AC Milan 0-0 Sassuolo: Uninspiring champs suffer another slip-up
AC Milan will go into the derby with Inter Milan having suffered another early blip in the Scudetto race after being held to a 0-0 draw at Sassuolo.
The defending Serie A champions got back to winning ways at the weekend with a 2-0 victory over Bologna, having previously been held by Atalanta.
But they were not at their best on Tuesday in a game they would have lost had Mike Maignan not saved a first-half penalty from Domenico Berardi – the Italy international who later came off with a seemingly concerning injury.
It means Milan are still unbeaten with two wins and two draws from four games, but the stalemate offered Inter – along with the likes of Roma, Napoli and Lazio – the chance to leapfrog the Rossoneri in this round of midweek fixtures.
Milan unsurprisingly made the early running and went close in the 16th minute when Brahim Diaz dragged wide from the edge of the area.
Yet Sassuolo were gifted a chance to take the lead when Giorgos Kyriakopoulos was tripped just inside the box by Alexis Saelemaekers in the 21st minute.
However, Berardi's penalty lacked direction and Maignan was equal to it, his save providing a huge let-off for the champions.
Berardi's day got worse when he had to be helped off seven minutes into the second half and was clearly emotional in the dugout after coming off.
Kristian Thorstvedt drew a comfortable save from Maignan as the hosts initially enjoyed the better of the second period.
Chances at either end were few and far between thereafter, though, Milan hitting the target just twice in an underwhelming display that was capped by Alessandro Florenzi limping down the tunnel in injury time.
What does it mean? Milan in no mood for celebration
Milan won the Serie A title in this fixture last season, but Stefano Pioli will not have been in a party mood after seeing his side's performance this time around.
The Rossoneri were rarely a threat, as evidenced by their expected goals tally of 0.57 trailing Sassuolo's 1.13. They will need a lot more going forward if they are to topple their city rivals at San Siro.
Maignan preserves a point
Maignan was the busier of the two goalkeepers, making three saves, with none more important than his one to deny Berardi, which in the end earned a point that could prove important come the final shake-up.
Berardi double blow
Berardi has scored 10 goals against Milan, his most against any Serie A club. However, he fluffed his lines when given the chance to add to that tally and his emotion after coming off injured suggested he could be sidelined for Sassuolo and for Italy's upcoming Nations League fixtures.
Key Opta Facts
– Milan have kept the most clean sheets in Europe's top five leagues in 2022 (14).
– Maignan has saved 31 per cent of the penalties he has faced in the top five leagues (nine out of 29, his first in Serie A), the joint-highest percentage among the goalkeepers who have faced at least 25 penalties from 2015-16 season onwards.
– Milan have failed to win back-to-back Serie A games played away from San Siro for the first time since November 2019, the first two under Pioli (L2).
– Rafael Leao was involved in seven of the 10 Milan shots in this match (five shots, two chances created).
– Berardi has failed to score two penalties against Milan in Serie A, more than against any other opponent (the previous one on February 26, 2017).
Milan are the home team in Saturday's clash with their co-tenants at the Giuseppe Meazza. Sassuolo visit Cremonese a day later.