Cagliari 1, Milan 3: Viability

Milan traveled to Cagliari and came back with all three points. Despite conceding first, Milan capitalized on a goalkeeping error and then outscored the hosts 3-1 in a match that was still at times worrisome. Pioli rested two of his best players, and was missing four other starters due to injury. So, although this was just 19th place Cagliari, who are still looking for their first league win this season, having two more new players open their scoring for Milan was certainly positive. Particularly given the congested and difficult fixtures we have ahead of us, this match went a long way for the players to prove to themselves their viability.

Proving their viability.

Pioli did, in fact, rotate his squad, resting Rafa Leão and Giroud as reported by the media. Despite missing them, the first twenty minutes was mostly Milan on the attack. Yet it was Cagliari who scored first, a rocket of a goal from Luvumbo in the 29th minute to make it 1-0 Cagliari. That seemed to stun Milan for a bit and give Cagliari a little more possession. 

Okafor's first goal left Cagliari like that.

However, in the 40th minute, Pulisic put a cross in that Cagliari's goalkeeper, Radunović, tried to grab, but failed. Okafor made him pay for this error by tapping in his very first official goal for Milan to equalize. 1-1, game on. Radunović redeemed himself with a brilliant fingertip save on a Theo Hernández shot five minutes later. But it was Reijnders who sent the next dangerous ball into the box, and in the midst of a scramble, Tomori just tucked it into the goal. 2-1 Milan.

The second half started with Loftus-Cheek earning a yellow card by stopping the quick and skilled Luvumbo. Poor Adli, who had his big chance by taking the injured Krunić's spot, took a ball straight to the face, but he was not going to let that deter him. Fans were very happy to see Pioli allow Adli out of his box and give him a rare start. He was subbed off in the 59th for Pobega, along with Reijnders, who was replaced by Musah. Two very different midfielders who brought different qualities at an important point in the match.

Tomori is back.

In the 59th, Loftus-Cheek nearly scored an own goal; So, to make up for it, he just went to the other end and sent a bullet from distance that he buried in the back of the net to make it 3-1 Milan. Another first official goal. Ahead of the match, the press were pointing out that of the new players, only Pulisic had scored. So Pioli started five of the attacking players, and two of them scored their first goals for the club. Sure, it was against Cagliari, but that first goal gives you confidence. And going into this next run of fixtures, we need as many of the players to have as much confidence as possible.

Loftus-Cheek is a monster.

Rafa Leão was spared until the 69th minute, along with Luka Romero, who made his official debut, replacing Chukwueze and Pulisic respectively. Pioli's final substitution was to bring on the 17 year-old  Bartesaghi for a few minutes for Theo Hernández in the 84th. The battle continued, the match was increasingly physical. Particularly when Nández punched Musah in the back of the head around the 80th minute, and Musah was down for a few minutes, but La Penna, the referee failed to see or acknowledge it. As far as changes, both teams took almost an identical amount of shots and shots on target, but Milan were simply more clinical.

So happy for Adli to get the start.

Taking a step back, this was Cagliari, and with all due respect, they have not won a match this season. Milan escaped with a win, but they drew first blood. Milan only scored initially because of a goalkeeper error. So, while it was great that our second team attack managed to pull off the three points, I don't have the confidence that we would have seen the same result against a more difficult team. Loftus-Cheek's goal was brilliant, Tomori's was scrappy, and Okafor's was just being in the right place at the right time. That is important, don't get me wrong, but few goalkeepers would gift a goal like that.

Luka Romero also saw his competitive debut.

This match was about rotating players who needed rest or were injured, and then testing the rest of the team to see if it was viable for them to still win. They did, but it was not as convincing as we may have liked. The win definitely increases mentality and confidence, gave more game time to some players who hadn't seen much, if any, and all of those things were positives. Perhaps the most positive thing, if I'm being honest, was Inter dropping points in their loss to Sassuolo, so we are now both on 15 points at the top of the table.

Three points from our reinforced team is important.

 At the end of the day, our match was about demonstrating the viability of reinforcement players. Against a side like Cagliari, they passed the test, barely. We may not be prepared to see this team take on the Champions League matches or other big matches any time soon. But it does feel like there is more viability growing in this team, and with time, this team with all of the summer shopping spree purchases might become a team.

This post inspired by the music of Käärijä's "Cha Cha Cha"

Our next match is 
Serie A Week 7
Milan vs. Lazio
Saturday, September 30, 2023 • 18:00 CEST (12noon EDT)

Cagliari 1, Milan 3: Viability Cagliari 1, Milan 3: Viability Reviewed by Elaine on 6:00 AM Rating: 5
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