Milan 4, Cagliari 1: The Kids Are Alright

When things go wrong, fans look for someone to blame. When things go right, however, they fail to give credit where credit is due. Obviously, Cagliari faded before the first half was even over and were not the most difficult team to beat. But missing ten players due to injury and AFCON, Pioli managed to find the right balance of just enough experience to piece together a side of mainly bench and very young players. And the very young players were actually quite impressive, giving hope to our season and our future. With a brace from Jović, a goal from the young Chaka Traorè, and a goal from the recently maligned Leão, they gave us a 4-1 win over Cagliari to send us into the Coppa Italia Quarterfinals next week. Without taking the usual Milan Way. And, it showed us that the kids are alright.

Plenty of youth woven in with that experience.

The opening 25 minutes were rather disconcerting, as the patchwork lineup played very disjointedly. It was almost as if they had never played together before. However, as mentioned, Pioli did manage to strike the right balance, and the youth and experience began clicking. Early on, both Mirante and Radunović were called into making a couple of big saves. The latter of which was on Jović, who threatened early and often. The young Simić was paired with Theo Hernández at center back, and played the entire match there. The young Alex Jiménez, on loan from Real Madrid, and making his first team debut and first start, was also threatening offensively, and did a nice job defensively as well playing on the left side.

Jiménez looked so comfortable in the first team, and was exciting to watch, too.

However, it was the in form Jović who opened the scoring in the 23rd minute, with the assist from temporary center back Theo Hernández to make it 1-0 Milan. Although Cagliari had threatened enough throughout the first half, Milan's goal saw them gradually take over possession and start to create more chances. That led to the second goal, which went down as a goal for Jović, but was created by a run spanning the entire pitch from Theo Hernández, who unselfishly passed it to the Serbian at the last second to ensure the goal. Absolutely beautiful to watch. 2-0 Milan at the half.

Jović's brace brings his tally to five goals in six games for Milan since December.

After halftime, the young players continued to be more involved and gain confidence, with Jiménez taking a shot from distance that crossed the face of the goal, but unfortunately went just wide. However, it was shortly thereafter that the magic happened. Chaka Traorè, making his full debut from the first minute, also scored his first goal for Milan in the 50th minute to make it 3-0 Milan. Even he could barely believe it. He is now the second Primavera player to score for Milan in just over two weeks' time, after Simić scored against Monza on his debut.

Absolutely magical to witness him score on his full debut.

Florenzi replaced Calabria in the 61st, then, to be sure there were no questions as to his intentions about winning, Pioli brought on Leão and Pulisic for Chaka Traorè and Luka Romero in the 70th minute. The young Bartesaghi replaced the young Jiménez and the young Zeroli replaced the inimitable Reijnders in the 80th minute. 

How we all feel when Jović scores again.

Leão made his presence known quickly, attacking relentlessly. However, it was Cagliari who would score next, getting a concession goal in the 88th from Azzi, making the score 3-1 for Milan. Finally, however, Leão was able to get his much-needed confidence-boosting goal in the first minute of stoppage time, and it was beautiful. 4-1 Milan.

Leão celebrated like a big brother to Chaka Traoré, then scored one of his own.

Some fans had criticized Leão on Saturday, and the Curva Sud had chanted in support of him ahead of this match. In this instance, he proved the Curva Sud to be the true fans, his skills are unquestionable, and those who abuse him must be wearing Inter jerseys beneath their fake Milan fan exteriors. There is no other explanation for abusing your best player while your team is solidly in third place.

With 3 starting defenders out for 2-3 months, it is nice to see Simić do so well.

This was not the most amazing match ever, it was rough at times for sure. Chemistry matters, and playing the same 11 together makes a huge difference in terms of quality of play. While the Primavera are actually playing some really nice football, it is different having a few of them stepping into the first team, as many of the young players found out in the first half. They often offered physical play that was not appreciated (but gratefully not carded) by referee Prontera. (I still swear he forgot his cards during the first half, he could have shown several, but did not.)

Theo Hernández with two assists was the experience that guided the young players to victory.

However, if you listened to the latest podcast, we discussed Milan's current injury apocalypse and the possible reasons for it, why it is unlikely to go away anytime soon, and why the young players are less likely to be affected by it. Normally, I would not recommend bringing so many young players into this hot mess of a team or risking these horrific injuries the first team has been suffering. However, given the fact that our first team players are all injured or need rest to have any chance of breaking the injury cycle, I am excited to see that we have a number of young players who are ready to step up. The kids are alright.

Our opponents in the Coppa Italia Quarterfinal next Wednesday will be Atalanta

This post inspired by the music of The Who's "The Kids Are Alright"

Our next match is 
Serie A Week 19
Empoli vs. Milan
Sunday, January 7, 2024 • 12:30 CET (6:30am EST)

Milan 4, Cagliari 1: The Kids Are Alright Milan 4, Cagliari 1: The Kids Are Alright Reviewed by Elaine on 11:47 PM Rating: 5
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