Torino 3-1 AC Milan: Ivan Ilic, Ricardo Rodriguez among the goals as Stefano Pioli’s side fall to sorry Serie A defeat

Torino 3-1 AC Milan: Ivan Ilic, Ricardo Rodriguez among the goals as Stefano Pioli’s side fall to sorry Serie A defeat
Torino 3-1 AC Milan: Ivan Ilic, Ricardo Rodriguez among the goals as Stefano Pioli’s side fall to sorry Serie A defeat

A smash-and-grab raid by Torino kept their faint European hopes alive for next season as they outfought an AC Milan side who verged on boredom at times and ran out 3-1 winners in their final home game of the season.

Milan knew before kick-off that they are guaranteed to finish second, and they played like it. Apart from a brief spell after conceding a third, Stefano Pioli’s side lacked any dynamism in their attacks against opponents still playing for a prize more than pride.

Goals from Duvan Zapata, Ivan Ilic and Ricardo Rodriguez mean Il Toro overtake Napoli and will qualify for continental football next season if they can stay in ninth and both Atalanta and Fiorentina win their upcoming European finals – a tall order but by no means impossible.

Rodriguez’s rocket straight from kick-off in the second-half capped a deserved win for Ivan Juric as he prepares to depart for pastures new in the summer, and with Pioli potentially vacating the San Siro, the Croatian finished the happier of the two managers.

The free-flowing game was certainly a departure from miserly Torino’s usual style but they remained compact at the back before twice exploiting lax defense by Fikayo Tomori and Malick Thiaw before Rodriguez sealed the win.

Karol Linetty set the tone for a dogged Torino performance just a few minutes in when he bundled over Yunus Musah for the first in a series of off-the-ball fouls from both teams throughout the game.

The Pole somehow survived without a yellow card despite continuing to play the role of enforcer for the rest of the evening, but those niggling challenges – or the Milanese retaliations – helped stunt proceedings and throw Serie A’s second-highest scorers off their game.

The visitors finished the first half without an attempt on target while Torino scored from two of their three, targeting Tomori and Thiaw to such devastating effect that this performance surely dented any remaining hopes the England player had of making the Euros.

Both headed goals were scored under absolutely no pressure, while Tomori was also beaten in the build-up to Rodriguez’s scorcher, with Milan as timid without the ball as they were tepid with it.

By contrast, there were standouts all across the field for Torino. If this is to be the last time the pair of 24-year-old starlets Alessandro Buongiorno and Raoul Bellanova appear as home players at the Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino then they left a lasting impression with grit and quality in equal measure.

Torino have a tougher final-day test than Napoli – who faces a Lecce side who could be safe from relegation by that stage. Il Toro travel to Atalanta who are assured of UEFA Champions League football next season but could still be playing for a higher seeding – although their main focus will surely be on their UEFA Europa League final against the unstoppable Bayer Leverkusen, a match Torino will also hope they can win.

Talking point: Grim snapshot of post-Giroud AC Milan

In the week that Olivier Giroud confirmed he is heading to the MLS, AC Milan showed why Frenchman has managed to stay as their top scorer despite turning 37 this season.

Apart from a spot-kick courtesy of a brainless foul on Christian Pulisic – their most incisive attacking weapon – the cast auditioning to be the main man in Giroud’s absence produced no goals and barely even troubled Vanja Milinkovic-Savic.

When the dazzling, infuriating and benched Rafael Leao danced past half of Torino’s defense only to shoot straight at the goalkeeper with just a handful of minutes remaining, it could not have been a better illustration of the trouble Milan will face replacing Giroud’s goals without hefty summer recruitment. While the lack of jeopardy could play a part in the apathy of the final third, Milan still looked remarkably toothless especially compared to their ruthless hosts.

Player of the match: Ricardo Rodriguez

The captain’s goal was quite simply a thing of beauty, and worthy of this award on its own.

But Rodriguez also curled in the cross for Zapata’s opener, and led from the front until injury forced him off.

Player ratings

TURNO: Milinkovic-Savic 6, Tameze 6, Buongiorno 7, Masina 6, Bellanova 7, Linetty 6, Ilic 6, Rodriguez 8, Ricci 7, Zapata 8, Pellegri 7. Subs: Vojvoda 6, Lazaro 6, Sanabria 6, Lovato7.

AC MILAN: Sportiello 5, Kalulu 5, Thiaw 4, Tomori 4, Terracciano 5, Musah 6, Bennacer 7, Reijnders 6, Pulisic 7, Jovic 5, Okafor 6. Subs: Leao 6, Florenzi 6, Pobega 6, Giroud 6.

Match highlights

26′ GOAL! TORINO 1-0 AC MILAN (ZAPATA): They’ll show you ruthless!!! Zapata heads in after wonderful work from captain Ricardo Rodriguez but that was way too easy for Torino! The captain killed a swirling Linetty cross-field pass with a single touch and the visiting defense was much too passive, allowing Rodriguez an age to size up his cross into the middle of the penalty area and Zapata did the rest, 1-0!

39′ – GOAL!! TORINO 2-0 AC MILAN (ILIC): Milan’s problems have doubled! It’s another headed goal in acres of space, this time by Ivan Ilic! Pellegri span into space down the spine of the Milan midfield leaving Bennacer floundering in his wake before finding Bellanova who kept his width well on the right flank. His savagely whipped cross was inch-perfect to give Ilic the best chance of finding the back of the net, but in truth it only needed to be within the same post code as the Serbian, such was the poor Milan marking.

46′ – GOAL!!! TORINO 3-0 AC MILAN (RODRIGUEZ): THAT IS A RODRIGUEZ ROCKET!!! Pellegri (who also sparked the second goal for Torino) won a tough 50-50 ball with Fikayo Tomori, and play continued despite the Milan protests. One man certainly wasn’t worrying about the challenge though, the ball fell to the skipper and he lasered the ball about as far into the top left corner as possible without touching the post! Game over!

53′ – PENALTY! If Milan had played like this from the start they certainly wouldn’t be 3-0 down! Pulisic has been the liveliest visiting player at least since the third goal and he’s hooked to the floor after beating Masina all ends up, and Bennacer steps up…

55′ – GOAL!!!! TORINO 3-1 AC MILAN (BENNACER): Easy as you like! The Algerian sent Milinkovic-Savic one way and the ball the other, surely they can’t mount a comeback..?

89′ – HAD TO SCORE! That was a gilt-edged chance for Rafael Leao! He’d zigged into the penalty area on a seemingly unstoppable run from the flank, but as is so often the case with the Portuguese forward, time on a shot was his enemy. He glided into an open channel but struck his shot straight at the keeper, to the chagrin of Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the directors’ box.

Key stats

Despite the two-goal victory, Torino’s 37 matches have still produced just 69 goals, by far the lowest in Serie A.

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