Stefano Pioli’s men hadn’t started off on the right foot as Rodrigo Becao put the ball past Mike Maignan after just two minutes, but their reaction was quick and resolute and led to a comfortable win in the first Serie A game of the season. Here are the five things spotted at San Siro yesterday.
- Who needs another striker?
Some Milan fans were concerned that the club didn’t want to sign a new forward following Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s contract extension until 2023. The Swede is recovering from an injury and will return to action in January. Divock Origi has joined the team as a free agent from Liverpool this summer but trained apart from the group for several weeks due to an injury suffered last season. The question was: will Origi, Olivier Giroud and Ante Rebic provide enough goals for the Diavolo? The Croatia international delivered a convincing answer yesterday, scoring a decisive brace against the Friulani. He played the role of an atypical centre forward. He moved a lot in the final third but was lethal in front of the goal. The Croat was subbed off in the second half, receiving a well-deserved standing ovation.
- Debatable penalty
The Rossoneri scored the equaliser from the spot through Theo Hernandez. Davide Calabria had earned a penalty for a foul of Brandon Soppy, who tried to block a weak shot from the Milan captain. It was the first controversial incident of the season in Serie A. Pierpaolo Marino and Andrea Sottil didn’t hide their frustration in front of cameras after the final whistle saying that the penalty for the Rossoneri was ‘inexistent.’ But was it the right call? It’s debatable and it’s easy to change opinion as the replays’ angles change. Was it a game changer? Probably not. It came early and Milan created enough chances to justify their win.
- Defensive woes
The Rossoneri conceded two similar goals in the first half. Two crosses, two headers with Milan defenders staring at their opponents. It was way too easy for Becao and Adam Masina to find the back of the net while everyone else in Milan’s penalty box seemed to be just staring at the ball’s trajectory. Surely, Pioli made his voice heard in the dressing room at the break and it’s no coincidence that the Rossoneri didn’t run more risks in the second half. Udinese only had a shot on target in the second part of the match and Milan’s defence looked as solid as last season. The Rossoneri have only conceded 11 goals in 20 games in 2022 and having a solid defence will be crucial to retaining the title.
- The debutants
The crowd warmly welcomed every new signing. Before the kick-off, the stadium’s announcer highlighted that Charles De Ketelaere, Divock Origi, Yachine Adli and Tommaso Pobega were at San Siro ‘for the first time’ and the over 70,000 fans at the Meazza made them feel at home from the very start. Overall, the atmosphere was as impressive as you would expect when the champions play their first season at home. De Ketelaere, Origi and Pobega eventually made their debut coming off the bench in the second half and the ex-Club Brugge starlet was quite impressive for his quality and pace. He made smart and simple choices but was always very effective. It will be interesting to see how he will develop under Pioli this season.
- Leao looking for consistency
The Portuguese star has become one of the idols of the Rossoneri fans, and rightly so. He was named Best Serie A Player in 2021-22 and had a decisive role in Milan’s title win. He seems to have further developed physically but didn’t really shine against Udinese yesterday. He had a few chances from outside the box, but didn’t really leave his mark like in the second part of last season. It’s understandable because it’s still very early in the campaign, but if he manages to make the difference even for just 15 minutes in every match, it will become much easier for Milan to win games consistently in Italy and Europe.