8/10 Leao the difference maker; rest get 6 or less


Rafael Leao and Alexis Saelemaekers came off the bench to help AC Milan see off Genoa in extra time in their Coppa Italia clash at San Siro.

AC Milan tried to spoil what looked like a routine victory against Serie A strugglers Genoa in their Coppa Italia Round of 16 clash. In the end, substitutes Rafael Leao and Alexis Saelemaekers came off the bench to make the difference in injury time.

Currently managed by former AC Milan star and club legend Andriy Shevchenko, Genoa took a surprise lead on the evening through Leo Skiri Ostigard in the 17th minute. Milan enjoyed the lion’s share of possession and created more chances, but had to wait until the 74th minute to equalize through Olivier Giroud.

Neither team being able to seize the game in 90 minutes, extra time was needed. Luckily for the home team, they were able to call on hard-hitting subs to swing the pendulum in their favor. Leao was the man who gave Milan the lead as his cross shot floated over the crossbar. Companion mate Saelemaekers secured the result in the 112th minute after completing an excellent cut-back from Theo Hernandez.

In the end, Milan got their victory. But they will have to do much better if they want to go to the end of the competition. For Shevchenko, it is now two defeats in two games on his old hunting ground in two months. However, he can be pleased that Genoa showed more teeth this time around. The Hard Tackle examines how Milan’s players fared on the night.

Mike Maignan: 6/10

The Frenchman made some good saves on the night and couldn’t have done anything to prevent Genoa’s opener. There was a nervous moment where he missed a corner kick, but Genoa couldn’t press his advantage. He didn’t have much else to do.

Pierre Kalulu: 6/10

Kalulu started the night at right-back but moved into a central role after Fikayo Tomori was injured. He put on a solid display and was largely reliable given the circumstances.

Matteo Gabbia: 6/10

The 22-year-old had to take a more proactive role after Tomori was substituted and, to his credit, he rose to the challenge well. He formed a good partnership with Kalulu as the pair faced what Genoa threw at them head-on. They haven’t been tested much other than the move that preceded the opener.

Fikayo Tomori: N/A

The Englishman was eliminated in the 24th minute through injury. Having already lost Simon Kjaer, Milan will hope Tomori’s setback isn’t serious.

Theo Hernandez: 6/10

The Frenchman was decent up front but looked out of sorts at the back. Hernandez lost his man for Genoa’s opener and looked shaky in the defensive stages. He channeled his best for attacking action, however, and produced two assists on the night.

Rade Krunic: 4/10

The Bosnian midfielder looked out of ideas and in a bad mood that night. He barely started in an extremely sloppy first half at the San Siro. It was no surprise when he was removed after the hour mark.

Sandro Tonali: 6/10

The Italian was Milan’s oldest midfielder that night, and it showed. He kept the game ticking and exuded calm in the middle of the park. The very fact that Milan found a place in midfield and was able to exert their influence as the game progressed was thanks to him. He did, however, earn a yellow card for a bad tackle on Johan Vasquez.

Junior Messiah: 4/10

The Brazilian endured a tough night where nothing he tried worked. Messias couldn’t beat his man and saw several dribble attempts go nowhere. He faces a real fight at his hands to keep the starting spot if he fails to improve.

Daniel Maldini: 5/10

The prodigal son lacked neither effort nor heart and did his best to get things done. It can be said that his excessive enthusiasm often bent his good intentions. He improved in the second half but it didn’t help much and he was replaced by Brahim Diaz in the 62nd minute.

Before Rebic: 5/10

The Croatian was huffing and huffing with no end product. He made several good runs, but it never really led anywhere. His lack of impact on the game became more evident after Leao came on and made the difference on the left flank.

Olivier Giroud: 6/10

The France international was by far Milan’s best starter on the night. He showed up when his team needed him and found the back of the net in the 74th minute to send the game into extra time. While he can certainly do better, Giroud remains a reliable player even in his advanced age.


Alexander Florenzi: 6/10

The Italian utility veteran was brought on in the 24th minute following Tomori’s injury. He provided a reliable exit down the right flank, and his injection of energy and momentum was a welcome addition.

Tiemoue Bakayoko: 6/10

Bakayoko didn’t always impress during his time at Milan, but he was an upgrade from the disappointing Krunic on the night. If the former AS Monaco player did not particularly stand out, he added stability in the midfield alongside Tonali.

Raphael Leao: 8/10

Easily Milan’s best player in the game. Leao made a significant difference down the left, and Genoa struggled to match him. He opened the stalemate in the 102nd minute with what can be described as a misfiring cross or a well-hit strike. Either way, it made the difference overnight.

Brahim Diaz: 5.5/10

The Spaniard replaced the ineffective Maldini but offered little better. He had his moments but was just unable to drive it home. Diaz missed a splendid opportunity to get his name on the scoresheet late in overtime.

Alexis Saelemaekers: 6/10

The Belgian was another player who came on and gave Milan a boost on the wings. He missed an early scoring chance but made no mistake when Hernandez clipped the ball towards him in the 112th minute. He also could have had an assist to his name had Diaz scored. It won’t be a surprise if he replaces Messias in the starting line-up for Milan’s next game.

Emile Roback: N/A

The 18-year-old Swede made his debut for the Rossoneri in the night and got a few minutes to finish.


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