Donnarumma at root of Milan’s impressive form

MILAN (AP) — While AC Milan’s forward line have been garnering most of the plaudits, young goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma has been at the heart of the team’s success.

Donnarumma has been a mainstay for Milan since making his debut in 2015, playing in more than 150 matches for the club. And he only tuned 20 on Monday.

“Donnarumma is incredible, I wished him happy birthday earlier,” said Adriano Galliani, who was Milan CEO when the young goalkeeper broke through. “To think he has played more than 150 matches for Milan at the age of 20 is extraordinary.

“But we saw Gigi, since we took him, from 14 onwards, he has always played with older teammates, he’s a phenomenon.”

Donnarumma had another strong outing in last Friday’s 3-0 win over Empoli. That match was Milan’s eighth straight without defeat — in the Italian Cup and league — and saw the team hold onto fourth place and the final Champions League qualifying berth.

File photo shows AC Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma during a Serie A football match against Lazio at the Rome Olympic stadium. – AP

During that run, Donnarumma has let in only two goals, in a 1-1 draw at Roma and a 3-1 win at Atalanta.

Donnarumma, who hadn’t even made a first-team appearance when Milan last played in the Champions League in 2013-14, has also played 11 times for Italy’s national team.

It’s hasn’t always been easy, though.

Donnarumma lost some support because of a protracted contract saga last year, and he was also blamed for Inter Milan’s stoppage-time winner in the derby in October last year.

However, Donnarumma has been superb between the posts this season, amassing the highest save percentage (87.3 per cent) in the top five European Leagues since November last year.

That form should help Milan in the Italian Cup semifinals, where the team faced Lazio yesterday in the first leg.

Video Review

In its second year in Serie A, video review technology is still causing controversy.

Fiorentina earned a 3-3 draw against Inter last Sunday after converting a penalty in the 11th minute of stoppage time. The spot kick was awarded after Inter defender Danilo D’Ambrosio was whistled for a handball after the ball bounced off his chest.

Referee Rosario Abisso spent a long time reviewing the incident on a TV monitor and stuck by his decision.

Inter argued that the ball didn’t touch D’Ambrosio’s arm.

“I’m bitterly disappointed because Italian football introduced the VAR and spent so much to reduce the errors,” Inter CEO Giuseppe Marotta said on Monday. “I’m still stunned and disappointed. The system needs to be reviewed and improved. I don’t blame the referee.

“For Inter, it’s an irreparable damage and I hope it doesn’t kill our chances of achieving our aims. The VAR has to guarantee objective decisions.”