Gonzalo Higuain scores again but Fabio Borini, Milan underwhelm in Luxembourg
AC Milan failed to impress but secured three important points as Gonzalo Higuain scored the only goal of the game away at Luxembourg's F91 Dudelange in the Europa League on Thursday night. The Rossoneri were lacklustre for the most part, but they will be pleased to start their European run with a win.
Gennaro Gattuso made countless changes to his lineup, giving others an opportunity to impress. The Milan coach got some positive results from certain individuals, namely Samu Castillejo and Mattia Caldara, and that will give him more confidence in using them as the season goes on.
Similarly to their draw with Cagliari on Sunday, Milan started slowly and struggled to dominate a game against inferior opposition. While they improved in the second half to control proceedings, they seem to have taken a step back from the side that played so well against Roma earlier this month.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- Gattuso was right to make several changes and rotate and rest key individuals. However, he perhaps has to accept some responsibility for Milan making it more difficult than it should have been and some of his selections remain puzzling, particularly starting Ignazio Abate, Andrea Bertolacci and Fabio Borini.
Player ratings out of 10 (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Pepe Reina, 6 -- Rarely called upon but was vocal in organising his defence throughout and was alert to any danger around his penalty area.
DF Ignazio Abate, 5 -- The veteran continues to struggle to make a positive impact on games as he looked hesitant pushing forward, was rushed in possession and often gave the ball away. Defensively sound for the most part, but not good enough as a backup option.
DF Mattia Caldara, 6 -- Finally a debut for the summer signing as he continues to adjust to playing in a back four. Overcame a nervous start to put in a solid display and grew in confidence as he has certainly made a case to displace Mateo Musacchio against Atalanta on Sunday.
DF Alessio Romagnoli, 6 -- The Milan captain put in a good performance as he led by example with his pressing and defensive leadership. Picked up a sloppy yellow card, but overall did his job well in marshalling the backline.
DF Diego Laxalt, 7 -- Not always accurate with his distribution, but a very positive display from the Uruguay international. Played with plenty of urgency, energy and intensity on and off the ball to emerge as one of the top performers. He has surely given Gattuso a selection headache for the weekend.
MF Andrea Bertolacci, 5 -- Anonymous against Dudelange, it's questionable as to how many more chances he'll get. The game seemed to bypass him throughout as he struggled to make any impact at all. If Bertolacci can't dominate a midfield battle at this level, it's a concern for Milan as to what would happen against the top sides.
MF Jose Mauri, 6 -- The combative midfielder put in a decent performance, as he wasn't afraid to get stuck into tackles and give Milan some solidity in the heart of the team. Not overly impressive in building play and controlling the tempo of the game, but a positive effort overall to suggest he can fill in when required.
MF Tiemoue Bakayoko, 6 -- After his horrendous debut against Napoli, the Chelsea loanee is starting to show positive signs of improvement. By no means was he in top form on Thursday night, but he worked hard, showed good touches on the ball and made countless interceptions. Gattuso will be pleased with his progress.
FW Samu Castillejo, 6 -- Grabbed an assist for Higuain's goal, and looked lively throughout showing a good change of pace and movement in the final third. Perhaps the only criticism is that he should have been more clinical in front of goal, although he did show plenty of creativity and quality at times too.
FW Gonzalo Higuain, 6 -- Two goals in two games for the Argentine, Milan will need to be careful not to fall into the trap of relying on him too heavily. Nevertheless, scored the all-important winner and was busy throughout, although he did miss a couple of other chances to make the game safe.
FW Fabio Borini, 5 -- For all his effort and hard work, the quality simply isn't there for Borini to warrant an attacking role. His versatility is crucial as he can play in defensive positions too, but his shortcomings in the attacking third continue to be exposed.
MF Franck Kessie, 6 -- Ideally should have been rested for the entire game but came on and offered solidity and presence in midfield to see out the victory.
FW Hakan Calhanoglu, N/R -- Showed a great turn of pace at times to push Milan into offensive situations. Little time to make a major impact but added a bit of quality in the final stages.
FW Alen Halilovic, N/R -- Produced a bright cameo appearance, but not enough time to make a real impression.