Earlier in the season, Milan had dreamed of reaching a Champions League position come May. After defeating Bologna one goal to nil, that aspiration may not be dead in the water, but it looks like an almost impossible ask. The Rossoneri fell to nine men against Bologna and rode the game out to end their dire losing streak, but did not remotely look like a side that could compete for a place in Europe.
You could argue that Vincenzo Montella’s side showed the signs of winners, by not giving up, sticking together. That kind of stuff. But the reality is, they got lucky. A better team than Bologna would have put them away, a Bologna not coming off the back of a 7-1 mauling would have put them away.
There are positives for Milan to take from this game, three points being the most important, but their performance reiterated many of the issues that plague this team. Their poor disciplinary record stands out as a major cause for concern. Milan are only second to Bologna themselves for red cards received this season, with Gabriel Paletta managing to rack up three of them.
Another worry for Milan is their man up front, Carlos Bacca, who continues to look like a player not interested in playing for the club and a player not good enough to bring the club where they want to go.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom. Milan did start the game brightly, as they peppered Angelo Da Costa’s goal with shots early on. The recently signed loanee, Gerard Deulofeu, had the best chance of the first-half, when he bore down on goal from the left-hand-side, only to fire his shot straight at the goalkeeper.
Milan’s fate was seemingly sealed before the half-time break, though, when Alessio Romagnoli was forced off through injury, followed shortly by the dismissal of Gabriel Paletta, for receiving a second yellow card. Down to ten men, Milan had proceeded to make what should have been a simple game, a very hard one.
After the break, an hour in, Milan were hit with another blow when Juraj Kucka was sent off for a second bookable offence, after picking up two yellow cards in the space of six minutes. Once more this season, Milan’s terrible disciplinary record hurt them, and they only had themselves to blame.
Miraculously, despite being down to nine men, the Rossoneri had still not conceded to a Bologna side that was growing in confidence. If it weren’t for Gianluigi Donnarumma, Milan would have almost certainly been behind. Shortly after Kucka received his marching orders, Bologna carved open the Milan defence and set up Ladislav Krejčí, who fired an effort on goal, only for Donnarumma to deny him.
Milan themselves almost scored moments later, when Mario Pašalić had a great opportunity to rewrite the script. The Croatian was played into the penalty area down the left-hand-side by Deulofeu, and could have squared the ball to an unmarked Andrea Poli, but chose to shoot at a tight angle, leaving Da Costa with a simple save to make.
Milan held on as the clock ticked down, with eight of the nine men seemingly content with a point. The other man being Deulofeu, who looked determined to drag Milan to a win if it killed him.
Just a minute from the end of normal time, the Spaniard found himself to the right, in corner of the pitch. With Domenico Maietta all over him, he conjured up a turn and burst quickly past the defender, leaving himself with Emil Krafth between him, the goalkeeper, the goal and an onrushing Pašalić. He then poked the ball through Krafth’s legs to set up Pašalić for an easy tap in.
Somehow, some way, Milan had taken the lead. Montella’s side then proceeded to waste as much time as possible, as full-time neared ever closer, and when the final whistle blew the players celebrated deliriously, knowing how valuable those three points could prove to be.