviewed by Elaine on 11:59 PM Rating: 5
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