AC Milan 1-1 Udinese: Rossoneri hand initiative to rivals in title race
AC Milan produced a flat display as they were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Udinese on Friday, handing the initiative in the title race to Inter Milan.
Stefano Pioli's men were rarely dominant in San Siro and subsequently passed up the opportunity to potentially finish the weekend five points clear at the summit.
Rafael Leao gave Milan the lead with a well-taken goal, but clear-cut chances for the home side were otherwise a rarity.
Udinese were good value for their equaliser through Iyenoma Udogie just past the hour, and Milan were lacking the requisite drive to retake the lead as they slumped to a disappointing draw.
Milan's start was hardly emphatic but they weathered some early pressure and went ahead before the half-hour mark, Leao brilliantly bringing down Sandro Tonali's deep cross before coolly slotting past Marco Silvestri.
The contest opened up more as the half progressed but Beto wasted a decent opportunity for the visitors as he headed straight at Mike Maignan.
Tolgay Arslan shot just wide of the right-hand post and Rodrigo Becao saw a deflected effort saved by Maignan as Udinese threatened twice in quick succession around the hour.
Another opportunity went begging soon after as Nahuel Molina questionably attempted a cut-back in the box when he had only Maignan to beat, albeit from a slightly tight angle.
The deserved equaliser did arrive in the 66th minute, though, Udogie nudging over the line after fellow substitute Roberto Pereyra sent an overhead-kick goalwards.
Leao might have made it 2-1 14 minutes from time, but the ball would not drop quickly enough for him after flicking over Silvestri, and Nehuen Perez cleared for Udinese.
What does it mean? Inter the beneficiaries of Milan's lack of decisiveness
Milan will remain top of Serie A even if Inter do beat struggling Genoa later on Friday because they have the better head-to-head record.
But, perhaps crucially, Inter will still have a game in hand after the weekend, so the title race will be back in the hands of Simone Inzaghi and the defending champions.
Pioli can have few complaints either. Milan's chances were worth 0.9 in accumulative expected goals (xG), whereas Udinese registered 1.5 xG.
Udinese defence provide solid platform
Udinese managed two more shots than Milan and twice as many shots on target, but it was their shrewd defending that was just as important.
Arsenal loanee Pablo Mari certainly played his part, the Spaniard proving to be in the right place at the right time so often – his nine clearances were more than double that of anyone else on the pitch.
Giroud blends into the background
From one former Arsenal man to another… granted, Olivier Giroud will likely point to poor service, but the Frenchman struggled to make an impact.
During his 66 minutes on the pitch, he had just 20 touches – the fewest of the Milan starters – and won only three of his seven duels.
He did not manage a single shot and he had just one touch in the Udinese box.
Key Opta facts
- Milan have drawn two consecutive Serie A games for their first time since December 2020.
- Leao has become the second player to score in each of the seven days of a week in Serie A with Milan, after Andriy Shevchenko.
- Iyenoma Udogie is the second player born since 1/1/2002 to score a goal with Udinese in Serie A this season (after Lazar Samardzic), only AS Roma have more (three).
- Udinese have scored nine goals with substitutes in Serie A this season, no side has more (alongside Inter).
A big week is on the horizon for Milan. First, they face rivals Inter in the first leg of their Coppa Italia semi-final on Tuesday, before then going to fellow title challengers Napoli in Serie A next Saturday.