Alessandria vs. AC Milan: Winners and Losers from Coppa Italia

Blair Newman@@TheBlairNewmanFeatured ColumnistJanuary 26, 2016

Alessandria vs. AC Milan: Winners and Losers from Coppa Italia

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    AC Milan huffed and puffed their way to a 1-0 victory over Alessandria on Tuesday night in a Coppa Italia semi-final first-leg tie that proved to be closer than was initially forecast.

    Milan were heavy favourites going in, something that reflected their opponents’ residing in the third tier of Italian football. But they by no means had it easy in an encounter that was settled by a Mario Balotelli penalty on forty-three minutes.

    Up until then, Alessandria had refused to lie down, pressuring the Rossoneri defence and combining well. The underdogs worked half chances off their own but were let down by a lack of composure in the final third.

    Milan had opportunities to seal the tie, having a goal ruled out for offside in the second half before hitting the post, but ultimately the 1-0 final scoreline was reasonable.

    Here are Bleacher Report’s winners and losers from a surprisingly even cup clash.

Winner: Angelo Gregucci (Alessandria)

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    Kudos must go to coach Angelo Gregucci, the man behind Alessandria’s progression to the Coppa Italia semi-finals and the man responsible for their competing with Milan on Tuesday night.

    Many would have expected him to forgo any specific personal tactical principles in favour of all-out defence in the hope of keeping the score down, but he persisted with the 4-3-3 that got his team to this position.

    He instructed his side to proactively try to force mistakes out of Milan rather than sit back without the ball, and when possession was won, his players put together some nice attacking sequences.

    If Gregucci can get his men to play like that in the second leg, there is no reason why Alessandria can’t give Milan a scare at the San Siro.

Loser: Luiz Adriano (Milan)

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    Last week, it seemed as if Luiz Adriano was on the verge of leaving Milan for China, with a move to Jiangsu Suning reportedly on the cards.

    That deal hit the buffers, however, prompting club CEO Adriano Galliani to publicly confirm that, “There are many offers for Luiz Adriano, including Galatasaray, but he is not for sale and we are keeping him,” per Mediaset Premium (h/t Football Italia.)

    That clears up that confusion. But despite Adriano’s staying in Milan, his head appeared to have remained in China during his team’s cup tie with Alessandria.

    The Brazilian was rarely involved and, according to Opta Paolo, “made 11 touches in the first half … less than any other player.”

    It was a contemplative display from Adriano, and he will have to bring more to the table if he is to continue leading the line for Milan.

Winner: Gianmarco Vannucchi (Alessandria)

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    Gianmarco Vannucchi joined Alessandria from Juventus at the beginning of this season on a free transfer, according to Transfermarkt. On the basis of his performance against Milan, the Bianconeri may be wishing they had kept him on a little longer.

    The 20-year-old was sharp from the get-go, blocking a low drive with his legs early in the first half before tipping an M’Baye Niang strike onto his left post in the second half.

    Were it not for the youngster’s reflexes, Alessandria may have been staring at a two-goal deficit ahead of the second leg.

Loser: Alessandria's Play in the Final Third

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    According to Opta Paolo, “Alessandria … fired nine shots on target in their last Coppa Italia match, more than any other team in the quarter-finals.” That attacking intent was clear in their tussle with Milan.

    Alessandria were not lacking in the technical department and showed confidence in the build-up stages. Whenever space appeared, they attacked it at speed. Their downfall, however, lay in their final-third play.

    When bearing down on the Milan defence, they tended to lose their composure and opted for the wrong option or snatched at shots. This was something Coach Gregucci highlighted afterward, saying, “We could’ve been more precise in our finishing,” per Rai Sport (h/t Football Italia.)

    If Alessandria improve in the last stages of the attacking phase, they could trouble Milan in their return meeting at San Siro.

Winner: Mario Balotelli (Milan)

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    Mario Balotelli continued his return to full fitness with an average showing, though he deserves credit for dispatching his penalty with utmost confidence.

    Unerring in his technique, Balotelli swept the ball home from the spot to give Milan a one-goal advantage. It meant he had converted 28-of-30 penalties in his career.

    Yet while he scored the match-winning goal, there is undoubtedly more to come from him once he gets his match sharpness back.