When AC Milan signed Olivier Giroud last summer, some questioned whether there was room at the Stadio San Siro for another ageing frontmen, considering that Zlatan Ibrahimovic was already playing a significant role in the Rossoneri resurgence and the Swede has an ego that many would struggle to share a stadium with, let alone a playing role.
With the legendary Swedish striker and wideman Ante Rebic out of Saturday’s Derby della Madonnina, the lack of optimism around the Diavolo’s chances of overcoming crosstown rivals Inter without the duo suggested that few believed the Frenchman was even an adequate replacement to lead the Milan attack
However, after two goals in three minutes from the ex-Arsenal and Chelsea forward stole three valuable Serie A points from the Nerazzurri in a 2-1 win at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on Saturday night and took the Rossoneri within a point of the league leaders, few could argue with the importance Giroud can bring to their Scudetto challenge.
The one-time domestic champion – winning Ligue 1 with Montpellier in 2011/12 – remained calm when more than just the match seemed to be slipping away from Milan, as his fledgling teammates snatched at chances and gave away needless free kicks through a misdirected belief they could fight their way to victory.
It was the 35-year-old’s awareness to delay his arrival into the Inter box, albeit slightly fortunate that another rash effort from Brahim Diaz was deflected into his path at a comfortable pace, that helped the former Chelsea striker fire the Rossoneri towards three points.
The winning goal, though, was the perfect example of Giroud’s outstanding technical ability and had little to do with his advancing years. Displaying exceptional control and strength to receive the ball inside the Nerazzurri area, he turned superbly to send birthday boy Stefan de Vrij spiralling and firing past the only man older than himself on the pitch in Samir Handanovic.
During the latter stages of his Premier League career at Chelsea, the 2018 World Cup winner developed something of a habit of netting crucial goals despite limited playing time, highlighting an ability to perform without the rhythm that regular minutes bring or as an impact sub.
With the Londoners, Giroud netted the winning goal in 14 games in all competitions and on 12 of those occasions his strike was the opening goal of the game and settled the match in his side’s favour.
If he can achieve a similar contribution for the Rossoneri during the second half of the campaign to help Milan wrestle the Scudetto from Inter, few will remember that his arrival was seen as part of a job share with Ibrahimovic.
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