Milan have qualified for the Champions League quarterfinals after picking up a 0-0 draw against Tottenham Hotspur in London. The first match at San Siro ended 1-0, so Pioli’s men did all that they needed to do in the second leg. Three players stood out for the Rossoneri on Wednesday evening.
Since Stefano Pioli changed to a three at the back formation, Malick Thiaw and Pierre Kalulu have been receiving praise and deservedly so. However, against Spurs, it was Fikayo Tomori who caught our eye. He looked confident and stable against the likes of Harry Kane, Dejan Kulusevski and Heung Min Son, who got a minimal amount of opportunities thanks to Tomori. The English centre-back wasn’t dispossesed once, made two blocks and had eight recoveries. He also won three out of four ground duels. It was simply a great performance by a defender that has struggled to reach his level this season.
Milan’s number 10 has an undeniable amount of talent. Unfortunately, he struggles to consistently showcase it. In both legs against Tottenham, that was not a problem. In the first leg, he scored the only goal while he was the Rossoneri’s most dangerous player in the second, as Fraser Forster made an excellent one on one save to deny Díaz from scoring. He appeared in between the lines, made smooth dribbles and worked hard.
Díaz was not afraid to take on his man at White Hart Lane. He was everywhere and gave the Tottenham defense a tough night, as was shown by the Spanish dribbler being fouled four times. He had a passing accuracy of 88 percent, while successfully completing three dribbles out of five attempts. In addition to that, he had two tackles and six recoveries – to highlight his defensive work.
The difference of having Mike Maignan in goal makes really can’t be put into words. He made some fine saves against Tottenham on Wednesday against Harry Kane, Pierre Højbjerg and most notably, brilliantly saved a Kane header in the final minutes. There’s so much more Maignan adds than just the saves though. With him in goal, the Milan defense almost looks like a different team. They confidently build up from the back and are not afraid to use their goalkeeper. Maignan also is way more confident on free-kick and corners, which gives the Milan defense more serenity.
The whole backline has been improving in the last couple of weeks but with Maignan, they’ll be able to rise to a new level, as shown tonight against one of the best strikers in the world.
GIFN | Jurre van Wanrooij