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'

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