Empoli 0, Milan 3: The Path of Least Resistance

Milan finally celebrated a third consecutive win once again, as well as their first away win in Serie A in three months as they destroyed Empoli 3-0. And while they won convincingly and are to be commended for their accomplishment, it cannot be ignored that Empoli were completely demoralized and did not offer much of a challenge for a team that has a wage bill more than triple their annual wage bill. Yes, Milan have desperately needed to string together three matches in a row with victories for their mentality, but it is important to remember that their opponents were all teams that were significantly weaker on paper, and struggling in form as well. So, even if Milan are on the right path, it is the path of least resistance.

An appropriate emotional response for a win against a side who didn't put up much of a fight.

Not that winning does not feel good, because it definitely does. And that is the point of putting together a winning streak, to improve mentality. That winning started in the 11th minute of this match, with a Loftus-Cheek goal from a brilliant Leão assist to make it 1-0 Milan. 

Starting the match off right.

That lead was doubled after Milan were awarded a penalty in the 30th minute for a handball in the box. Apparently Empoli's Maleh confused this match for an NBA match or something and tried to block an acrobatic shot from Loftus-Cheek with his hand, which was actually only caught by a VAR review. Giroud stepped up and converted the penalty, cool as ice. 2-0 Milan.

Curiously, I have seen many Milan fans online criticizing Giroud, despite the fact that he has both the most goals and assists for us this season. It seems that they are simply wanting Jović to play more minutes, because he has been in great scoring form of late. Primarily coming on as a sub, scoring against teams that were significantly weaker on paper. And getting plenty of yellow cards as well. While it is amazing that Jović is finding his form, and it is fantastic to have him as a backup, it is not just about scoring goals, it is about overall performance. 

The man knows how to win. And celebrate.

Without time for a lengthy explanation of how football works, or how they are different players offering different characteristics, maybe just look at their player ratings. With more minutes played (and being 11 years older,) Giroud still has a higher average rating. He has won more bling. There are lots of very tangible reasons he is a) a better player than Jović and b) still starting ahead of him. (End of rant.)

After Empoli lost yet another player to injury in the 27th, Milan also got their token muscle injury as well. In the 35th, Florenzi had to be subbed off, although it was reportedly only precautionary. Early reports from tests indicate it was merely an overload of his left thigh adductor muscle, and that he could possibly be back on Sunday. He was replaced by the young Álex Jiménez, who was brilliant once again after debuting in the Coppa Italia match on Wednesday.

Impressive week for Jiménez.

Calabria kept up the image of Milan as Serie A's "Bad Boys" by earning a yellow card in the 41st for fouling Cambiaghi. La Penna let plenty of things go in this match, though, like when Rafa Leão was taken down in the last minute of stoppage time and no penalty was given. Although that may have been the right call, there was a shot later in the 78th where Leão was trying to get up and an Empoli player walked by and hit him in the face, but nothing was done. Leão did not protest, because that is not his style, but I am not okay with letting things like that go unpunished.

This man deserves more respect from everyone, including the ref.

Empoli opened up the second half by checking to see if Maignan was awake. He was. Baldanzi's shot forced him into making a save, but he had it under control. Jiménez followed the lead of his captain and got his own yellow card in the 54th for fouling said Baldanzi. A player has to get on the books on his debut somehow.

Leão continued sending in beautiful crosses, but the shots were sent just wide or saved, like Pulisic's header in the 62nd that Caprile tipped just over. Seemingly frustrated or something, Leão tried taking some shots instead, which did not exactly go well for him. Empoli wanted a handball call on Theo Hernández in the 69th minute, but a VAR review showed that the ball struck his arm after he had pulled his arm toward his body, so no call.

Adli with a start, Musah with a return from injury.

Pioli then subbed on Bartesaghi for Calabria and Musah returned, replacing Loftus-Cheek. There was a double chance for Empoli in the 71st, with Maignan saving Cancellieri's shot, then Caputo's rebound being blocked as well, but Empoli just did not ever really look that threatening when it came to scoring. Andreazzoli finally brought on Milan-owned Daniel Maldini, but he was unable to replicate the time he scored against Milan when he played for Spezia. He did take Theo down without mercy in the 80th minute. Ironically, Theo is the only one who posted about him on social media as of this writing. He is very classy about acknowledging past Milan players.

Gabbia made his return in the 84th, replacing Kjaer, and the young Chaka Traorè replaced Rafa Leão as well. This was notable, as he also scored the final goal from a very unselfish Pulisic assist in the 88th minute. 3-0 Milan. So happy for him, debut goals in both the Coppa Italia and Serie A all in the space of a few days. And there was never any doubt about Milan's win, either.

Chaka Traorè celebrates his league debut goal with Primavera teammate Simić.

Milan and their traveling supporters, who outnumbered Empoli supporters, at least in voice, were justifiably happy to have won another match. But we lost another player to injury, bringing the current injury tally back up to ten. Ten players currently out injured is an insane number. Even with the news of Terracciano taking his medicals today, that still feels like another kick in the stomach. And a win over Empoli is not like a win in the Champions League or something (not like we are still in the Champions League or anything, obviously.) But a win is a win, even if it is via the path of least resistance.

This post inspired by the music of Cigarette After Sex's "Truly"

Our next match is 
Coppa Italia Quarterfinals
Milan vs. Atalanta
Wednesday, January 10 • 21:00 CET (3pm EST)

Empoli 0, Milan 3: The Path of Least Resistance Empoli 0, Milan 3: The Path of Least Resistance Reviewed by Elaine on 7:36 AM Rating: 5
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