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AC paint Milan red

AC Milan were crowned champions of Italy for the 19th time and their first since 2011.

A captivating 2021/22 Serie A season has reached its climax. For the first time since 2010 the Scudetto was decided on the final day of the season, as the Milano rivals – AC and Inter – battled for bragging rights until the very final whistle of the campaign. In the end, AC pipped their bitter foes by two points to capture their first league title in 11 years.

AC collected 26 wins, narrowly one more than their neighbours, and each of AC and Inter lost four league matches apiece in a nail-biting blitz for the Scudetto. Similar to the last time the red half of Milan conquered Italy, AC snatched the Scudetto from the hands of defending champions Inter.

The Scudetto remained at the San Siro for six seasons on the bounce from 2006-10 as Inter won five straight titles before AC celebrated its first Serie A success in seven years. Present day, both Milano clubs have 19 league titles to their respective illustrious names while Juventus remain the most-decorated Italian club with 36 league championships.

Inter were overly optimistic about completing back-to-back league titles, and also securing a domestic double following their Coppa Italia triumph, but it was not to be for the Nerazzurri this time around. AC performed admirably against the clubs that finished 5th-8th (Lazio, Roma, Fiorentina and Atalanta) and the Rossoneri claimed 21 points out of a possible 24 from said teams, meanwhile Inter racked up just 15 points from the same set of opponents.

AC and Inter both took just nine points of the 18 on offer from their league fixtures versus fellow top-four teams. AC drew home and away with Juventus, while they traded 1-0 wins with Napoli and edged Inter 2-1 after the two teams drew 1-1 earlier in the season. Juve and Napoli completed the UEFA Champions League places and, together with AC and Inter, qualify for next season’s UCL group stages.

AC were unbeaten after their opening 12 league games, of which they won 10. Two wins in their next five games would have sent alarm bells ringing through the heads of AC players and officials, however they kept their composure and ultimately delivered the title their fans have been desperate for.

11 years ago Zlatan Ibrahimović was Max Allegri’s talisman, as he together with Robinho and Alexandre Pato each scored 14 goals in Serie A, and the Rossoneri painted the city red after five successive years of blue title ribbons. For AC, their most recent coup is the club’s first trophy since December 2016 when they beat Juventus (and Allegri) to win the Italian Super Cup.

Now aged 40 years, Ibrahimović can no longer sustain himself as Milan’s key man. Instead, the Swede has settled for a supporting role within Stefano Pioli’s ranks whilst Olivier Giroud and Rafael Leão have been the team’s joint-highest contributors in terms of goals. Giroud and Leão each notched 11 league goals this term and the pair ended the season with 14 goals apiece across all competitions.

Giroud, 35, netted twice in Milan’s final-day outing at Sassuolo to guide the Rossoneri to a much sought-after Scudetto. Leão has displayed his potential many a time and the 22-year-old Portugal wide-man was named Serie A Player of the Season. Milan head coach Pioli was declared Manager of the Season.

Mike Maignan, Theo Hernández and Fikayo Tomori have all been hugely important at the back for Milan. After switching from Chelsea last summer, Tomori has served as Milan’s rock at the back and the English centre-back has been instrumental to Pioli’s defensive structure this past season. Tomori was on the pitch for 13 of Milan’s 17 clean sheets in the league.

Hernández, meanwhile, has consistently delivered for Milan at both ends of the pitch. Not only was the French full-back present for more than three-quarters of Milan’s 17 clean sheets, he also played more minutes (3,553) than any of his teammates across all competitions, and just three Milan players scored more league goals than Hernández this season. Hernández, 24, also registered the team’s second-most assists (10), behind only Leão (12), across all competitions.

Milan let in just 31 league goals, their fewest conceded since their last title-winning season back in 2011, when they conceded 24 times, which is also the last time they conceded the least goals of all teams in Serie A. In his first season in Italy, Maignan claims the Golden Glove with his 17 clean sheets – two more than Inter’s Samir Handanovič and Roma goalie Rui Patrício.

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