Stefano Pioli’s reign as AC Milan coach got off to an underwhelming start as Marco Calderoni’s stunning late equaliser ruined the party and secured Lecce a 2-2 draw in San Siro. Despite picking up just a point, Pioli was encouraged by the performance and was upbeat about improvements in the coming games.
A fast start from Milan saw them go close twice inside the first two minutes through Rafael Leao, who was denied by goalkeeper Gabriel and then found the side netting.
Calhanoglu was more clinical, however, giving Milan the lead in 20th minute when he emphatically found the roof of the net from an acute angle inside the penalty area.
Milan could have grabbed a second but Suso’s low curling effort around the post was saved by Leece goalkeeper Gabriel.
Lecce capitalised on previous let-offs just past the hour – Babacar netting despite seeing his initial penalty saved by Donnarumma following Andrea Conti’s handball.
Substitute Piatek thought he had secured victory nine minutes from time when steering home after Calhanoglu’s clever run and cutback.
Pioli was disappointed not to have won but focused on the positives his side displayed –
“We have to work in every area, and what I’m asking of the players is different to the previous coaches,” Pioli told the club’s official website.
“Today we played as a team, and created a lot, but we made mistakes in two vital areas which didn’t allow us to close the game out.
“The players have come on a lot in the last few [training] sessions, and I’ve tried to work on the simplest possible things.
“I was anxious in a positive way, and the answers I got [from the team] were also positive, in terms of the approach.
“A lack of calmness cost us the win. There is work to be done, and that doesn’t scare me.
What does it mean? Pioli with much to improve
Pioli should be encouraged by the football Milan played during the early exchanges. They got the ball forward quickly and looked dangerous, if a little wasteful, in attack.
But in failing to make the most of their chances, they allowed Lecce a way back in and, although Calhanoglu impressed, they have slumped to a draw in a game they should have won.
Calhanoglu stakes his claim
Turkey international Calhanoglu has not met expectations at Milan, with recent speculation suggesting the club are open to selling him, but he showed his quality on Sunday. His goal was well taken and he was generally a creative threat in a roaming role, setting up Piatek’s goal as well.
Leao fades after bright start
The young Portuguese talent looked in the mood in the first few minutes, going close twice as he troubled the right side of Lecce’s defence. But thereafter he offered precious little and was hooked for match-winner Piatek in the 67th minute.
Milan looking adventurous once more?
It’s only 90 minutes into the Pioli reign and to call any sort of assessment “premature” at this stage would even be an understatement. However, some basic stats are there that can’t be ignored regardless. Bar Milan’s victory against Verona back in September, the 64.7% possession Milan had against Leece (Whoscored) was the most they’ve had so far this season.
The tally of 22 shots as well was also the most the Rossoneri have taken in a single game so far with Calhanoglu taking six out of them (Whoscored). Indicating towards the thought that Pioli would definitely try to instill a side ready to fire on all fronts and would have no troubles trying or attempting the spectacular as well.
Milan face sixth placed Roma in the Serie A next and Pioli will be hoping his side’s increased urgency on the pitch will translate to positive results. A loss to Roma will bring back the free flowing sacking vibe and Pioli could see him himself in similar pressure to his predecessor Marco Giampaolo in just two games under his reign.