Milan show potential in decisive victory over Fiorentina
Goals from Carlos Bacca and Kevin-Prince Boateng secured a 2-0 win for AC Milan over Fiorentina at the San Siro on Sunday night, but coach Sinisa Mihajlovic will have been delighted with what he saw from his side as a whole.
The Rossoneri have been under significant pressure since the turn of the year, but they extended their unbeaten run to three games in all competitions with one of their better performances of the campaign thus far.
From a committed and organised defensive display to attacking with purpose and intent, Milan deserved all three points as they stifled their rivals and took their chances.
The key for Mihajlovic and his players now will be for them to build on this result against Empoli next weekend. Falter next Saturday night, and the knives will be back out for the Serbian tactician, such is the fine line that he continues to walk.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Gianluigi Donnarumma, 6 -- The youngster had little to do, given his defence kept Fiorentina in check for the majority of the game. While he was called into action on occasion, he remained alert to the danger and looked assured as usual.
DF Ignazio Abate, 6 -- From a defensive perspective, the Italian international was as consistent as ever as he nullified Fiorentina's threat down the left for the most part. The only criticism that remains is his crossing and general distribution.
DF Alex, 6 -- The experienced centre-half added steel and calmness to the Milan backline as he helped nullify Fiorentina's Nikola Kalinic. His lack of pace could be exploited, but nonetheless it was a good night's work for the Brazilian.
DF Alessio Romagnoli, 7 -- Having looked shaky in recent weeks, the 21-year-old returned to his best form as he was in full control of Kalinic and dominated in the middle. Mihajlovic will hope he can now regain the level of consistency he displayed earlier in the season.
DF Luca Antonelli, 6 -- Similarly to Abate, he improved in the second half and did well to keep Federico Bernardeschi under his control for the most part. Mattia De Sciglio has disappointed in recent weeks, and he could face a battle to get back into the team.
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MF Keisuke Honda, 6 -- The Japanese international is important to Milan in terms of buying into Mihajlovic's philosophy and playing his role both defensively and offensively. While he still needs to be more composed and decisive in the final third, Honda is doing enough to keep his place.
MF Riccardo Montolivo, 6 -- The positive ovation he received when he was substituted in the second half said it all. Montolivo hasn't necessarily done much to endear himself to the Milan faithful in recent times with his inconsistency, but he had a strong game as he directed play from his deeper midfield position.
MF Andrea Bertolacci, 6 -- With Mihajlovic essentially tasking him with a defensive-minded role, Bertolacci worked tirelessly in midfield to close down the opposition and did well to keep Borja Valero quiet. Will hope to do more offensively in time, but certainly produced a positive performance.
MF Giacomo Bonaventura, 7 -- Another intelligent performance with another assist for Bacca's goal, Bonaventura continues to prove why he is essential to Milan. Worked hard defensively to compliment his clever play on the ball. Mihajlovic knows which is the first name on the team-sheet.
FW M'Baye Niang, 6 -- The 21-year-old is talented, and he does look dangerous with the ball at his feet and running at defenders. However, he must improve his composure and decision-making in the final third to take the next step up in quality.
FW Carlos Bacca, 7 -- Sacrificed himself for the team with his hard work off the ball as the Colombian international was essentially a lone striker. Capped it off with a superb individual goal to break the deadlock to continue to show how crucial his goals have been this season.
MF Juraj Kucka, 7 -- Energetic cameo appearance from the midfielder, who replaced Monotlivo in the 70th minute, and he capped it off with the pass to pick out Boateng for the second goal.
MF Kevin-Prince Boateng, 7 -- Although some questioned his return to the club, Boateng has answered his doubters and his goal will only further boost his confidence.
FW Mario Balotelli, NR -- Replaced Bacca in the 87th minute. Not enough time for the Italian striker to make an impact, but was certainly a welcome sight to see him return from injury.
Sumeet Paul covers AC Milan for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @SP_Calcio.