Sunday, August 30, 2009

thank you inter

Gennaro Gattuso

AC Milan 0 Inter Milan 4

I know. This post is severely overdue. I dint think that I would need so long to hibernate and hide. Thought I would run out of shame much sooner. But I dint. I still haven't. It seemed back then that following the route of the management post the derby disaster would be the best thing to do, to avoid the taunts from Inter fans that I haven't met and from the rest of the world who thinks I am crazy about football and need a psych. It so happens, this derby provided the remedy for my craze.

Before this game, Milan were ridiculously touted as favorites. But I assume that the team took it seriously, as it showed in their game for the first 30 minutes or so. Flamini had predicted that it would be a physical battle, and he most probably hoped like the rest of us that Gattuso wouldn't take this prediction literally. But he did. Tackles were flying all over the pitch. It seemed like the single objective of the teams were to reduce the men in the opposition by inflicting maximum physical pain. Sneijder, who had signed for Inter less than 24 hours ago was given a start, and he tested Storari from distance, the shot stopper providing a world-class save to stop the ball from flying into the back of the net. Ronaldinho was later provided with the opportunity to get on the scoring sheet. but he scuffs his shot, and misses it like a pansy. Milan then started attacking quite marvelously, and were threatening aerially as well. The string of attacks gave the onlookers, such as myself a lot of pleasure. Gattuso wasn't match fit. Why oh why was he given a start, still remains a mystery. Inter's opening goal came out of nowhere. It was a result of fine passing and movement, and resembled Barcelona, only in black and blue stripes instead of brown and blue. Pato was the only player threatening the Inter defense. Inter then catch Milan on the counter. Maicon's direct ball finds Eto'o who blazes past a defense that wasn't there, only to find Gattuso hugging him down inside the box. What turned Gattuso on, I wonder. But on a serious note, a former world class player doing something that stupid is an all-time new. The same chap, not much later, brings down Sneijder with a hideous tackle, earning him his second yellow. Oh yes, he had received his first from the penalty, which Milito confidently converted. After what I had seen Gattuso do tonight, I wished he be given capital punishment. The extent of damage he had caused Milan was beyond repair. He definitely doesn't deserve a first team slot, let alone the armband. And what's most shocking is all this happened, when he was just one whistle away from being substituted prematurely due to his ankle injury. But no, he just had to executed his heroics.

Moving on, Maicon capped an exceptional display of attacking and defensive football with a great goal, skinning Jankulovski in the bargain. He had ripped Jankulovski so badly during the night, watching Jankulovski still standing made me respect the Czech's courage. It also angered me to constantly view his incompetence. At half-time, Ambrosini came on for an anonymous Borrielo and Seedorf replaced Flamini. The intention was to close the game without aiding in adding digits against Inter's name on the scoreboard. During the second half, we tried to keep the ball down, and passed the ball more. Keeping the ball meant keeping the scoreline humiliatingly acceptable. When against Inter, for the last few seasons, the script hasn't changed. They are physically far superior to us, and were toying us like we were a bunch of playschool kids against some alley bullies. Seedorf decided to prove a point to his former employers. He was by far the most influential player, positively speaking, i.e, beside Pato. He did make the Inter defense narrow their brows in worry. Quite an inspirational performance that should earn him a few starts. Eto'o scored from an offside position, and realization dawned on Leo. He decided enough was enough, and decided to replace Ronaldinho with debutante Huntelaar. Buck-tooth had one of the worst games a professional could ever have. And it must be getting difficult for him to keep track of it, because such performances have become a regularity in recent times. Well, it wouldn't have been a derby if Stankovic hadn't scored. Question is, where was the closing down bit?

I thank Inter. The administration and the players of Milan are indebted to Mourinho for taking it easy after the break. This could have been a romp, and there was no reason why Inter had to halt the destructive manner of football they were playing. But the sympathy was real, and as much as it hurts, its true. They took pity on us. Moratti also went the length to be modest about it in the press. This turned out to be a 'practise match' for the Nerazzurri. But I feel that playing against the reserves of Bari would've been a more competitive game for Mourinho's men. Leonardo then decided to expose his doltish front by defending the team and Gattuso. We thankfully have an international break this weekend. The players need to get back after nursing their battered ego's. The management needs to prepare itself for many a such thumping. So Blatter, we need more international breaks.

AC Milan - what?
Inter Milan - Motta 29', Milito pen 36', Maicon 45', Stankovic 67'

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

brazilians conquer the artemio franchi

<u>Pato with Ronaldinho

AC Siena 1 AC Milan 2
The season started, and we played on the opening match-day. Siena, who are tipped to go down this season after selling their best players in Kharja and Zuniga had a point to prove. Though Milan had made the same mistakes over the summer, the predictions haven't been that dark, yet. Playing away (no matter where) is never easy. Especially when you have a new team and a new coach. Literally, a coach who is new to coaching.

We began our game positively. Passing and movement was confident and assured. After all the talk in the summer, i found it a bit strange that we were still playing direct football, fully aware that Borrielo is no Drogba or Amauri. Pato's offside goal took Galliani off his seat and the latter's reaction was similar to that of a teenage girl who had been poked on her backside. Abate's absence in the team seemed odd, considering he was fielded in nearly all the friendlies. Ronaldinho and Pato, from the start looked very sure of their game, and were showing sings of tremendous understanding. Gattuso was displaying terrific work ethic. He dint look like a player coming back from injury. Pato scored the opener from a typical trequartista pass. The finish was horrendous, and was helped on by the keeper. Milan's defense responded poorly to Siena's advances, and after some sloppy work by the defense, the Bianconeri found their equalizer. Siena looked the more potent team after the equalizer. Gattuso was playing his 400th official game for the club since making his debut more than 10 years ago in a nil-nil draw against Chelsea. He was the best player on the pitch until he was taken off. Game had been reduced to a lot of shabby play and disorderly passing. Our second goal however, was a gem. Ronaldinho's pass found Flamini, whose movement was superb. The Frenchman decided to take the unselfish route and passed the ball across the face of the goal to Pato who pounced on the ball, applying the finish. A classic, this one. The Rossoneri looked the more dangerous team since half time, looking ever so sure to score again. The Robur could have found themselves another equalizer, but their front man, Maccorone scuffed a golden opportunity. Siena continued taking shots from distance, trying to claw themselves back into the game. Ronaldinho came up with a bicycle kick, which was surprisingly tipped over by Curci. Borrielo may no longer be a goal threat, but he tracks back a lot, which is a positive thing. The home side grew in confidence as the game went on, but couldn't convert that into a goal.

Ronaldinho, was the man of the match by miles. Its too early to lavish praise on the Brazilian and I will hold my horses back a bit. But, his passing and his intelligence was crystal clear. He plays like this for us during the season, he could might as well bring Berlusconi's prophesy to pass. Silva had a sound debut. Solid, no nonsense defending. However, I would like to raise questions over Pato's finishing. The boy should have added another 2 to his tally. His understanding with Ronaldinho is evidently exceptional, but that is pointless if he couldn't put the ball into the back of the net, with those delicious opportunities that were provided to him. He will need to improve on this front for the weekend. Because its THE BIG ONE. And we will have 'The Hunter' back from suspension!

AC Siena - Ghezzal 34'
AC Milan - Pato 29', 48'

Saturday, August 22, 2009

season preview

The season kicks off today, officially. Hopefully, we are going to forget the horrific pre-season and start anew. Its definitely a season that promises a lot. A lot of fear, anxiety and trouble. Some say that I am being pessimistic. Others say nothing.

Going by the previews of websites I refer to, the implications are more than just implications. The writing, if not on the wall, is certainly up on the sites. Most believe that we will have a sub-standard season, and might finish 5th-6th in the table. Am I one of them? I might be. There are reasons for my apprehensions. Beside a rookie coach, and a hopelessly pathetic squad of players, we are not willing to understand the crisis we are in. We have been to the Serie B and also finished 11th in the league. But those times were different. Football has become more of a business than ever before. And in a time like this, penny pinching clubs can't promise their fans silverware. I was certainly skeptical about the 'City' model. But look at them today! They are one of the strongest clubs in UK. Just two seasons ago, they were battling at mid-table. But with Pres. Silvio around, I don't see many Euros floating about for purchases. If we finish 5th /6th as many predict, we could see the beginning of a fall of one of the greatest football clubs the world has seen. And no, I am not over-exaggerating.

When I look at the fixture list, I see we have a reasonably balanced set of fixtures, until Dec. That is when things will start heating up. In the months of Dec and Jan, we would be playing the likes of Sampadoria, Palermo, Fiorentina, Genoa, Juventus and Inter. Our run in, matches with the one we had last season. Our last few games are against Fiorentina, Genoa and Juventus. And as I see it, it will be during this time that we would battling for that much wanted 4th spot. Our squad is remarkably thin. Considering the quality of our medics at the MilanLab, and also the fitness of our players, we will be struggling half way into the league. I can't comment on Europe, just as yet. The groups haven't been drawn, but to see us in the Quarter Finals would amaze me. Coppa Italia is possibly the only trophy that we could win, but I sense the favorites to the Italian Cup are Palermo and Genoa.

Coming to the players department, there is a lot of pressure on Ronaldinho to step into the illustrious boots of Kaka. He will most inevitably not fulfill those responsibilities. And the sooner Leonardo realizes this, the better it is for him and for the club. It is comforting though, that Leo doesn't expect too much from the has-been. Players to look forward to are Silva, Abate, Pato and Huntelaar. Silva is shaping into one of the finest defenders in the country. Abate has shown a great deal of enthusiasm and quality in pre-season, and I would like to see him in the first team more often. Pato needs to step up and take up a pivotal role in this team. Under Leo, we will see more of him, that I am sure of. Huntelaar is the goal-machine we have waiting for since Shevchenko's treachery. And if provided with the service, Huntelaar won't emulate Gilardinho. The first team is not star-studded, no. But it has the ability to beat any team on the planet on its given day. I am certainly not pleased with the pre-season, who is? And Leo doesn't infuse confidence in me. But only a blockhead could write off this team. I am quite sure that Europe is awaiting to see how Milan will respond to all the criticism that has come the club's way. There are two possibilities in this situation. Either our season would be an utter disaster, or we could stupefy the rest of Europe. Forget the Scudetto, forget the Champions League. If we finish above 4th in the League and compete for Coppa Italia, it will leave me with a pleasant smile on my face.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

berlusconi's trophy, berlusconi's pride

Silvio Berlusconi

AC Milan 1 Juventus 1 (5-4 pen.)
Its been something of a tradition for the last 20 years or so that Silvio Berlusconi has a friendly organized between Milan and Juventus. He does so in the honor of his father, Luigi Berlusconi. I much rather he dedicate funds for reinforcements in the honor of a more promising future for this club. AC Milan were humbled just days before this game, by the team they were about to play. There was an air of unease in the atmosphere. Was another humbling in the offering?

Ferrara opted for an unfamiliar triangle upfront, with Diego, Trez and Iaquinta. Pirlo was back to his creative best for this game. His passing and shot taking was impressive, one in particular hit the crossbar from 30 yards out. Milan were looking a much different side from the one at the weekend. More compact, more fluid. Nevertheless, it was the away side that took the lead. Diego took his chance from distance, and the shot ricocheted of Silva, resulting in the ball ending in the back of the net. Pint-sized Storari couldn't do much. Maybe a certain Flavio Roma could have done better, maybe. Also with Storari crouching (why was he doing that?), you can never say. Huntelaar, who was deprived of service at the weekend, seemed to be more in sync with the game this time round. He tested Buffon in the 44th minute, the keeper successful. Pirlo continued to pull the strings in midfield quite admirably throughout the game. In the 68th minute, Pato converted from a delightful cross by Abate. Buffon left with no chance, and the Juve defense returning one of Milan's countless favors from the past. The joy on the Brazilians face was explicit; he was relieved that his 'honeymoon' was over. Ronaldinho had his chance later on, but his finishing letting him down. We did go on to win the game on penalties, but its not a result that particularly pleased me.

Berlusconi has been going on, and on about how great this team is. That we have the best 'central defensive partnership' in Europe. And so on and so forth. This win has done this club more harm than good. Berlusconi zipped the purse shut right after this game, deeming that this team can do great things without the need of any arrivals. And this isn't the first time that the Italian P.M. has acted cuckoo. However, there are positives to take from this game. The squad finally won after Varese, which seems like a decade ago. There is now a sense of confidence and encouragement in this team. Also this win, gave the players the much needed morale-boost that they so desperately needed. But all said and done, we are still where we were. We haven't taken any steps ahead. And never before in my active memory can I recall a Milan side this frail in comparison to its competition. No new players will arrive, that is becoming more and more certain. All we can do now, is engage in polishing this meaningless trophy. After all, it might be the only trophy that we might win this season.

Milan - Pato 68'
Juventus - Diego 27'

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

trofeo tim

Ignazio Abate

Inter 1 Milan 0
This was the first game that Huntelaar would get to display his skills in. He was given a start. And all of us hoped that hunting season would resume, now in Italy. It was a joy to behold Antonini and Abate in the team, but at the same time, it was painful having Favalli and Oddo in the defense. Abate once again outshone his comrades on the pitch. The 22 year-old is doing all within his capabilities to impress the management. We, the fans are impressed. He is someone who needs be given more opportunities this season than Seedorf or Ambrosini. The youth and vigor was abundantly visible. He was attacking, demonstrating incredible pace, and his defense were brutal and full of energy. Sometimes reckless, but the effort was pleasing. Storari came up with a top class save from Balotelli's free kick. But the keeper couldn't keep out the header after some primary school defending. Balotelli, one of the formidable opponents from a set piece was left unmarked, and provided with a free header from close range. Such goals have become a necessity in each game Milan plays over the last couple of seasons. Italian footballing infrastructure was made agonizingly evident when the lights went out and dint return for quite sometime. I thought power crisis existed only in India. Inter are definitely better prepared for the new season. Passing and movement was sublime, and they are reflecting the works of a world-class trainer, on the pitch. It was remarkable to watch Inter field a defense of Materazzi and Samuel. We had Hunter, Duck and Bucktooth in attack, and we still couldn't make Cesar twitch. Antonini's shot and Pato's header were probably the only two occasions that Cesar was made to flex his arms. Our impotency in attack continues, and we dint manage to score a goal, even after acquiring a top-class striker. The 4-3-1-2 is far superior to the 4-3-3. Before you raise objections, I mean with reference to this team. If we lost, it was because we were, and are poorer in quality and not for any other reason. Lets face it

Inter - Balotelli 23'
Milan - /


Juventus 2 Milan 0
Juventus just needed a win to lift their first Tim Trophy. 4-3-1-2 was the tactical formation adopted by both the teams. Iago, the highly rated youngster filled in the trequartista role for the Bianconeri behind Iaquinta and Amauri. Our attacking woes continued through this game as well. Newly acquired goalkeeper, Flavio Roma pretended to guard the post for the Rossoneri. He has served for some 8 years in France, where goalkeepers are mere spectators. And he continued to fulfill that profile here as well. Amauri, who was left unmarked happily received the ball, and after some trademark defending from Favalli, was provided with the opportunity to shoot. Mr. Roma then allowed the ball to sneak into the near post. The 35 year old clearly needs a crash course in keeping. He however managed to hold out a header from Amauri later in the game. How?! Juventus' second goal was a joy to behold, not really. Ronaldinho just refuses to keep it simple, and his error costs again. His slipshod ball control gifts the ball back to Juventus, who walk through our midfield, then dance through our defense before Iaquinta slots the ball past Roma. Being a fan of Milan, witnessing such a goal, gives me the understanding of what excruciating pain is. Abate once again got into the thick of the action, and provided a cross from the right, which was turned away by Manninger. AC Milan were a disgrace throughout this edition, a form they have carried across several countries and trophies in the last few weeks. Anonymous would've found a new synonym if it was introduced to this team. Our management have surely lost a massive performer in Amauri, one we should have signed last season. And our constant belief in that goof Ronaldinho is not only going to cost us points, but a lot, lot of money.

Juventus - Amauri 13', Iaquinta 32'
Milan - /

Sunday, August 16, 2009

a 'klass-hunter'

Klass-Jan Huntelaar

You give him the ball, he will give you the goal. Its not for any lame reason that he is called 'The Hunter'. Aged 26, he brings to the team the youth element and enough experience to strengthen the new proposal of the club. He cost us £13m. Not much considering the kind of money that Madrid splashed out to bring him from Ajax. Yes, he has always been a fantasy signing for me and for a few other fans. And now its true. But, is it what we need?

We were in the market for a target man. Huntelaar is far from a target man. He is your in-the-box striker, a poacher. Very few can match his ability to convert inside the penalty area. Yes, he is one of the finest finishers in Europe currently. He is a promising prospect and could go onto emulate the great Van Basten. He has scored 135 goals in 183 games. That isn't a statistic to be laughed at. But this was in the Eredivisie, where Dirk Kuyt, Mateja Kezman and Alfonso Alves have scored goals for fun. He came to Madrid and netted 8 times in 20 appearances, most of which were substitutions. His scoring rate is admirable, and we need someone who can challenge for the Capocannoniere. Yes he has it in him to do so. Great in the air, lethal in finish. But I ask the question once again, do we need him? I am afraid the answer is NO.

AC Milan already have a world-class poacher in Inzaghi. The veteran Italian will continue tormenting defenders with top-class poaching for the next few seasons without breaking sweat. We need a proven player who can hold up play, who can challenge physically, who can score and create. Fabiano is that player. The Dutchman, amongst his wide array of enviable attributes, isn't proven at the highest level. He needs someone to create, someone to give him the ball. In the team of Milan, there is no one capable of that. Our wingbacks are either over the hill or painfully average to deliver him those crosses. Ronaldinho is a liability and not an asset. Pato is still raw to provide the creative assistance. This renders Hunterlaar useless. Huntelaar is a top class finisher. But there has to be someone to supply, for him to finish!

For the money paid, he is a worthwhile transfer. Amidst the bewildering transfer figures floating around in the market, Hunter is an example of shrewd business. He would most likely click, if the team clicks. He is a more bankable forward than some run-of-the-mill South American talent. Huntelaar will assure you the end. But who is going to warrant him the means?

Monday, August 10, 2009

a pleasant defeat

David Luiz

SL Benfica 1 AC Milan 1 (6-5 pen.)
Estadio da Luz, Eusebio Cup, Lisbon. The stadium was an ocean of red and white. Just watching on seemed intimidating enough. What Milan players must have endeared is only imaginable. However, you might argue that Milan have enough experience to deal with the kind of environment. Actually, not anymore. The new look Milan and rookie coach don't have that experience, remember? Lets not forget, a good number of our first team players were missing through injury, and Benfica had a full strength, replenished and in-form squad at the coach's disposal.

As expected, Benfica started the game brightly and maintained that tempo. They dictated the play, and were dominating the defense of Milan. Ariel or through balls, our defense dint have any answer. Somehow, magically, the As Aguias couldn't find the back of the net. Storari has realized new-found faith with the current coach, and that is reflecting in his performances. He by no means is a smashing keeper. But he is certainly more than decent to have as back-up in comparison to Dida and Kalac. Some of his saves were quite overwhelming. Nesta marshaled the defense admirably, and his traditional sliding tackle has improved with every passing friendly. However, the defender who stood out for me, was Brazilian David Luiz. He doesn't play for us, but I sincerely hope that his performance would make our management contemplate taking out the wallet. He was strong, and confident, the kind we desperately need. Young, as well. Now getting to the other end of the spectrum, namely Zambrotta. If you have noticed, I haven't been pleased with the wingback's quality since the day he signed for Milan. And I see him in the wingback role, I wonder, what credentials still earn him a starting place? He continues to be painfully average and provides no threat offensively, nor any stability defensively. Save a couple of instances in the game, his contribution was negligible.

Saviola, having newly signed from the Bernebau side, I am sure the Encarnados faithful would have expected him to shine for his new club. But his incompetence up front was vividly clear. The wingers were floating in some delicious crosses, but he just wasn't up to the task of placing his head onto the ball. Benfica caught us more often than not on the counter attack. Their pace was riving our team apart. The lack of top class forwards, couldn't ensure an end result. Pato continues to infuriate me. Well, the Diabos Vermelhos can't boast of quality defenders, yet the starlet from San Siro was getting tackled like he was from the u-13's. Does he justify his price tag? Does he justify all the meaty offers that have been rejected? So far, NO. Finally, Benfica's strongest attacking prospect on the day, Oscar Cardozo, grabbed a deserved goal. Favalli was busy providing Cardozo back support instead of challenging him to the ball. And to concede in such a way is ignominious for a club with such high ambitions. The home side closed their opponents down remarkably. This largely hindered our free-flowing football, and we dint seem to have a Plan B. Borrielo's with his displays over several friendlies, has made it abundantly clear that he doesn't have the strength to hold. He continued to display the same in this game as well. Questions over his potency in attack are certainly being raised. After the goal, we looked a very different team. There was more drive, more hunger in the way we played. Pato is known for one thing, its called pace. His lightening pace caught out the defense, before Sidnei unintentionally slotted home the gall by deflecting Pato's cross. Borrielo also had a decent effort in injury time. Though for a person of his calibre, that shot should have been on target.

We went on to lose on penalties, sounds new? Well, you might ask me, what is so pleasant in this defeat? Firstly, Huntelaar was on the verge of putting pen to paper during this game, the kind of signing we despairingly needed. This did reduce the shame of the loss. Also, the passion that the team showed for the last half an hour was comforting and encouraging. Did look like the world class team the club has produced for over the last 2 decades. More signings too are on the way. Atleast, that is what Leonardo has implied. If rumor mill be believed, Gareth Bale/Lorenzo Di Silvistri. Either would make me really happy. We return home to face the big boys. Domestic struggle it will be. Lets hope the 'DNA' that Leonardo has identified in this team, emerges.

Scorers -
SL Benfica - Cardozo 57'
AC Milan -
Sidnei (O.G.) 87'