Olivier Giroud proved to be the hero for AC Milan once again, as the late substitute won it for the Rossoneri in the 88th minute to give his side an important 2-1 victory over Spezia at the San Siro.
Following their surprise loss last time out to Torino, Stefano Pioli knew his side had to respond against a team who secured a dramatic win last time they played on Milan’s patch.
Four minutes after Rade Krunic’s strike rattled against the crossbar for the Rossoneri, Theo Hernandez gave Milan the lead after 19 minutes. The left-back chested down Ismael Bennacer’s cross, before placing an effort on the half-volley beyond Bartolomiej Dragowski.
The home side hit the upright once again before the end of the half, but it was Spezia who struck back halfway through the second, as Daniel Maldini – on loan to the Ligurian club from Milan – placed a powerful effort into the far corner against his parent club.
Milan then thought they had quickly responded five minutes later, but Sandro Tonali’s strike into the top corner from the edge of the penalty area was ruled out by VAR for a foul in the build-up by Fikayo Tomori.
With the game threatening to boil over in the closing stages, Giroud found a dramatic winner for Milan two minutes from time, latching onto Tonali’s cross towards the back post with an acrobatic volley into the near corner to spark wild celebrations in the stands.
Seconds later, the Frenchman was shown a second yellow card and subsequently sent off for his celebrations. Despite being forced to play out stoppage time with a man down, Milan held their nerve to secure a priceless victory to close the gap on league leaders Napoli to six points.
TALKING POINT – MILAN SEAL DRAMATIC AND MUCH NEEDED WIN
Milan faced being nine points behind runaway league leaders Napoli at the end of Matchday 13 if they lost this one, and the pressure was on after their shock 2-1 loss to Torino at the Olimpico Grande Torino last time out. With Luciano Spalletti’s Partenopei side starting the season incredibly strongly, Milan knew they could ill afford to drop more points and see them slip further behind.
Despite Spezia’s lowly league placing of 17th, Luca Gotti’s side gave it a good go once again at the San Siro. They found their way back to level terms in the second half, and Milan knew they had to dig in to find a winner.
That they did, as Giroud came up with the goods once again to send the stadium into raptures. The joy on the face of all the players celebrating after the goal most definitely was etched with a sense of relief, as Milan move above Atalanta and into 2nd place in Serie A.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH – BARTOLOMIEJ DRAGOWSKI
What a performance by the 25-year-old Polish goalkeeper this evening for Spezia, as he made a series of important saves from close-range to keep his side in the game right until the very end.
The Spezia stopper made a total of eight stops during the night, double that of his opposite number, Ciprian Tatarusanu. The pick of the bunch was in the 15th minute, as he made a point blank save from Brahim Diaz to deny the Spaniard moments after Milan had seen another effort hit the crossbar. Dragowski has always had undoubted potential, but tonight he lived up to it with his performance.
AC Milan: Tatarusanu 7, Hernandez 7, Tomori 7, Gabbia 7, Kalulu 6, Bennacer 8, Krunic 7, Leao 7, Diaz 7, Messias 7, Origi 6. Subs: Tonali 7, Thiaw 6, Giroud 7, Rebic 6, de Ketelaere 6.
Spezia Calcio: Dragowski 8, Ampadu 7, Kiwior , Caldara 7, Holm 6, Agudelo 6, Ekdal 6, Bourabia 7, Amian 6, Maldini 7, Nzola 5. Subs: Ellertsson 6, Strelec 6, Reca 6, Verde 6, Hristov 6.
15’ – OFF THE BAR – A huge double chance for the home side! The first attempt sees Messias’ effort from range blocked by a Spezia defender, but the rebound falls back to the path of Krunic, who smacks it on the half-volley, but it cannons back off the bar! Seconds later, Spezia fail to clear their lines, as Milan come again. Diaz’s header at the back post is saved fantastically by Dragowski, who uses his legs to make a point-blank stop!
19’ – GOAL! (Theo Hernandez) – The defender gives the home side the lead not long after suffering an injury scare himself! Bennacer’s ball across to the back post from just outside the area is chested down by the Frenchman, before he finishes coolly at the near post past Dragowski on the half-volley! The strike is being checked by VAR for a potential offside, and after a while of deliberating, it is given!
45+3’ – BAR AGAIN – Milan are unlucky once again! Leao gets the ball on the half-turn outside the area, and smacks a shot at goal, but it bounces of a Spezia defender and onto the bar! Messias is there to get a hold of the rebound from close range, but his effort is brilliantly stopped by Dragowski!
59’ – GOAL! (Daniel Maldini) – The on-loan Milan man haunts his parent club! He is played into some space on the inside-left channel by Reca before advancing into the penalty area and dispatching a low drive into the far corner of the net!
64’ – GOAL DISALLOWED BY VAR! – Origi, who advances to the edge of the penalty area on the right-hand side, picks out a cut-back for Tonali, who is lurking right at the edge of the box. The midfielder picks one out of the top draw and laces a powerful strike first-time into the top corner! However, just like with their first, Milan will have to wait for a VAR check for a potential foul in the build-up! It doesn’t go their way this time, as Tomori is adjudged to have committed an offence just before the passage of play that led to the goal!
88’ – GOAL! (Olivier Giroud) – He is the hero again! He latches onto a cross towards the back post from Tonali and acrobatically finishes it on the volley into the near corner! Scenes at the San Siro! Seconds later, he is shown a second yellow card and his marching orders for his celebrations!