Tuesday, December 15, 2009

being bullied

Gennaro Ivan Gattuso

Gattuso arrived at Milan in 1999. It was the brink of a new millennium, a new era and would mark the start of a terrifying player in the legendary red and black. Known for being a 'terrier', the small yet intimidating hard-man has frightened some of the best players since his arrival. 10 long years of service, cannot be over-looked. So, maybe him receiving a contract extension till 2012 is justified and a worthy reward. Not really.

I have problems with this deal. Firstly, the manner in which it was received. Gattuso went about like a spoilt brat, creating a scene in the media over his lack of playing time and about him being treated like a newbie especially when he is a senior member. Mr. Gattuso, chances are provided based on merit, not on seniority. Such is the case in all the big clubs across the continent. His lack of playing time is down to two main reasons, one - he was injured. Two - he isn't good enough. Gattuso has been anonymous for the Azzuri since the World Cup, forcing Lippi to look at alternatives. And for the last 2 seasons, he has replicated that form for AC Milan too. The ex-Rangers man was a destroyer. Please note, was. He used to run around hacking people down averaging 32 tackles a game, which made him one of the most feared defensive midfielders in the world. It also attained him world class status. But this was a good two years ago, when he had the legs for the job. Now, he simply trots along hacking players down and winning cards in return. Very often, he watches players sprinting by while he is reduced to a mere spectator. Yes, he still is destructive, but in a different sense. He no longer plays the role of Pirlo's bodyguard with the formerly superior level of professionalism. And in Leo's new system, you need someone who is more than just a bodyguard. You need a box-box midfielder, a role Ambrosini plays with almost utmost perfection. Leo's selection is therefore justified.

We talk about building a new team, a futuristic one. How is offering a new deal (even if its at reduced wages) to a 31 year old, building a team for the future? We have a ready made replacement in Flamini, who we acquired at no cost. Yes, Rino is iconic for this club. Yes, he has been instrumental in previous triumphs. But he isn't going to scale any new heights and even a blind man can see that. The modern game needs legs, and also a dose of quality; both of which are missing in large quantities. AC Milan need to start living on today's realities rather than on past glories. Gattuso might have bullied his way to a new contract which keeps him at the club for another 2 seasons. Question is, can he be the bully that we need on the pitch? My guess, and that being a calculated one is, no!

Monday, December 14, 2009

dream come true

Fabrizio Miccoli


AC Milan 0 Palermo 2

A 12 year old boy used to stand by the sidelines, and throw the ball back into the pitch so that Marco Van Basten could get on with the game. This boy used to dream of scoring at the venue located in the San Siro district of Milan. And what do you know, the boy finally did see his dream come to pass last night. His name is Fabizio Miccoli.

Palermo had gone through a positive period in the summer. After signing players of incredible promise, the side from Sicily looked like one to reckon with. So when I saw Favalli in the line up, you could imagine my shock. He had to defend against the likes of Miccoli and Cavani, who would leave a smoke of dust for the 38 year old to sweep up. Abate was given the nod, and Pato was given some much needed rest. Palermo started the game strongly, and their slick football should have yielded fruit if not for Cavani. Milan then got into the game and created several chances, but no end product. Our attacking formation was translating into action. Palermo continued to scuff their chances, ingloriously. It was beginning to appear as though the ref was Palermo's 12th man on the pitch. The lack of a world-class striker in our team was becoming increasingly evident as the game wore on. Zambrotta and Ronaldinho had a very positive half. Abate struggled to get into the game for 45 minutes.

Zambrotta's form then went for a walk in the second half, and it started with the first goal. Miccoli was given enough space to drive a Hummer through, and the diminutive forward made no mistake on his finish. Borriello missed a free header situation, which compounds my belief that he simply isn't good enough to perform at this level. He isn't our 20 goal/season striker, and is at most capable of cameos. The second goal was because of the inability of our sluggish defense and its incompetence to deal with the pace, guile and flair of the Rosanero. What should have been Pastore's goal was seized by the Aussie, Bresciano. Highly rated Uruguayan Cavani, was busy impersonating Borriello at the other end of the pitch. What was Leo thinking when he brought on Inzaghi for Seedorf. The Dutchman was actually putting in a decent performance but Leo goes loony. And as obvious as can be, the attackers were constantly running into each other and coming in each others way. Credit to Palermo's rear guard though. Bovo and Kjaer were impressive, rock solid. Pato's miss summed up the night for us.

Before I get to the melodramatic conclusion, I would like to congratulate Inter and Mourinho on winning their 25th consecutive league title. Gibberish? Yes, but you get the sarcasm. Now we embark on a period where we face the likes of Fiorentina, Genoa and Juventus. Inter too. And if we aren't keen on breaking a disgraceful record in Italy, we need to recruit, and recruit big. Otherwise, it wont just be Berlusconi's face being broken.

AC Milan - /
Palermo - Miccoli 49', Bresciano 61'


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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

grazie madrid

Cristiano Ronaldo


FC Zurich 1 AC Milan 1

Shame isn't a part of AC Milan's dictionary. I realized this after watching the game between the Swiss minnows Zurich and the so called European giants AC Milan. After having lost disgracefully at home to the whipping boys of the group, one would naturally assume that Milan would travel for vengeance and pride. But that wasn't on the agenda. All eyes were on Ronaldinho. There was a lot of talk about his rebirth. And rightly so. We have won 5 games on the trot domestically, and he has a large hand in it. He also heads the assist table in the Serie A. Borriello was another who had the limelight on himself. He simply had to prove his European pedigree.

The game started, and Zurich began strongly. They played like a side that had nothing to lose. Our players was caught napping on Nikci's shot. We were playing a high line of defense, and would inevitably get caught by the pace of the Swiss. Our only resolve to score was to counter, which was a baffling strategy. We were superior in every department then why not choose to control? We were giving up the ball comfortably and weren't trying to win it back. Only if the Swiss got bored of keeping the ball would we try to improve the possession stat. Gajic's magnificent strike gave Dida no chance. Down, bottom corner. Unlike the Rossoneri, Zurich were getting their shots on target. I find it incomprehensible that we couldn't break down a mediocre defense that wasn't even putting 11 men behind the ball. Ambrosini missed a free header from a Ronaldinho corner, which is very uncharacteristic. Kaladze was cleaning up for Nesta. Huh?! We were just not able to construct an attack. Borriello was incredibly wasteful with the service provided to him, especially in the second half. Rochat brings down Borriello in the box, sees red. Maybe he should have let the Italian shoot. Going by what we had seen during the game, he would've probably missed. Another opportunity from a set piece went missing, as Kaladze headed wide. Dida was reduced to a spectator in the second half, and for that I am grateful. He wasn't one bit assertive in the first half.

If we did go through, it is because Madrid decided to stamp their authority in France. Ronaldo put in a performance that should give people the understanding that he still is probably the best player in the world. Marseille were reckless with the opportunities provided to them, but Madrid made a meal of those that came their way, deservedly grabbing first place in the group. We have become a blur in Europe, something is amiss. Formation, players, coach? What is it? Well, we have till Feb to figure it out. For now lets just say, thank you Madrid.

Scorers -
Zurich - Gajic 30'
Milan - Ronaldinho 64' pen



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Sunday, December 6, 2009

the race is on

Ignazio Abate

AC Milan 3 Sampdoria 0

Sampdoria are no pushovers. This team was atop the league table during the first few weeks of the season. It was the only team (before yesterday) that managed to beat Inter. Sampdoria can also boast of possibly the most lethal striking partnership in the league. But a humbling wasn't something either of these teams expected. Fortunately it was an experience the visitors had to take home.

Catania was proof that Milan are a winning machine, and that we don't choke under pressure. But, playing one of the better teams would provide a clearer picture of the potency of this side. Honestly, we couldn't have asked for a better way to get the game rolling. In the very 1st minute, Ronaldinho floats a cross into the box, Borriello only had to meet the ball with his head. The rest is history. Pato too started brightly. However it was Seedorf who got the second for the home side. Leonardo's side played an expansive game, crisp passing to the feet. After a good build up, Seedorf shot from distance after Ronaldinho sent him a flat pass. There were no signs of complacency, as Milan pressed ahead for the third. And surely found it, courtesy Pato. We continued to keep the ball, and looked very comfortable on it. 30 minutes into the game, and Sampdoria start plotting their attacking moves. Abate replaced Ronaldinho, and the enthusiastic winger was on fire down the right. He set up Pato, but the starlet was lethargic with his finish. As the first half was drawing to a close, I glanced at the stats. We had 61% possession!

There was a lot of place to play in, but penetration become something of an issue in the second half. A lunge from Zambrotta prevented Ziegler from getting his name on the score-sheet. We continued to attack relentlessly, showing no signs of fatigue. Perhaps, we are a 'one game a week' team? The man in green had a lot of tidying up to do. Huntelaar received a hero's welcome from the Rossoneri faithful, as he replaced Borriello. Pato was pushed into the left to accommodate Abate on the right. He wasn't feeling at ease with his new position, and wasn't having the best of games in the second half. Huntelaar seemed isolated. He drowned in a sea of blue shirts. He simply isn't capable of playing as a lone striker. Its high team Leo realized that. We resorted to pacy counter attacks to score our fourth. Sampdoria were seeking to earn some respect as they pressed ahead for their first. Lets talk about Abate, who impressed me the most. Many have labeled him as a defensive winger. This lad runs his socks off every game, and looks dangerous whenever he pushes up. He is ever willing to attack and cause damage. Defensive winger? Huntelaar treated the fans to his dribbling skills, and later set up Seedorf. The veteran just had to sky the ball, characteristically. The team from Genoa saw more of the ball in the second half. Pato had a burst of energy out on the left, which had the visiting defense scrambling. It also brought a few smiles to the Presidency.

It wasn't really a demolition as many would like you to believe. It was so only for the initial 25 minutes. But after that, and for the rest of the game, it was domination. But I will hold on to my horses, because this could be a false alarm. After all, Del Neri had a few of his stars missing. Angelo Palombo and Marco Rossi had to sit out this game. After a 3-0 thrashing last week in the derby, I wouldn't fancy their confidence to be sky high. But its a fantastic result, especially after Inter lost to Juve right after. It throws the race for the crown wide open. One thing at a time, though. We need a lot of this form in Europe as we go to Switzerland. And its no holiday.

Scorers -
Milan - Borriello 1', Seedorf 21', Pato 23'
Sampdoria - /


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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

huntelaaaaar!

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar


Catania 0 AC Milan 2

After the disappointing result in midweek, Leonardo had to get his team back on track. This was turning out to be a roller-coaster season for the rookie coach. His team were going into games at home guns blazing but adopted a more timid approach in Europe. Catania had been struggling domestically, and they knew that if they needed to survive this campaign and still stay in Italian top flight, playing ugly was the only way. Gianluca Atzori wanted to stifle Pato, and had highlighted him as the danger man.

The Elefanti are known as a team that presses a lot, and got that bit of their game into action from the start. They also were maintaining a a high tempo, a style of game that Milan struggle against. Pirlo was missing due to suspension, so chances weren't going to be generated from midfield. A work dog like Ambrosini and an anchor man in Flamini weren't going to produce the much needed magic. So you don't need to be a genius to understand that the game was going to be dogged and brutal. Catania's 4-3-2-1 also shows what their mentality was going to be. Pato was playing deep and wide. Ronaldinho too had to drop deep to collect the ball. Catania had employed a destructive midfield, but a fairly effective one. AC Milan couldn't penetrate the sturdy rear guard from Sicily, and had to depend on counter attacks for the elusive goal. It was a very disappointing half, and Catania's philosophy of preventing Milan from playing was painful to the eyes.

The game opened up slightly after the half. AC Milan were relying on their quick counter attacks. They were also using patient build-ups to secure an opening. Tactically, from a defensive perspective, Catania must get a 10/10. But this brand of football will not win over the fans or rain in the TRPs. Morimoto was causing Silva some trouble. Catania decided to attack Milan later in the half, which makes a lot of practical sense. The aging legs of Milan wouldn't be able to hold out the exuberance of Catania after a laborious game. That was the logic that Atzori was exercising. Pato had been painfully poor throughout the game, but unfortunately there was no one to replace him from the bench. Abate however impressed throughout the game. Seedorf's shooting had been woeful. He got himself into promising positions and had gutted his shots. Over the course of the game, we had certainly lost the battle in the middle of the park. Inzaghi was brought on for Borriello, and had a fantastic chance, but he blasted over. The old man spent more time complaining than playing. With Pirlo missing, Seedorf had to step up and handle the creative reigns, but he just didn't. Huntelaar was brought in, and what a performance he turned in! He scores in the 93rd minute, and again a minute later with a world class lob! As many have been saying lately, truly 'a touch of Klaas.'

There were positives. Its these kind of games that we need to start winning to be able to challenge for the Scudetto. And depth/options provides the gaffer with decisions,, and if taken well, can assure results. Huntelaar has overnight become untouchable. But that is a good thing, he is a world-class talent. This cameo was needed, most definitely. Ronaldinho has been showing signs of a becoming a superb attacking player. He has been in some remarkable form lately. And we would need all of that when we welcome Sampdoria this weekend. The Blucerchiati are a different league, and we will have to focus a lot on defense. Courtesy Pazzini and Cassano.

Scorers -
Catania - /
AC Milan - Huntelaar 93', 95'



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Friday, November 27, 2009

europa league?

Didier Deschamps


AC Milan 1 Olympique de Marseille 1

Call me a pessimist. No, seriously. I am suggesting that we are headed into the Europa League where we would be meeting our favorite finalists Liverpool in the finals, at HSH Nordbank Arena at Hamburg on the 12th of May. Why do I say that? Its not because I believe Marseille will beat Madrid (which they can). But its because I think Milan will find it really hard against Zurich. Lets not forget that the Swiss minnows beat us on our own hunting ground. Deschamps had suggested that we have the best attack in Europe. I was confused if he actually meant that or was it merely mind games. Now, I know and so does he, that it was simply a mind game, and a good one.

After having witnessed an explosive match in the weekend, I was expecting a similar spectacle in midweek. But it was far from a spectacle. We took the lead after Borriello showed some skill to get past the French defense. But Deschamps men weren't going to wait for too long to strike back. Niange made a mockery of Oddo on the right side of the pitch before his effort was palmed by Dida on to the path of Lucho, who blasted the ball into the back of the net while the Milan defenders were resembling mannequins . Borriello wasn't fit, but was still played. Take the goal away and you find a mess made of several opportunities. I am sorry, but I have to say this. If Huntelaar was in those positions, you would have bet your money on him bagging a brace, if not a hat-trick. Just saying. Marseille would go on to dominate the game, which they did. They bossed around in midfield and were threatening in attack. Oddo left the pitch due to an injury caused to his left thigh muscle and was replaced by Abate, which was a stroke of good luck. The former Lazio skipper is out for the next 2 months and I don't wish him a speedy recovery. Nesta just couldn't cope up to the pace or the physicality that was being thrown in his direction. If we survived conceding another, it was partially because of the remarkable presence of Silva. Pirlo also had decided that this wasn't one of the select games of the season where he would put in a decent performance, so Silva took on the play-making duties. His long ball strategies were causing a nuisance to Diawara and Heinze. AC Milan had their chances, but none of them had any danger written at the end of them. They weren't dealt with well, just the finishing was hopeless. Brandao missed a sitter, and his side were presented with a penalty by Abate, but the referee was having none of it. Borriello continued to waste glorious opportunities, and Pato continued to cause Mandanda problems. Ronaldinho was putting up a show with his flicks and cutters, but the men responsible for the final act were not living up to the expectation. Cisse almost snatched the points at the death, but his header hit the upright.

A few points were made clear at the end of the game. If a team need to beat us, they need to be fast and physical. Actually either will do the job, but the combination would be lethal. Second, since Gattuso wants to leave,, gift wrapping Pirlo as a take-away present would be a good idea to increase the interest. Thirdly, Nesta should start chalking out his retirement plans, and Leonardo should start looking for a right-back in the market, instead of asking a winger to slot into that position. Finally, we could be headed out of this competition.

Scorers -
AC Milan - Borriello 10'
Marseille - Lucho Gonzalez 16'

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Monday, November 23, 2009

open sesame

Marco Borriello

AC Milan 4 Cagliari 3
For all those who think that Italian football is boring, think again. I would suggest you start watching the likes of Milan and Genoa more often. A real treat. Deschamps has stated that AC Milan have the best attack in Europe. Though that is a minor exaggeration going by the evidence of what we say at the Nou Camp yesterday, its not far from the truth. We did score 4 against a gritty Cagliari team, who have won 4 on the trot prior to this game.

Borrielo had a disappointing outing against Lazio, but was still given the nod in this game. But he didn't disappoint again. Seedorf started a move and finished it, after Borriello demonstrated some unique strength and balance before setting up the veteran midfielder. AC Milan were flirting with danger employing a high defense line, and were nearly punished when Dida brought down Matri in the box. Ghosts of the past revisited the Meazza when Matri, a Milan youth product, scored from close range as Kaladze took some time off to snooze. We were not able to handle the crosses piling into our box, and Cagliari's second seemed inevitable. The game was uncharacteristically open and resembled the end-to-end football seen so often in England. Cagliari's second was due to an Italian circus in the Milanese box. The Rossoneri defense was just collapsing over one another as Lazzari blasted past a hapless Dida. Pato's crossing in the game was dismal, and the same can be said about the rest of the team. We didn't have to wait too long though, to get back into the game. Pato's exceptional header was blocked by Marchetti, but only to fall to Borriello's head, as the target man scored the easiest goal of his life. 2 minutes later, we took the lead again. Borriello was involved in hold up play. He synced with Ronaldinho, whose supreme pass split the defense and was finished viciously by Pato. That marked the end of a thrilling first half, in which we saw 5 goals being scored.

AC Milan's attacking machinery was very well oiled, and was threatening with its razor sharp passing, and firing. A classic counter, resulted in a penalty as Borriello was brought down in the box by Astori. Notice Marco's involvement yet again. Ronaldinho stepped up and dispatched the penalty with tremendous authority. 4-2. Cagliari hit back spontaneously, with substitute Nene slotting past Dida after an impressive, pacy build up. The back-four just didn't have the legs to handle the speed of the Isolani. Our high defense line and lack of liveliness for resistance was largely the reason for the defensive catastrophe. Also our ineptitude of handling crosses and high balls can be credited. Shows how appalling our defensive training is. However, there are positives. These kind of performances will attract the eyeballs. And if we can attack for large periods we can use that as our defense, just how Arsenal/Barcelona do. It will take some time to get there, but we will hopefully. Borriello, certainly the man of the match. He was involved in all 4 goals, and he displayed the strength that target men are supposed to exercise during the course of the game. His balance and movement too was notable. Pato and Ronnie are thriving in their respective roles. Dida is having the time of his life as Abbiati recovers. Lets pray the magic continues in midweek too.

Scorers -
AC Milan - Seedorf 6', Borriello 38', Pato 40', Ronaldinho pen 62'
Cagliari - Matri 9', Lazzari 30', Nene 68'


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Friday, November 13, 2009

bye-bye ballardini

Thiago Silva


Lazio 1 AC Milan 2
Playing in Rome is tough, no matter who your opponent is. Roma might be the more accomplished side, but Lazio will still give you a tough time. Nevertheless, the Aquile haven't been a team to fear this term. Last season, Zarate was enough to wet the pants of the opposition defense, and with Rocchi and Pandev as options to the gaffer, Lazio weren't under-estimated. The staff hasn't dramatically changed in that respect. But the effect has. This team hasn't won since week 2 of the Serie A. The men from the eternal city no longer have the terrorizing effect they once had.

The highlight of this game was Silva's strike. It was long time coming, and I'm glad that it finally came. The Brazilian centre half is one of the most threatening defenders from an attacking position in club football. I have seen enough to certify that at this informal level. His movements, and his accuracy can be used as a module for attackers. Literally, that is how good he is. Defensively, he might have issues, but that can be tweaked in time. Dida would have another sound evening between the sticks. Milan put themselves in considerable distance after Pato headed brilliantly past Muslera from an assist by 'assist machine' Ronaldinho. Seedorf could've made it 3-0 with an indirect free kick that resulted from a back pass, but the Dutchman characteristically fired wide. Lazio were facing the possibility of losing this game before the half ended, and needed to score one. Julio Cruz came on for Mauri and this substitution almost worked instantaneously when the Argentine nearly converted from a Silva deflection. Lazio were banking on luck this evening, and it did pay them the desired interest, as Zarate's effort snipped Silva and went past Dida into the back of the net. This gave the home team a glimmer of hope. Zarate was involved again not much later, to be denied by Dida, and Pato fired just over. Pato was giving the Biancocelesti a torrid time with his pace. Rocchi and Zarate were having their say at the other end as well, but lacked the finishing touch. Milan had to grind out the result for about half an hour, and somehow managed to do that.

It wasn't a classic, as some scorelines in recent history between these two sides have ended resembling cricket scores. Ballardini was supposedly asked to deliver in this game or collect his final allowance. But the manager survived, but just. The catastrophe at the hands of Villarreal in midweek had sent the alarm bells ringing. It wont be long before we see someone else wearing the jacket at the touchlines. Leo however is experiencing contrasting fortunes. The question is, for how long?

Scorers -
Lazio - Thiago Silva o.g 64'
Milan - Thiago Silva 21', Pato 35'


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Thursday, November 5, 2009

homecoming

Kaka

AC Milan 1 Real Madrid 1
Part 2. The sequel. And as almost all sequels are, it was disappointing. Madrid had to play for pride, and Milan too. But the former had to play to win it, and the latter had to play to save it. Ronaldo's absence was highlighted which gave the fans a glimmer of hope. But the prince was returning, and the spotlight was going to be on him. So it was. Pellegrini couldn't afford another debacle, Leo could.

The teams started, but stuttered from the beginning. It was all Los Blancos for the first 10 minutes. Like in the first edition, Pato was rammed by two or three Madrid players, preventing him from getting space. Nesta was returning from a minor injury, and early signs weren't encouraging. He was going to have a horrendous night. Kaka and Benzema were going to ensure that he did. Casillas had to save the day for his side, as he was called into action on a Milan counter-attack. Ambrosini was working his socks off, and was going to have a fantastic night. He dominated Kaka and bullied him all over the pitch. Dida pulled out another howler for Benzema's opener, and our defense was caught napping. Not much later, we got fortuitous with the penalty. Ronaldinho dispatched it with remarkable authority. Pato then was wrongly denied by the referee for a goal that he thoroughly deserved.

The break was refreshing, and our side showed more bite after returning on the pitch. Referee continued to make mistake aplenty. Milan characteristically threw possession away right after acquiring it, but our closing down was top class and therefore restricted the Spanish forwards to long range efforts. In the last quarter of an hour, the tempo dropped severely. Neither team decided to risk, and sat back and knocked the ball around to everyone's dismay. Dida had to pull out a superb save right at the death to deny Raul. It surprises me, how he managed to stay awake after a boring display of football for the previous 15-20 minutes.

Madrid apparently played their best football this season for the first 45 minutes. It had us scampering for shelter. Higuain who had a terrific outing against Getafe, was anonymous. Kaka, had a sense of drive in him. He attacked relentlessly, and it seemed he desperately wanted to score on his return. His work ethic was mind blowing. Some homecoming for the former World Player. We played liked cowards, and didn't risk much, so a draw was happily gobbled down as a great achievement. But we did let Madrid score, and they had to wait 53 years to make that happen. I suppose they would've considered it worth it now that they have almost cemented their progression. We however, are far from it. Lets not forget that Zurich aren't really whipping boys when they play us.

Scorers -
Madrid - Benzema 29'
Milan - Ronaldinho 35' pen.

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Monday, November 2, 2009

genoa days

Marco Borriello

AC Milan 2 Parma 0
Parma have been the surprise package this season. Sitting in 4th position before this game, there was reason for narrowing the brows. And rightly so. This team had some exuberant talent in its ranks. The likes of Paloschi, Bojinov, Gallopa, Dzemaili and Lanzfame could hurt a defense that has been surviving albeit some heroic defending from Nesta and out-of-the-world keeping from Storari and Dida. But 2/3 were missing and we had Kaladze in central defense whose loyalties could switch at any moment, as we have seen him do oh so often in the past. But this Milan were a bit too composed to feel nervy.

Parma started strong. Dzemaili got Dida into the action right in the beginning, evoking a world class save from the Brazilian. Ronaldinho, who was electrifying early on in the game, started a move on the left, and sent in a through ball to Borriello who calmly slotted through the keeper's legs to score the opener. Not much later, Bojinov's header of Gallopa's assist was prevented from hitting the back of the net. Who prevented it? Nelson Dida, again. 2 top drawer saves from a has been keeper. Marvelous. Just before the half ended, Antonini and Ronaldinho linked up fantastically to bring the tifosi to their feet.

Even as the second half started, a certain aspect of Milan's game play got my attention. We were playing very quick. We weren't characteristically static. Funny it is, because we have played a truckload of games back to back. The energy and enthusiasm however, was very much present. Antonini's match fitness is abundantly clear. Almost midway into the game, he stretches over and clutches his butt indicating he has cramps. Our forwards dropped back to defend, which signified an admirable work rate. Pato was giving Lucarelli a torrid time on the left. Pato's pace and skill was just too much for the visiting defender, who brought down the striker on several occasions. The Brazilian was brought down in the box by two players, in a palpable obstruction. But the referee was having none of it. Leo's fascination for Ambrosini continues, as he is brought on to replace Gattuso. Parma's substitutions were silly, and incomprehensible. Taking off Dzemaili and Gallopa was rather foolish. Flamini is being reduced to an 8 minute kill-the-play man. This is not even remotely respectable for a player of his caliber. Silva has the gift of a world class attacker. His stupendous run and effort almost gave us our second goal of the night, as his header crashed against the bar. It was a move that he started and nearly finished. Fatigue was kicking in deep into the game. Our defense started to look a little vulnerable and immobile. Genoa days have probably returned, Borrielo bags his brace with a scissor kick. Injury time goal, this time, in our favor.

Madrid are landing today. Tomorrow, they brush their feet against the grass on the pitch at the San Siro district. Thousands will stand in opposition, millions await to see their downfall. We are ready, and in the right frame of mind to challenge the Galacticos. Kaka returns, but as an opponent. The Prince arrives, but as the enemy. My affection for him aside, I will be one in the millions.

Scorers -
AC Milan - Borriello 11', 90+3'
Parma - none

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

checkmate

Nelson Dida

S.S.C.Napoli 2 AC Milan 2
This was the game that was going to confirm continuity for me. And the start was explosive to say the least. But before I get to the start, Leonardo knew that he was going to cross swords with one of the most effective coaches around in Walter Mazzari. Mazzari's side, post Donadoni have looked like Napoli should. And AC Milan were wary, because its been awhile since AC Milan won at the Sao Paolo. Ironically, our last victory at this venue was when Leonardo kicked the ball into the back of the Napoli net.

Coming to the start, we couldn't have hoped for a better way to kick the game into action. 2 goals inside the space of 6 minutes, where we ripped open the Partenopei defense. And then, we just stopped playing. To make matters worse, Nesta had to leave the field and be substituted by the infamous Khaka. For awhile though, we pressed forward in search of the deadly third, as we knew we had the momentum to cause an embarrassing defeat for the home side. Silva committed one of usual errors as he went to sleep with Lavezzi almost scoring. Our defense began to look shaky in Nesta's absence. Abate was given the role of guarding the right hand side and he had a torrid time against Lavezzi's skill and pace. Pirlo seemed like he wanted to join Nesta on the bench, but not by picking up an injury. The urgency was evident, in his tackles. Why Leonardo sticks with Ambrosini in every game, baffles me. Its a stickler.

Dida either has heroic nights, or simply disastrous ones. This one was going to be the former. He pulled out one of his usual miraculous saves to deny Maggio early in the second half. Ronaldinho continued to get dispossessed with ease. With Seedorf dilly dallying with the ball around the box, Napoli almost scored their opener. Abate started improving defensively in the second half. Until the sending off, he was Milan's best outfield player. Pippo, after scoring from a marginally offside position, misses in front of an open net. That was going to be our last opportunity to put the game to bed. Luca Cigarini, a player I desperately wanted in Milan colors, scored a beauty from distance. This breathed life into the Azzzurri. But this wasn't going to be the end. Some atrocious defending in the box was duly punished by German Denis at the death, deep into injury time. That was the equalizer for Napoli.

Mazzari's side never gave up. They battled throughout the game. We basically chickened out, and thought we could defend for 80 odd minutes of the game. But we dint have the quality or the character to do so. 2 additional points would have changed our position on the table remarkably, as we would have found ourselves in the top 4. Not that we are way off the top, but top 4 is top 4. We did show however, that we are in a positive frame of mind. The goals are coming. And the confidence is high in the Milan camp, which is a good thing. Parma away, with the Ducali being the surprise team of the season, as they sit in the fourth position in the league. It should be a relatively easier ride. As long, as we don't take them for granted, like we did to the team from Naples.

Scorers -
S.C.C. Napoli - Cigarini 91', Denis 93'
AC Milan - Inzaghi 2', Pato 5'

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Monday, October 26, 2009

continuity

Alessandro Nesta

Chievo Verona 1 AC Milan 2
A lot was being said about continuity. Articles were being written, debates were being conducted on whether this is a revival or a false alarm. But AC Milan were truly confounding their critics, and how. No one really knows if this is a resurrection, its still too early. But the signs are positive, very.

Its becoming something of a tradition, us going down by a goal and then chasing the game from behind. And that is what happened in Verona too. It was a joy to behold Antonini, Flamini and Hunterlaar in the starting 11. This goes to show that Leonardo has now gained some confidence. Milan's attacking play was fine and balanced. Chievo were busy trying to choke the game. The crossing of the fullbacks however, have been a let down, and continued to be in this game too. Pellissier was presented with an opportunity to score and secure atleast one point for his team, but his volley was way off target. Pato was being man marked, and the talented youngster was having a tough time to find space in the game.

When play resumed, the batteries of the veteran side looked recharged and ready for action. Huntelaar had another pointless outing and was rightly replaced for Borrielo. Ronaldinho has displayed enough skill to make the bench henceforth. He wasn't classically anonymous, but was wasteful nonetheless. Borrielo was more potent and dangerous than he has been in recent history. A constant threat in the air, and his physical prowess was getting a bit difficult for the defense of the home side. Borrielo's display just goes to prove how useless Huntelaar essentially is to this team. Crosses were pouring into the box, but what did not strike the players or Leonardo was that the Chievo players outnumbered our forwards, which reduced the probability of latching onto a cross. Finally the equalizer arrived, Borrielo showing how important he in this system by nearly scoring. Nesta gets his name on the score sheet, a rarity. Sorrentino was largely the reason why his team were still in the game, and it wasn't the first time the net minder had saved his team against us. Dida, in injury time pulled out a world class reflex save to keep us in the game. Hardly a minute later, Nesta bags his brace by heading-in from far post on a Pirlo corner. Where was the marking one may ask? I don't care is what I would say. It was a little too obvious, that Milan looked more like a team in Ronaldinho's absence. This is certainly a good run of form, but does this signify continuity? Maybe it does. But I need till Napoli to find out.

Scorers -
Chievo - Pinzi 7'
Milan - Nesta 81', 92'

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

derby d'Europa

Massimo Oddo

Real Madrid CF 2 AC Milan 3
Huge. That was what the media was touting this game to be. And for a change, neither of the two clubs involved were English. So that was a mighty relief. AC Milan were severe underdogs going into this game. I am beginning to think that we play best when that happens. Many predicted a thrashing of the Italians. Destiny had other plans, however.

Leonardo's boldness was out there for everyone's viewing as he decided to take up an attacking approach. He went ahead with Seedorf, Ronaldinho, Pato and Inzaghi in the same team. What's more, he had Borrielo and Hunterlaar awaiting the nod on the bench. Such a positive approach was new for a coach of an Italian side, and I bet that took Madrid by surprise. For over an hour, Milan just sat back and soaked in the pressure. Madrid used the width of the pitch extensively. They had a more dynamic approach, while Milan decided to attack through the centre. AC Milan were defending deeper than they usually do. Zambrotta continues to exhibit signs of retardation, both mentally and physically. He brought down Benzema in the box, and a stonewall penalty was turned down by the referee. Not much later, Madrid had their due. Classic Dida keeping. fumbles a dead ball onto the path of Raul. The predator isn't known for showing mercy and tucks the ball into the back of the net, like he so often has done in the past. Raul was going to prove to the world, that he is the better centre forward in comparison to Fillipo, and he dint leave any questions asked. Milan decided to up their tempo, and played a little more aggressively. There was more bite in their play. The Milan forwards were constantly lost in a sea of white shirts. Isolated, and unattended to.

In the second half, Madrid decided to take shots on target instead of only being pretty and fancy with the ball. They got quite a few on target and tested Dida very often. Inzaghi put in a pathetic performance, which gives me the understanding, now more than ever before, that he is only capable of being a super sub and should never start games. Pirlo's long distance curler left the world stunned. Casillas, they say could have stopped it, but in terms of anticipation, he clearly lacked any of it. He wasn't tested all night, and then came Pirlo. Ambrosini was aimlessly floating around the midfield throughout the game. But he did what he had to when required, i.e. intercept the ball, and deliver a delicious long ball to Pato, who took advantage of Casillas' stupidity, to give Milan the lead. Oddo played his part admirably. He is questioned on quality time and again, and I did think that Kaka would run rings around him, but Oddo put in a very fine performance, leaving me impressed..amazed if I might add. But the veteran fullback hasn't yet received praise for his performance. After Drenthe's equalizer, I knew the game would only get hotter. It did. Seedorf, who had been shooting into the stars all night long, received the ball from Ronaldinho before delivering a magical assist to Pato, two minutes from time. Seedorf waits, Seedorf applies and Pato finishes. End result, Milan create history by winning for the first time at the Bernebeu.

This could be a critical point in our season. We have achieved two awesome results over the last 5 days. This team lacked character, but now we are seeing signs of it being birthed. Though our team lacks the quality of Chelsea or Barcelona, we could develop the grit of Liverpool and sail through this season, leaving our critics (including me) spellbound. Cheers to a new Milan. Lets go face the flying donkeys.

Scorers -
Madrid - Raul 18', Drenthe 76'
Milan - Pirlo 62', Pato 66' 88'


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Monday, October 19, 2009

menez the menace

Jeremy Menez

AC Milan 2 AS Roma 1
Silva was returning after an injury lay-off where he hadn't played for 3 games straight after injuring himself against Bologna. Expecting him to be 100% would have been asking too much of him. And so he dint disappoint the realistic when an awful back pass was picked up by Menez and slotted past Dida in the 3rd minute. Milan realized that sitting back and defending would only lead to digging a deeper grave for themselves, and started attacking ferociously. The energy displayed was admirable, and forced Roma to put 11 men behind the ball, an attribute so uncharacteristic of the i Giallorossi. Silva continued showing horrific signs of defensive abilities as he brought down Menez inside the box. Rossetti thought that a challenge inside the box isn't called a penalty and turned down the deserved claims. Leonardo's tactical expertise was there for public viewing when he employed crosses into the box while using Pato and Ronaldinho as forwards. Roma were a delight to watch with the ball at their feet. Their passing in the final third was decisive and drilled holes in the confounded Milanese rearguard. Dida was expected to deputize for the injured Storari. Many would've thought that Dida has forgotten how to wear the keeping gloves, let alone keep after being presented with the number of chances he was provided to mind the net. But he was on song today, and his saves of De Rossi and Vucinic is nothing short of world-class. We continued to play direct football, even though we dint possess a target man in the team, let alone the squad. This gives me the understanding that Leonardo was busy drawing penguins in his coaching classes.

Inzaghi was introduced after the break. Ronaldinho was pushed wide on the left, and he thrived there for the rest of the night. Inzaghi had an effort cleared of the line by Pizzaro. The Italian hitman looked frustrated already. Burdisso then decided to go into a nonsensical tackle on Nesta inside the box. Many still argue about the credibility of the penalty. However it was given, and Ronnie converted. Seedorf's pace doesn't match Pato's, and that was glaringly evident from the miss he produced from a fantastic counter-attacking opportunity. Ronaldinho was involved in the second goal as well. His delightful ball was controlled magnificently by Pato before the starlet slotted past Doni coolly. Roma pulled up their socks and attacked Milan with all they had left. De Rossi missed from point blank range, which proved to be a massive let off for us. Ambrosini was sent off with 10 minutes on the clock. Roberto Rosseti was dishing out cards like they were Christmas gifts. Pato should've scored the second, but poor ball control let him down. Stefano Guberti was bought on to provide a wing threat, and the former Bari star impressed. He created two goal scoring opportunities that were scuffed by the Roman forwards.

Leonardo's tactical changes at half time worked. Maybe, he called Ancelloti for advise. But it worked. A morale-boosting win it surely was. Our wingbacks continue to decline down the scale of quality. Pirlo was characteristically anonymous. Menez however is one to look out for. I think Roma have found their successor to Totti. Asked to fill in for the injured talisman, Menez dint even barely disappoint. He might have had a miserable season last year, but his quality is beyond doubt. Sensi did a wise thing by holding onto him. Madrid next. Its truly the clash of two of the biggest clubs in Europe, one of monumental proportions. Kaka, here we come. Dint think I would ever say it. Well, I just did.

Scorers -
Milan - Ronaldinho 56'pen, Pato 67'
Roma - Menez 3'


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Monday, October 5, 2009

voiceless

Mauro Tassotti

Atalanta 1 Milan 1

Most people thought that this was the make or break game for Leonardo. The challenges after this game would only get tougher for the rookie tactician. And he was obliged to deliver a favorable result. It wasn't until the 83rd minute when Leonardo took his first gulp of fresh air. It was at that very moment when Ronaldinho returned a favor to his Brazilian counterpart.

Atalanta are rock bottom of the league and have employed the skills of Conte to bail them out. Milan, usually should have run riot, but obviously, this isn't Milan. Atlanta played long balls, and into the box where Tiribocchi was using his strength to displace the visitors defense. Seedorf appeared to be pulling the creative strings from midfield. Pato had been asked to involve himself more in the game, and was seen to be playing at a deeper position than usual. Atalanta take the lead, and how. 3 defenders on Doni, leaving Tiribocchi completely unmarked to slot the ball past a hapless Storari. Did Doni resemble Messi on the day? No, but still he had 3 defenders on him. Atalanta players were keen on taking the opposition out, instead of going for the ball, whenever Milan decided to throw players into the opposition box. We were neither physically superior, neither were we technically superior. This was being amply demonstrated during the game. In the second half, Milan thought its best to just keep the ball. How Pato missed from six yards out remains an absolute mystery. What I find outrageous is that the home team was reduced to 10 men in the 39th minute, and it took us until the 83rd minute to level the score. We even failed to stamp our authority on the game. How toothless have we actually become? Gattuso is too busy gathering cards, which gives me an understanding that he wants to start a collection. Nesta has shown human tendencies, and Abate is no 'Cafu.' There are weaknesses all around this team, and Leonardo is most certainly not equipped to deal with this situation.

They say he has two games to save his job. Two games being against AS Roma and Real Madrid. They also say that he has to win both these games to keep himself seated as the gaffer. That is probably half the reason why he lost his voice minutes before he had to give his post-match comments. The international break would have given him time to rethink his strategies and approach. He needs to mend his ways and bend this team. He needs to transform from a boy to a man, and I don't really know if he can in such limited time. We are two days away from finding out.

Goalscorers -
Atalanta -Tiribocchi 21'
Milan - Ronaldinho 83'



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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

mighty minnows

Marco Storari

Milan 0 Bari 0
Bari are a newly promoted side to the Serie A. They created waves of excitement in the Serie B last season with their manager Antonio Conte. The Italian is now managing Atalanta and being linked with the Juventus hot seat in the summer, and so they(Bari) don't really have a very famous or skilled man in Giampiero Ventura. However, they are a brave side, that attacks the big boys instead of adopting a coy approach. They implemented this against Inter and put up a good fight. They were going to do the same against us, and were set to be duly rewarded.

Players from Bari, right from the kick off were very quick in their game play. They knew the aging legs of Milan couldn't cope up with that kind of radical pace. And they used their pace to admirable effect. Kaladze was deputizing for injured Silva, and for a change, dint head into his own net on a clearance. Ambrosini was quite eager to get back to the bunker as his rash tackles earned him a deserved yellow. Bari continued with their fearless approach. Our defense struggled with their extensive attack. Rivas was going to be their best player, and after a mesmerizing run which consequentially had Milan players toppling around him, missed the target on the finish. It would have been easy to forget which was the home team, and which was supposedly the better team if you were a random bloke switching channels. Storari's saves were keeping us in the game, and that was going to be the script for the rest of the night. I feared trusting Kaladze, and my fears nearly materialized when he almost did a 'Georgia'. Pirlo moved up the pitch more often than usual, which was an interesting tactic. He was playing better in his advanced role. This game was proof again that Ronaldinho has lost the ability to run past defenders. Pirlo had a chance to give us the lead from 33 yards out, and Ronaldinho amazingly missed on the rebound. Storari had to come to our rescue, yet again, after a hilarious mistake from Kaladze. Pato was a live-wire and his pace was catching the defense out of position quite often. Ronaldinho evoked a top class reflex save from the keeper. During the game, I realized that Rivas is a lad we need to keep our eyes on. His pace and trickery will come cheap in an inflated transfer market. Abate was skinned by him on several occasions but the Italian improved defensively in the second half. Towards the end of the game, Storari saved us from sheer humiliation on a number of occasions.

Draw against Bari at home is a good indicator of our credentials. Only a few sides in the Serie A can achieve this feat. We did, and saved losing purely because of a pint-sized man in gloves. If this wasn't embarrassing enough, we go on to lose against Zurich. More on that later, but lets get geared for the worst in the coming weeks.

Scorers -
Milan - /
Bari - /

ignominy

Leonardo

Milan 0 Zurich 1

This game was to be played in AC Milan's natural habitat, where the music brings about superhuman abilities in the players. But this lame reason wasn't going to bail the team and management out of the domestic mess they find themselves in. After the humbling at the weekend at the hands of Bari, this side and Leo were under pressure to perform. They have been seeking opportunities to prove their critics wrong, and when provided with fixtures against Bari, Zurich and Livorno, they make a hash of the games.

Zurich were hit for 5 by a rampant Madrid team in their last outing. They were coming to the Meazza with a 3 game losing streak. So, things for them wasn't all rosy as well. But going ahead in the 10th minute did help. What was Pirlo doing at the near post one must ask. He could have cleared the shot, but stood and watched it roll into the back of the net instead. Kaladze also left no favors undone by letting the person he was to mark, and the eventual goalscorer unmarked. We haven't been able to defend from set-pieces for over 3 seasons now, and we clearly need a new defensive training staff. Abate impressed from the right back position with his passes and his crosses. Inzaghi was wasteful all evening, to the point that he could have had a hatrick. Pato's lack of interest was glaringly evident, and missed a good one-on-one with the keeper, a chance that should have been buried taking into account his quality. With Ronaldinho on the bench, greater movement in attack was expected and there was. Seedorf also had a chance from a promising position which he drilled over the crossbar. Flamini was having a reckless first half, a form he has been carrying for quite sometime.

Second half saw the introduction of Ronaldinho and Zambrotta. Flamini and Seedorf made way. A flurry of shots/headers came Leoni's way. These were efforts of Ronaldinho, Inzaghi and Pato. He dealt with them professionally. Not later, to intensify the night's horror, Nesta limped off and was replaced by Oguchi. The pairing of Oguchi and Kaladze would scare any Milan fan. The magnitude of Milan's attack was getting a bit difficult for the Swiss defense. But they had luck on their hands and they managed to stand their ground. The away team still were deadly on the counter, and we needed Storari to save the day yet again on a couple of occasions. Zurich closed down Milan very well, it was indeed a supreme job. The Diavoli were finding it difficult to find space or raise the tempo of the game.
Zambrotta at the end, hit the crossbar with his long distance effort. And that sealed the 3 points for the visitors.

Many people believe that the team and management are responsible for the current situation. They fail to recognize Leo's involvement. The manager is tactically inept, and is currently incompetent. He isn't capable of holding this dressing room together. Sure, he has an average group of players at his disposal. But they are better than the results that they are obtaining. And it is the coach's mandate to get the best out of the team. He is just too nice for this job, as many would say and agree. He doesn't have the steel or the stomach for it. And he could well be managing his very last game for Milan, this weekend, as he faces off against Conte's Atalanta. And I would be more than happy to bid him adieu.

Scorers -
Milan - /
Zurich - Tihinen 10'

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