Milan 3, Lecce 0: Crushed It

Afternoon matches against teams with new managers who are also fighting relegation are really the most terrifying for Milan fans recently, with only maybe Derbies striking more dread into our hearts before kickoff. However, Milan made easy work of Lecce in their 3-0 win, a job made even easier by a first half red card for the visitors. That also made Milan's seventh win in a row in all competitions, something Milan surprisingly have not done since 2006. It was a little painful to watch, as it was somewhat soul-crushing for the Salentini, but Milan played with joy and freedom. They showed up and they completely crushed it.

Crushed it.

Not to celebrate our own player's suspension for this one, and especially not a player who has scored ten goals in all competitions so far this year, but without Loftus-Cheek, Pioli was forced to make some tantalizing changes to his attack. There was a lot of speculation ahead of the match around the Leão-Pulisic-Chukwueze combination in support of Giroud up front, and they did not disappoint.

Pulisic put on a show at the center stage.

Pulisic scored a screamer from the top of the box in just the seventh minute from a Chukwueze cross. 1-0 Milan. The chaos brigade kept the pressure up, and Pulisic nearly had another one shortly thereafter. The second goal was from Giroud, who scored from and Adli corner kick in the 19th minute. 2-0 Milan.In the meantime, Joan González had several attempts in the first half, including one that hit the crossbar in the 29th minute.

Leão attempted a bicycle kick to try to score, but missed. His haters would probably complain that he should not have tried to "show off," but Leão's artistry and brilliance are what I want to see, I honestly do not care if he scores or not. Lecce cared, though, and Blin was shown a yellow card for fouling the Portuguese winger in an attempt to stop him.

Adli and Giroud connecting for a second goal. Yes.

After Krstović's shot was saved by Maignan in the 42nd minute, three minutes later, referee Luca Massimi showed him a straight red card without any hesitation for an incredibly dangerous, very high studs-up kick on Chukwueze's shoulder/ribs in the area. Pulisic had been the specialist in getting players sent off, but I guess Sammy took over for this one. Lecce were on ten men. 

People always question red cards, but this was a difficult one to have any questions about. Krstović went flying into Chukwueze with force, and his boot was literally nearly at his shoulder's height. Moreover, he never came anywhere near the ball, which Chukwueze had headed clear before Krstović's boot ever made contact. That is an early shower every single time.

Chukwueze was unstoppable, even when brutally fouled.

The second half was where souls were crushed and eyebrows may have been raised, though. In the 57th, Almqvist was running in toward goal when Theo Hernández raced into the area and made body contact from the side, sending Almqvist sprawling. Most referees definitely would not consider this a penalty, with the contact considered "shoulder to shoulder." And indeed, Massimi indicated that it was not a penalty and allowed play to continue.

It was what happened in the aftermath of the initial contact that was controversial. With Almqvist on the ground, Theo went to control the ball, and in doing so, his knee seemed to accidentally make contact with Almqvist's face. Theo would have definitely felt this, but kept going, without a flag or whistle to stop the play. He did appear to be jogging, almost waiting for a call, but without a call, he played the ball forward.

Theo's decision-making may have come into question, but was still within the rules.

He passed the ball to Adli, who sent a great pass forward to Leão, who ran the ball straight forward and scored to make it 3-0 Milan. It was a great goal, but it was kind of weird, considering that Almqvist was down. Not unlike Pulisic in the Lazio match, Adli and Leão were unlikely to have known about the secondary contact with Theo, so they would not have stopped, assuming he was just down from simple contact. Massimi may not have caught the knee to the head in real time, either, so he allowed Milan to play the advantage, even with an opposing player down.

In hindsight, maybe it would have been more sporting for Theo or someone to kick the ball out, or for the referee to stop play. Particularly since Milan actually scored on the play, that is the ultimate rubbing of salt in the wound when a team feels like they should have gotten a penalty and are worried about their player being injured. However, VAR did check the incident, with two experienced VAR officials in Marini and his assistant, Valeri, and they found no error worthy of overturning. So while it was maybe a bad look, and definitely crushed some Lecce souls, it was officiated properly.

Referee Massimi actually did a great job in an environment of mistrust of referees.

Giroud nearly got a second goal, sending into the side netting, just before he was subbed off in the 61st and replaced by Jović. Later shots showed him with a large ice pack on his left knee, let's hope he is fit for Thursday. Also replaced were Gabbia and Pulisic by Kjaer and Musah respectively. Theo's best chance came shortly thereafter, when he unleashed a rocket that hit the crossbar. A few minutes later, he also had a solid free kick that Falcone saved as well.

Almqvist, clearly trying to get revenge, had a great shot on target in the 76th minute, forcing Maignan into an even better save. Maignan made five saves in all in this match, keeping a clean sheet for the home fans at the San Siro. In the 78th minute, Chukwueze was shown a yellow card for something we were not shown on camera. Then, although Musah had his back plowed into and was in pain, Reijnders was replaced by Bennacer with just 12 minutes left in regulation.

Maignan greets the Curva Sud in a match where he kept a clean sheet.

Jović had a great shot in the 82nd minute, but was saved brilliantly by Falcone, only for Jović to take the rebound as well, but Gendrey was there to make the goal line clearance and deny him the goal. Terracciano replaced Theo Hernández in the 83rd to give him a few minutes. Leão took a great shot from an impossible angle on the goal line, but it was saved. Pierotti forced Maignan into a save with his chest at the other end, then Piccoli tested Maignan's gloves in stoppage time.

Hats off to Lecce, because despite playing half of the match on ten men, they never stopped trying. But Milan's dynamic chaos attack was definitely too much for them to handle. Chukwueze had an amazing game, and Pulisic in the center did not disappoint, either. Leão did Leão things the entire match, making it all look so beautiful, so fun, and so easy. Giroud was clinical on the set piece, and our defense held up against a team that had some young, fast players of their own. 

Leão riding the wave of his beautiful skills and amazing efforts.

I feel for Lecce a bit, because it had to feel like everything went Milan's way, and the referee's cards all seemed to go against them. We know how that feels, watching Inter get away with murder week in and week out, literally winning matches due to ref errors, while our players get suspended because of absurd calls from referees who are lazy at best, or probably much worse. And Inter do not even need the help this season, either. So, my heart goes out to the Lecce fans whose souls were crushed in this one. But I'm also really grateful that Milan absolutely crushed it.

This post inspired by the music of She Wants Revenge's "Tear You Apart"

Our next match is 
Europa League Quarterfinals
AC Milan vs AS Roma
Thursday, April 11 • 21:00 CET (3pm EST)

Milan 3, Lecce 0: Crushed It Milan 3, Lecce 0: Crushed It Reviewed by Elaine on 11:00 AM Rating: 5
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