Rafael Leao made it look easy at Maradona’s home

Rafael Leao made it look easy at Maradona’s home

Not only did Raphael Leao inspire Milan to their first Champions League semi-final in 16 years, but he single-handedly destroyed the Napoli defense in the last three encounters, including two at the Maradona Stadium, and made it easy, he writes. Laurent Bitoni.

The most impressive thing about Leao’s solo sprint leading up to Olivier Giroud’s debut in Napoli on Tuesday is that the Portuguese superstar made it incredibly simple. Receiving the ball in his own half, Tanguy Ndombele crossed, Giovanni Di Lorenzo and Amir Rahmani passed and passed it to the French striker for one of the easiest goals of his career.

Looking at it from the outside, you would think that Leao didn’t even have to work hard to reach his top speed. At least that’s what his body language suggests. He ran with his head held high, was calm and had time to smile every time he dodged an opponent! The Serie A Champions League quarter-final derby between his teams AC Milan and Napoli has been described as the ultimate showdown between two of the league’s most exciting players: Rafa and Khavisa Kvaratskylia. Well, the Portuguese ace completely dominated the duel.

Milan have won two of their last three encounters with Napoli in the last 18 days, scoring six goals and conceding once. Leao scored twice in the Rossoneri’s 4-0 win at Maradona on April 2, their only Serie A victory in two months and perhaps the match in which Rafa and his teammates knew Napoli would be eliminated from the league. Mission impossible, despite their dominance in the league.

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It’s true that Stefano Pioli’s tactics in both Champions League matches against Napoli have been perfectly molded around Leao. Relax and counterattack, although the Rossoneri sometimes press their opponents in their own half like the good old days.

Liao was the perfect man to put Beoli’s plan into action. The striker destroyed Napoli’s defense twice at the Maradona stadium and once at the San Siro last week when the Rossoneri secured a 1-0 win thanks to a goal from Ismail Bennacer, assisted by Rafael.

The 23-year-old rocked a bartinobi after a dominating 30-minute run in Milan last week. He collected the ball in his own half and passed two Napoli players, but his side shot was inches wide. It was like a premonition. And he repeated the same thing at Maradona’s court on Tuesday, only this time Giroud was alone in the penalty area, waiting to put the ball into the empty net.

The lightness with which Liao can carry the team on his shoulders is probably what arouses mixed feelings among the Milan fans. The Portuguese can occupy the best defense in Serie A for three games and make it look easy, but they will sometimes struggle to perform against so-called ‘smaller’ teams. It may be about motivation, but if Leao fixes his inconsistency, he’s sure to become Ballon d’Or stuff for the next decade.

He was instrumental in Milan’s first Serie A title in over a decade in 2021-22 and then qualified them to the Champions League semi-finals for the first time in 16 years. Back in February, Leao was asked if Serie A was too easy for him. He replied with a smile: Yes, it seems. After seeing such great performances on the European stage, it’s hard to argue.

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However, most Rossoneri fans are hopeful that the 23-year-old will complete his development at San Siro by extending his contract beyond 2024 and staying at the club for a few more years. Milan are among the top four clubs in Europe for 2022-23, thanks mainly to Rafa, who didn’t even seem to break a sweat while terrorizing the Napoli defence.

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About the Author: Lucinda Lima

"Desbravador de cerveja apaixonado. Álcool alcoólico incurável. Geek de bacon. Viciado em web em geral."

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