Written By Onyeka Daniel
After losing to Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA champions league and jeopardizing their chances of progressing to the knockout stages of the competition, the Rossoneri returned back to winning ways in the Serie A with a 3-1 win at home against Frosinone.
With an injury crisis at the back, the manager had just Fikayo Tomori as the only available centre-back, but for this win, he drafted in Frenchman, Theo Hernandez to partner the Englishman and it did pay off against an impressive Frosinone team that has been getting points against bigger opponents.
After the game, Pioli revealed that it was Hernandez who suggested playing as a central defender, proving to be a revelation against Frosinone. ‘Milan want to challenge to the end for the top of the table.’ The Rossoneri were low on confidence after scraping a win over Fiorentina and then falling 3-1 to Dortmund midweek.
It was a reshuffled team with Hernandez having to play as a centre-back, but the Frenchman was Man of the Match with good positioning and his runs forward were covered by Alessandro Florenzi. “The idea came also from him, as he spoke to me and said if I am needed, I can play that position,” Pioli told Sky Sport Italia in his post match interview.
“He did really well defending and also gave us a lot going forward with his left foot, there was only one slight moment of indecision on a set play. “He showed the desire to really help out the team in a difficult moment with all these injuries.” Luka Jovic finally got his first goal for Milan, along with an assist for Fikayo Tomori, while Christian Pulisic showed great skill with his first touch on the Mike Maignan long ball.
“Our objective was to get back to winning ways, we had two home fixtures in a row against Fiorentina and Frosinone. It is a small step forward, but there is a long way to go this season and we need to find more consistency if we are to challenge for the top spots. “What we lack is consistency and we have to find it with our performances.
Naturally, the quicker we get players back, the more options we have and the more we can rotate or look to the bench to shake things up. We want to challenge to the end for the top of the table.” There was more good news too, as Ismael Bennacer made his comeback after surgery for a torn anterior cruciate ligament in May.
Milan were tempted to start teenage defenders Davide Bartesaghi or Jan-Carlo Simic, but instead preferred to use the old guard in new positions. Does that show a lack of faith in the Primavera players? “I have a great deal of faith in the young players and we’re seeing many who will make their way through to the senior squad in future.
There are however moments when it is more suited to players with experience who know certain situations, as there was no room today for those who might’ve had an emotional blowback from the event.” Pioli had lunch with Milan owner Gerry Cardinale at the Milanello training ground this week after the Champions League setback.
“I often speak to Gerry, we meet whenever he’s in Milan. Like all owners, he wants clarification on situations, like why we were unable to get more points from our chances in the Champions League. It was a constructive meeting, he makes sure his presence is felt.” He further added, seemingly disassociating himself from the recent statement from Paolo Maldini that he was often left isolated by the management.
Milan simply needed to win against Frosinone and they did. But it was goalkeeper Mike Maignan who made history for the club during the game. In what was perhaps Luka Jovic’s best game as a Milan player, the Serbian scored late in the first half and Christian Pulisic scored a goal of his own early in the second half.
Fikayo Tomori made it three for the day in the 74th minute, before Marco Brescianini pulled one back late. But a vital talking point in the game was Maignan, who had actually assisted Pulisic for the second goal of the game. According to Opta, the Frenchman has now assisted at least once in each of the last three Serie A seasons.
And since the 2004/05 season, no goalkeeper has had more assists than him in the league. Last season, Maignan had assisted in a game against Lazio at home and in the 2021/22 season, he had assisted in a game against Sampdoria and had essentially helped the Rossoneri pick up a 1-0 win.