By Jordan Villagra.
March 8, 2020 — the last time AC Milan lost a match, defeated 2-1 by Genoa in Serie A.
Since then, Milan have exerted their dominance, not only in Serie A where they currently sit at the top of the table, but also in the Europa League.
On Thursday night, Milan faced Sparta Praha in a Group H, looking to extend that unbeaten run of 22 games.
Milan went into the game at San Siro showing no signs of taking their foot off the gas. They strolled to a comfortable 3-0 win thanks to goals from Brahim Diaz and Portugues pair Rafael Leao and Diogo Dalot.
“The team knows what it has to do on the pitch and how to read the games,” AC Milan coach Stefano Pioli said after the game.
“We were coming off a good performance against Roma where we could’ve done better in controlling the situation. Today we made the most of the spaces that were allowed.”
Pioli’s side started out in a 4-2-3-1 formation with a mixture of regular starters and fringe first-team players.
Diaz, a loanee from Real Madrid, has been a shining light for the Italian side this season and continued lighting it up on Thursday night.
He opened up the scoring for Milan in the 24th minute. Using skilled footwork inside the box he was able to get his shot in-between the keeper’s legs, finishing off a silky pass from Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
🇪🇸 Brahim Diaz (21) is coming to life on loan at @acmilan.
He’s got the opener in the UEFA Europa League showdown with Sparta Prague.
✅ 4 starts
⚽️ 3 goals
🔥 2 goals in 2 UEL games
💯 6 wins in 6 games that he’s played in
Finding his feet! 👏 pic.twitter.com/pu9ZgYbSfg
— Football Wonderkids (@fbwonderkids) October 29, 2020
On the other hand, Ibrahimovic, who is usually a threat on goal, couldn’t find the back of the net with any of his three attempts.
One missed opportunity came in the 35th minute when the Swede drew a penalty but wasted the chance by hitting the crossbar.
The Portuguese duo of Leao and Dalot showed a strong connection in the second half. On a counter, Dalot found his compatriot in the box from the left flank, using the outside of his foot to provide a beautiful assist.
Dalot did very well on counter-attacking plays in his debut at the San Siro. Getting behind Praha’s defence multiple times, he was able to run in on goal and get Milan’s third goal of the night.
Since the return from the Covid-19 layoff, this Milan squad has become one of the most complete this season, in terms of quality and depth, and their record reflects that.
A wide selection of veteran leadership (Ibrahimovic, Alessio Romagnoli, Hakan Calhanoglu, and Simon Kjaer) and rising talents (Diaz, Sandro Tonali, Ismael Bennacer, Dalot, Jens Petter Hauge, and Leao) has become an issue for Pioli, but for all the right reasons.
“I must admit, it becomes increasingly difficult to choose the starting XI, as everyone is doing so well,” Pioli said. “The lads work in such a unified fashion and that is the attitude that makes me want to pick them. We wanted strength in depth, so it’s only right that we make the most of it.”
Milan will look to extend their unbeaten run to 24 games this weekend as they take on 18th placed Udinese at Stadio Friuli.