AC Milan lost yet more ground in the Serie A title race as they were held to a 0-0 stalemate by Italy’s draw specialists Cremonese.
The defending champions had a goal disallowed after half-time, but generally struggled to break down a stubborn home defence who were happy to camp in their own half, affording their opponents little space around the 18-yard box.
That meant AC found it difficult to create too many chances in the opening exchanges, with the best of them falling to Divock Origi, but his tame finish was easily saved after good play by Ante Rebic.
Milan came closest to opening the scoring ten minutes before the break when Malick Thiaw, making his first start since an August move from Schalke, saw a thumping header expertly stopped by Marco Carnesecchi, who then kept out a powerful Junior Messias drive.
Origi thought he’d given the visitors the lead shortly after the break, only for his goal to be ruled out for offside by VAR, before the ‘keeper made another strong save, diving to his left to tip Rafael Leao’s curling cross-come-shot around the post.
In truth, AC Milan did not display the intensity or guile required to win this game as they were forced to settle for a point, while Cremonese remain winless this season, although this was their seventh draw of the campaign.
TALKING POINT – AC MILAN SLIP FURTHER BEHIND NAPOLI
AC Milan headed into this game in second place in the table and with the knowledge that Napoli had already beaten Empoli 2-0, opening up a nine point lead over the defending champions.
‘I Rossoneri’ therefore knew they needed to pick up a victory to keep tabs on Luciano Spalletti’s side, but they lacked tempo throughout, playing with the intensity as if it were a friendly.
Questions will be asked over whether they took Cremonese too lightly, especially as Rafael Leao was rested, despite Olivier Giroud’s suspension, but even with less than half the season gone, retaining the title now looks unlikely.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH
Marco Carnesecchi (Cremonese). Given Cremonese came into this game with the second worst defence in Serie A, having conceded 24 goals already, their goalkeeper expected to be busy.
On the whole, the back five in front of him stood strong, but when they were beaten, Carnesecchi was always waiting and he pulled off a string of fine saves.
The best of them came after the break, when Leao swung a cross-come-shot into the box that he superbly tipped around the post, and it helped him keep a second clean sheet in three matches.
CREMONESE: Carnesecchi 8; Vasquez 6, Bianchetti 7, Aiwu 6; Valeri 7, Castagnetti 6, Escalante 6, Ghiglione 6; Afena-Gyan 6, Ciofani 5, Meite 8. Subs: Buonaiuto 6, Sernicola 6, Okereke 6, Pickel 6, Quagliata n/a
Subs: Sarr, Saro, Ndiaye, Lochoshvili, Hendry, Acella, Milanese, Baez, Tasdjout, Zanimacchia
AC MILAN: Tatarusanu 6; Tomori 6, Kjaer 6, Thiaw 6; Messias 7, Bennacer 6, Tonali 6, Ballo-Toure 6; Rebic 6, Diaz 7, Origi 5. Subs: Kalulu 6, Leao 6, De Ketelaere 6, Krunic n/a, Lazetic n/a
Subs: Mirante, Jungdal, Gabbia, Pobega, Vranckx, Adil, Bakayoko
26’ ORIGI SHOT SAVED. Good play from Rebic this time, who breaks from midfield before picking out Origi brilliantly, but the striker’s finish from inside the box is poor as Marco Carnesecchi comes off his line and saves
37’ SUPERB SAVE. This time AC force a corner from the right and it’s met by Malick Thiaw, who sends a thumping header goalwards, only for Carnesecchi to acrobatically beat it clear. That’s the closest we’ve come to a goal
57’ GOAL RULED OUT. Origi thinks he’s given AC Milan the lead as he untidily bundles home from close range, but he had strayed narrowly offside
68’ ANOTHER EXCELLENT SAVE. Leao has his first sight of goal, with a curling cross-come-shot, but Carnesecchi once again is on hand to make a terrific stop