Patrick Cutrone, Alessio Romagnoli shine in decisive Milan first-leg victory
AC Milan will take a commanding lead back to the San Siro for the second leg of their Europa League last-32 tie against Ludogorets Razgrad. Goals from Patrick Cutrone, Ricardo Rodriguez and Fabio Borini secured a 3-0 win, putting the Rossoneri in a very strong position to advance.
Milan produced a professional display in a difficult and scrappy game away from home. They took their goals well, kept a clean sheet and essentially got the job done to ensure that they're firmly in control heading into the second leg.
There were periods either side of half-time where Ludogorets started to take control of the game and looked a threat. Milan didn't play with the same intensity and urgency as they have done in Serie A in recent weeks, and in turn they rode their luck at times. Against better opposition, they could get punished.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Gennaro Gattuso organised his side well and put out a strong team to try to make life easier in the reverse fixture. He deserves praise in particular for the decision to replace Ignazio Abate in the second half, as he identified a problem area and swiftly acted.
Player ratings out of 10 (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating.)
GK Gianluigi Donnarumma, 6 -- Didn't always look comfortable dealing with deliveries into the box or with the ball at his feet. However, didn't have much to do as his defence kept things tight at the back for the most part.
DF Ignazio Abate, 5 -- Struggled from the outset with Virgil Misidjan's pace and movement, with Jody Lukoki providing the same problem when they switched flanks. Made his experience count at times, but was otherwise exposed.
DF Leonardo Bonucci, 7 -- It was another strong performance from the Milan captain, as he marshalled the backline well and didn't allow Ludogorets joy through the middle. As ever, he was also important with his distribution up the field.
DF Alessio Romagnoli, 8 -- Deserves a higher mark than Bonucci, as he simply didn't put a foot wrong. He was impenetrable at the back, as he constantly intercepted passes, made perfectly timed tackles and was a calming influence in possession. It was yet another impressive performance.
DF Davide Calabria, 6 -- Struggled in an unnatural position on the left, even though he has done well there previously this season. Looked much more comfortable on the right, but had his troubles earlier in the game.
MF Franck Kessie, 7 -- Improved as the game went on as he started to use his physicality, tenacity and powerful runs to great effect. Continues to prove why he is such a crucial component in this Milan side and his absence on Sunday against Sampdoria will undoubtedly be noticeable.
MF Lucas Biglia, 7 -- It's arguably time to accept that he will choose to keep things simple in possession, but this game proved how effective he is in providing a defensive shield in front of the defence. Constantly broke up play whether with key interceptions or clever fouls in an important display.
MF Giacomo Bonaventura, 6 -- Looks as though tiredness has crept into his play as he didn't look as sharp as he can be. Gave up possession a lot and wasn't able to influence proceedings through the middle.
FW Suso, 6 -- Similar story to Bonaventura in that he wasn't at his best. Even when he tried to drift inside, he never settled into the game to emerge as Milan's main offensive threat as he so often does.
FW Patrick Cutrone, 7 -- The youngster still needs to work on his hold-up play and he was quiet for large periods in this game, but ultimately, he delivered when it mattered. Scored a crucial goal just before half-time, and won the penalty for the second. That's now 13 for the season, as he has established himself as a key figure for Gattuso.
FW Hakan Calhanoglu, 6 -- Great assist for the opening goal as he produced a perfect delivery. Struggled to get into the game in the first half, but he did improve and was a growing influence in the win.
DF Ricardo Rodriguez, 6 -- Took his penalty with great composure and although he didn't particularly stand out in the final stages of the game, he slotted into the back with minimal fuss to help keep the clean sheet.
FW Andre Silva, 5 -- Not a great deal to take away from his effort off the bench. Put himself about the pitch to play a part in the win, but it looks more and more likely he's going to need a big slice of luck to end his barren run in front of goal.
FW Fabio Borini, NR -- Produced a great finish to kill the game off in the final minutes and that may well have sealed progression for Milan.
Sumeet Paul covers AC Milan for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @SP_Calcio.