“Lightning never strikes the same place twice.” It’s an adage you’ve heard over and over again, but it is one that veteran storm observers and weather researchers alike relish proving to be untrue with no shortage of evidence to the contrary. After the last two weekends of Serie A action however, they could simply ask an AC Milan fan to do it for them as they watched exactly that happen before their disbelieving eyes.
First came their rearranged fixture with Genoa at San Siro, the Rossoneri taking an early lead through Suso only for Christian Kouame’s shot to take a wicked deflection off Alessio Romagnoli for the equaliser. After that own goal, Milan threw everything into chasing a winner, but goalkeeper Ionut Radu stood tall with a string of impressive saves and it seemed the game was set to end in a disappointing stalemate.
With just seconds remaining, Ignazio Abate launched a long punt forward more in hope than expectation. Radu came and punched it clear once again, but the ball fell directly to Romagnoli who hooked a looping volley over everyone that dropped perfectly into the back of the net to clinch all three points. The skipper was mobbed by his team-mates, but while Gennaro Gattuso was relieved, the Coach knew his side must play much better if their aim of a top four finish is to become a reality.
“It’s a step forward,” he said at his post-match press conference. “We know it’s difficult, but for all the talk there’s been, for everything we’ve been through, it’s something important. Now we have to do well at staying up there. We haven’t achieved anything yet. Now we have to play as a team because we still don’t do it at times.”
The players appeared to do little to heed that warning though, turning in another disappointing performance away to Udinese just four days later. At 0-0 heading into injury time, Romagnoli passed to Suso in the opposition area but the Spaniard dithered and gave the ball back to his Captain who decided to take matters into his own hands.
Smashing a powerful effort beyond the helpless Juan Musso, he was made to wait by referee Marco Di Bello as he checked with the VAR official that there was no offside in the build up to the goal. Eventually it was given and Romagnoli could celebrate, later admitting that he is enjoying an excellent run of form that has catapulted the Rossoneri back into contention for a Champions League berth.
31/10: last minute winner vs Genoa
04/11: last minute winner vs Udinese
What a week for young AC Milan defender! 🔴⚫️
“I try to give my best and we hope to maintain this tempo,” he told Sky Italia shortly after the final whistle. “There are no first or second choices here, we all play for a great club and want to give our best. It was a great game, we struggled in the first half, but emerged as time wore on and grabbed an important victory.”
“This is probably my best period since I’ve been at Milan, but I hope the best is yet to come,” Romagnoli added and it is hard to argue with the first part of that sentence. If two late match-winning goals were not enough, the 23-year-old is also playing a crucial role in helping his side keep a clean sheet against Udinese.
While it may not seem like much, it was the club’s first shutout since drawing 0-0 with Napoli back in April, a run of 16 matches in which they had conceded goals. Thanks in no small part to Romagnoli’s display at the Dacia Arena, that streak came to an end and he is blossoming into a true leader, the latest great defender to pull on the armband at San Siro.
They cannot continue to rely on him scoring goals, but Romagnoli’s ability to keep them out at the other end is undeniable, the struggles of the team around him over the past three years giving him a crash course in defending at the highest level. He has emerged a better player as a result and that can only benefit the Rossoneri in the long term, now undoubtedly boasting the best and most well-rounded young Italian in his position.
Perfectly placed to take over from Giorgio Chiellini in the Italian national team, he is in the form of his life and continuing to improve. In Alessio Romagnoli, Milan finally have a defender and a Captain they can be proud of.