Milan took another stride towards Europa League qualification by cruising to a victory over Bologna at San Siro.
The Rossoneri extended their unbeaten run to nine matches to stay on course for a Europa League spot, outclassing their former coach Sinisa Mihajlovic’s Bologna side at San Siro on Saturday.
Saelemaekers put them in front and Hakan Calhanoglu capitalised on a howler from goalkeeper Lukasz Skorupski to double the Rossoneri’s lead as they knocked the ball around with a swagger.
Takehiro Tomiyasu pulled one back late in the first half with a rasping strike, but goals from Bennacer and Ante Rebic in the space of eight minutes put Milan out of sight.
Davide Calabria added a fifth in the closing stages to cap a magnificent performance from Milan.
Milan swarmed forward from the start and they were in front after 10 minutes, Rebic showing great trickery before backheeling to the onrushing Theo Hernandez, whose cross was fired into the far corner first time by Saelemaekers after a clever dummy from Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Rebic came close before Skorupski gifted Milan a second goal, the goalkeeper’s attempted clearance following a backpass from Riccardo Orsolini allowing Calhanoglu to drill home 24 minutes in.
Milan were rampant and Franck Kessie rattled the post, but Bologna were back in it courtesy of a great finish from Tomiyasu, who cut inside and fired into the top corner from 20 yards just before half-time.
The Rossoneri resumed control after the break, though, Bennacer slotting home after being played in by Calhanoglu and Rebic turning sharply before finishing with his left foot after 57 minutes having been set up by Ibrahimovic.
Kessie had a shot cleared off the line and Federico Santander was unable to pull one back with an indirect free-kick inside the penalty area at the other end.
Calabria then swept home his first goal of the season in stoppage time to round off a brilliant move involving Rafael Leao and put the icing on the cake.
What does it mean? Rampant Milan close in on Europe
Milan have not lost since the season resumed and on the evidence of this performance, they should be playing European football next season with four games to play.
Stefano Pioli’s men were a joy to watch, causing the Bologna defence all sorts of problems and they have won six of their last nine matches without defeat. Bologna are heading for a mid-table finish.
Rebic oozes class
Rebic tormented the visitors in a brilliant performance, finding pockets of space and linking up well with Ibrahimovic. He created six chances in the match, more than double anyone else on the pitch.
The Croatia forward turned Danilo inside-out in the build-up to the opening goal and could easily have had more than one of his own, a strike which took him to 12 goals since the start of 2020.
11 – In 2020 calendar year, only Erling #Haaland (13 goals) and Robert #Lewandowski (12) have netted more goals excluding penalties than Ante #Rebic (11) among the top-5 European Leagues. Explosion.#MilanBologna pic.twitter.com/LW9v6W6uXX
— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) July 18, 2020
Danilo all at sea
It was a tough night for Danilo as Bologna were unable to live with the passing and movement of a Milan side brimming with confidence. The Brazilian was withdrawn just before the hour-mark after being run ragged.
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Key Opta Stats:
– Since Serie A resumed, Milan have scored the most goals in the competition (25).
– Milan have scored 2+ goals in all their last eight Serie A games: the last time the Rossoneri had a such long run was back in 1999 (nine in that case).
– They have also netted 3+ goals in three consecutive home games in Serie A for the first time since November 2011.
– Calhanoglu has scored seven goals in Serie A this season (his record in the competition). The last league campaign he netted more was back in 2014-15 in Bundesliga with Bayer Leverkusen (eight).
– Saelemaekers is only the second Belgian player to score in Serie A with Milan, after Eric Gerets back in September 1983 against Verona.