STADIO FRANCHI (Florence) – There was a bitter taste in the mouth of AC Milan coach Stefano Pioli and technical director Paolo Maldini, as they watched 10-man Fiorentina snatch a late point from the penalty spot on Saturday night.
Both bemoaned the lack of VAR and questioned the legitimacy of the spot kick, with Alessio Romagnoli’s foul on Patrick Cutrone soft to say the least. However, it can be argued that it should never have come to that in the first place.
Milan were a goal and man up for the final 28 minutes of the second half. Fiorentina looked spent with their problems seemingly compounded when Dalbert was given his marching orders. But somehow, La Viola raised their level with a man less and deserved their equaliser.
— ForzaItalianFootball (@SerieAFFC) February 22, 2020
It also underlined a massive issue for Milan in that their own level of performance drops considerably in the final 15-20 minutes of games. They also concede most of their goals in this period, a massive 40 percent after the 70th minute in Serie A this season.
Comparing that to city rivals Inter, who only let in 30 percent of their goals with 20 minutes to go.
Of late, Milan’s bright starts have tailed into lame finishes, which has seen them drop points against Fiorentina, lose against Inter, and almost Udinese (If not for Ante Rebic, who we will come onto later), as well as conceding a late equaliser in the Coppa Italia semi-final with Juventus.
Pioli has improved Milan since taking over, of that there is no doubt. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has done the same since his arrival. Rebic and Theo Hernandez are performing week in, week out. But there is still a fragility which is being exposed as the clock ticks down in matches.
At the start of the campaign, Rebic couldn’t get a look in at the San Siro. Confined to the bench, the Croatian had only amassed 178 minutes in Serie A before January 11, 2020.
Since then, he has played 430 minutes, scoring six times in seven games – and discounting the final minute cameo against Cagliari – it is six times in six matches.
He has been directly involved in eight of Milan’s last 14 goals in all competitions – seven goals and one assist – and only Cristiano Ronaldo has scored more goals than Rebic (6) in the last six Serie A matchdays, with seven.
A goalscorer is needed
While Rebic can’t stop scoring for Milan, their opponents are in dire need of someone to put the ball in the back of the net.
Dusan Vlahovic was tasked with that job on Saturday, but was pretty much invisible for the majority, not even getting a shot on target and having just 19 touches of the ball in Milan’s penalty area.
Starting upfront alongside Federico Chiesa, it never worked and it wasn’t until Cutrone was introduced, which also shunted Chiesa to the right, that things started to click for the Viola.
Vlahovic sent Cutrone though for the foul which caused the penalty and Milan’s ill feeling at the end.