Milan bounce back against Juventus to give Allegri a slap in the face | Serie A

Massimiliano Allegri threw down a gauntlet, only for his rivals to pick it up and slap him in the face with it. “Try taking five starters away from Inter or Milan,” said the Juventus manager last month as he sought to defend his team’s slow start to the Serie A season by gesturing at an extensive injury list. “Then let’s see if they run into difficulty.”

Milan did indeed look diminished as they travelled to Stamford Bridge last week without Mike Maignan, Theo Hernández, Davide Calabria, Simon Kjær, Alexis Saelemaekers and Junior Messias – not to mention long-term absentee Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Chelsea made light work of a decimated defence on their way to a 3-0 Champions League win.

Hernández was back in the lineup for Saturday’s game against Juventus, but the rest remained out of action. It looked like an opportunity for Allegri’s team to build on the momentum they had claimed with back-to-back wins – and six goals scored – against Bologna and Maccabi Haifa. A chance for the manager to prove his point.

Juventus started well, carving out a few half-chances and finding some forward thrust through Juan Cuadrado on the right. But after the Colombian had a shot blocked by Sandro Tonali in the 21st minute, his team could not muster another attempt on goal for the next 50. Milan scored twice in-between.

Fikayo Tomori struck first, crashing the ball home after accidentally blocking a shot from teammate Olivier Giroud at a corner, claiming a small slice of redemption after his humbling return to the Bridge. This has been a difficult season so far for the Englishman, who has struggled to match the standards he set last term, but on Saturday he excelled at both ends of the pitch.

Juventus lined up in a 4-4-2 with Dusan Vlahovic and Arkadiusz Milik up front: a €70m striker accompanied by another who was averaging a goal every 78 minutes. Accompanying Tomori at centre-back for Milan was Matteo Gabbia, a 22-year-old with six starts last season. One of those was a 4-3 defeat by Fiorentina, in which Vlahovic – still playing for the Viola back then – scored twice.

The Serbian never even got as close as attempting a shot for Juventus on Saturday, instead providing the assist for Milan’s second goal. With Tomori assailing his every touch, Vlahovic was flustered into a loose pass across the middle of the pitch. Brahim Díaz intercepted, ran 50 yards and beat Wojciech Szczesny at his near post.


Brahim Díaz breaks through the Juventus defence and finds the back of the net


— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) October 8, 2022

If Vlahovic chose poorly then he did not deserve to carry the blame all by himself. Milik, the target for the pass, was leaden-footed in reacting to it and Leonardo Bonucci allowed Díaz to breeze past when even a foul would have served his team better. It was a goal that embodied the worst nature of this Juventus side who play with an air of passivity all over the pitch.

A manager who won five consecutive Serie A titles and reached two Champions League finals during his previous stint at Juventus can feel entitled to believe he knows better than his critics but Allegri’s persistence with rigid lines and low blocks has certainly earned him a few. As one Gazzetta dello Sport journalist wrote in their analysis of Saturday’s game: “A 4-4-2 without overlapping full-backs is as credible as a tiramisù without mascarpone.”

Milan’s Theo Hernández invites a tackle from Juve’s Juan Cuadrado in the corner of the pitch.
Milan’s Theo Hernández invites a tackle from Juve’s Juan Cuadrado in the corner of the pitch. Photograph: Nderim Kaceli/LiveMedia/Shutterstock

After nine games, Juventus are already 10 points off the pace atop Serie A. They have failed to win any of their first four away matches for the second time in the club’s top-flight history, and face an uphill struggle to make it out of their Champions League group, despite beating Maccabi, after losing their opening two matches against Paris Saint-Germain and Benfica.

Most damning of all might be the fact Allegri has not won a single game against Milan, Inter or Napoli since he returned to the club last summer. His assertion on Saturday that Juventus had “given up few chances, other than the two times Rafael Leão hit the post … and two very avoidable goals” started to sound like a Monty Python character asking what the Romans have ever done for us.

Stefano Pioli, by contrast, was able to frame this as a show of resilience, a strong “reaction” to the loss in west London. Milan host Chelsea in the return game on Tuesday and can ill afford another defeat in Champions League Group E, where they sit level on points with the Premier League side and one behind Salzburg.

The return of Hernández offers one reason to think that the second meeting need not be a repeat of the first, as does Pioli’s flexibility. After starting every previous game this season in a 4-2-3-1, he adjusted to a 4-3-3 against Juventus, making space for Díaz on the right at the expense of Charles De Ketalaere – the highly-touted summer arrival who has struggled to consistently influence games from the No 10 position.

This may prove a pivotal week for three of Italy’s four Champions League representatives. Only Napoli, as dominant in Europe as they have been at home, can feel confident of making it through to the knockout rounds.

Inter strengthened their position with a 1-0 win at home to Barcelona but Wednesday’s rematch at Camp Nou might well decide everything in a group where Bayern Munich appear locked into first place and Viktoria Plzen have so far looked unlikely to take points off anyone.

Quick Guide

Serie A results


Bologna 1-1 Sampdoria, Milan 2-0 Juventus, Sassuolo 1-2 Inter, Roma 2-1 Lecce, Cremonese 1-4 Napoli, Udinese 2-2 Atalanta, Salernitana 2-1 Verona, Monza 2-0 Spezia, Torino 1-1 Empoli

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Simone Inzaghi’s team have endured a difficult start of their own in Serie A, and began this weekend one point behind Juventus, but a 2-1 win at Sassuolo provided a welcome sense of continuity, building on the midweek win. Edin Dzeko grabbed both goals, taking his personal haul to 101 since arriving in the league with Roma seven years ago.

Inter were missing Romelu Lukaku, Marcelo Brozovic, Joaquín Correa and Stefan de Vrij against Sassuolo. Milan Skriniar and Henrikh Mkhitaryan were each limited to second-half cameos off the bench. They did not have it all their own way, conceding a second-half equaliser after Dzeko put them in front, and requiring the Bosnian to unpick the deadlock a second time.

Allegri was perfectly justified in that suggestion last month that any side shorn of five starters would run into difficulty. But as Milan and Inter both demonstrated this weekend, that is not the same as being overcome by it.

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