Lille, the French club, have played nine matches in Ligue 1, where they won five times and drew four. They have been a formidable unit this season and perhaps, AC Milan might not have taken Ligue 1 that seriously and judged it like others. But after the final whistle at San Siro, the Rossoneri left the turf with the heaviest defeat ever digested at their den. Lille netted 3 goals to nothing and ended the brilliant unbeaten run of the Rossoneri.
It was the show of Yusuf Yazici, who sent his side in a goal up at the break after firing home from the penalty spot, and put them out of sight in the second half with two exceptional shots from outside the area.
Stefano Pioli made five changes to the starting XI compared to the one which took the field on Sunday against Udinese, as Diogo Dalot came in at right-back, Sandro Tonali partnered Kessie in midfield and the trident behind Ibrahimovic was composed of Samu Castillejo – back from a muscle problem – as well as Brahim Diaz and Rade Krunic.
The opening 10 minutes were a cagey affair, with Theo Hernandez certainly feeling the warmth of a heavy challenge early on as both teams tried to settle down and assert their style on the game.
Milan had the control over the possession but Lille formed a compact low block without the ball and for which Milan struggled to churn out opportunities – Perhaps they could have done better when Zlatan Ibrahimovic rose to head a free-kick back into the area that narrowly evaded Kjaer.
Milan proceeded to break down the midblock of Lille, which created space on the flanks – the first shot on target of the game came in the 14th minute, as one of Lille’s main threats Jonathan Ikone found some space in off the left flank to fire a shot at Donnarumma who saved comfortably.
Still, Milan stuck to the plan of breaking down the midblock and find space behind the defensive line of Lille – they got in behind for the first time when Theo made one of his typical driving runs before seeing his shot from inside the box deflected for a corner.
Lille’s solidity was too good and during the transitions, they posed a threat.
With the Milan players pressing up, Lille created a dangerous scoring chance of their own as a poor defensive header allowed Jonathan David to pick the ball up in space and bear down on goal, though Donnarumma produced a smart low save.
Lille on the counter was fast and aggressive and moments later, Romagnoli was adjudged to have pushed Yilmaz in the back as a throw-in came into the box, and even if the forward went down easily the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Yusuf Yazici gave the lead from the penalty spot.
Milan’s first shot on target came in the 25th minute when Brahim Diaz won a free-kick 20 yards out central to the goal. Ibrahimovic put his laces through it and got the ball past the wall, but it was straight at Maignan in the middle of the goal who flapped it clear.
The compactness of Lille made Milan look a tad sloppy and they consistently struggled to cope with their midblock and thus, the ball was sent to the flanks – Theo Hernandez again found himself with a yard of space to shoot inside the box as a neat move from Milan saw Castillejo bundle the ball into the left-back’s path.
In the 42nd minute, a corner was flicked on at the near post by Krunic but evading everyone and dropping into safety.
Pioli responded to a lackluster opening 45 minutes by making a double change, with the once again ineffectual Castillejo and Krunic making way for Rafael Leao and Hakan Calhanoglu.
That changed the shape of the Milan formation and they looked a bit better in the second half, which culminated in Kessie firing over from inside the box after a feed from inside the area by Brahim Diaz following a corner that wasn’t properly cleared.
Milna shape changed from 4-2-3-1 to 4-3-3 and on the attack more often, it looked like a 3-2-5 shape, but it came at the cost of allowing spaces for Yazici to fire a shot with his favourite foot from 20 yards, and before the hour mark, he completed his hat-trick, and it was another fantastic finish.
After an assist from Ikone for his second goal, it was another Jonathan who fed him in Jonathan David, allowing Yazici to simply sweep the ball into the far corner with a precise shot.
The Milan defence could do nothing.
Yazici was not satisfied with a hat-trick and pushed for a fourth goal, forcing yet another save from a narrow-angle after wriggling into space inside the area and firing at the near post.
Rebic and Jens Petter Hauge were introduced, but it hardly mattered for Milan.
After the match, Pioli said, “We met a strong team, we complicated our lives. We didn’t start the game badly, but we didn’t manage to be as dangerous as I thought, then once we got behind we gave them too much space.”
“We start again by evaluating the performance, the positive and negative things. For tonight after a long time, we will have to analyze more negative things than positive but with great awareness of our qualities.
“We have not underestimated anyone, we have made mistakes. Also in the past, we have made some, we will learn from this performance. I have a young but mature team, mature teams know how to react immediately to difficulties, and today we have had a few too many.”
“I thought it was the best team for the moment, in the first half we controlled the pitch well aside from the penalty. The technical precision today was not at a great level, and then the game got a bit complicated.”
“The score is a bit heavy; we also had the chance for Kessie to equalize. They punished us for almost every mistake. Three complicated games await us but we will prepare to face them.”
The result means that Milan have surrendered the top spot to the French side after three group games, with Sparta Praha’s win at Celtic somewhat of a blessing as they stay three points above the third spot.