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 - /



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'

Thursday, September 24, 2009

one man defense

Alessandro Nesta

Udinese 1 Milan 0

Friulli has been a happy hunting ground for us in the past. We have had the quality of players to go there and get the desired results. By players, I strictly mean quality professionals, and not 11 men. This time round we had one professional and 10 other men. The one man was Nesta, and he, with some support from Storari, kept this game and scoreline, even (Or almost).

For the first several minutes of the game, it was a deadlock. End to end football with no meaning or purpose in the play. Udinese played a direct style of football. The home side continued to dominate the half, and this domination finally paid off. Oddo amateurishly played Isla onside, when the rest of the defense were holding the defense line superbly. Isla skips past Zambrotta like he wasn't there, takes a shot which beats Storari, hits the post comes off at a relatively high speed, bounces off Di Natale into the back of the net. Serie A's top scorer wasn't marked and scored an absolute fluke. But everything said and done, they deserved it. Oddo almost assisted the second goal with a misdirected nod. How he manages to feature in a Serie A side, repeatedly, surprises me beyond boundaries. Another aspect of the defense that I noticed was that we were playing very close to the half line. This was extremely dangerous, as the quick Udinese counter caught us off balance a number of times. Nesta had a chance to level the score, as he headed against the post. We continued to pile in the crosses, but the absence of any BIG striker rendered those crosses timid. Inler and D'Agostinho were dominating the game in central midfield. The Swiss international got past Flamini and took a shot from distance that was parried away by Storari. Zambrotta was having another mediocre outing, as he was continually skinned by Flora Flores. Pirlo was dictating play very well, and his masterclass pass wasn't latched onto well by Seedorf. The Dutchman was a major let down today. Gattuso continued his horrific tackling style, and how he lasted without seeing a red questions the knowledge of the official about the sport. Di Natale had a chance later on to double his tally, but he hit the post on a one-one with Storari. We couldn't quite penetrate the watertight Zebrette defense, and were restricted to taking shots from distance. Pato got subbed later on, after putting in yet another poor performance. This kid excites me and frustrates me alike. After the introduction of Ronaldinho and Abate, we looked a very different side. We metomorphosized into a dynamic team from a static one. Abate's creativity was exceptional, and he almost scored late on. Seedorf missed a sitter, after some magic by Ronaldinho, summing up the veteran's night. Udinese were defending in numbers, and they seemed content with the one goal lead. Huntelaar was brought in with 15 minutes left on the clock to do what he has never managed to do in a Rossoneri jersey; score. Flamini was picked up to emulate Gattuso, and the young Frenchman is following on the midfield General's footsteps identically. Flamini was sent packing after receiving two yellow cards in very short space of time. Ronaldnho had a chance late on, but was denied by an effective Handanovic.

We played well, and I wont take that away from this team. But we don't get brownie points for playing well. The result is what matters. Playing well and consistently winning is the stuff of champions, and we have lost that stuff. But being gritty and grinding out results, that is what counts when you are battling for Europe. This is an art mastered by the likes of Udinese, Fiorentina, Roma and Genoa. Milan are new to this battle, and will take time to settle. But would it dwindle from a battle for Europe to mid-table combat?

Scorers -
Udinese - Di Natale 22'
Milan - /

Sunday, September 20, 2009

seedorf the saviour

Clarence Seedorf

Milan 1 Bologna 0
To be frank, it did look like we were continuing our impressive record of not scoring at home. San Siro was clearly losing its edge. It doesn't seem to be an affectation that is concerning us alone, but Inter also seem to be afflicted with this situation. However, it was a very different Milan side this, that turned up on Sunday. After Marseille, there was a renewed sense of belief that we could push teams and pull out results that could startle people. And might I add, startle people positively.

Milan haven't attacked in this manner for a very long time. On the contrary, we have been at the receiving end of the battering more often than not. But for a change, we were holding the game firmly in our hands and dictating play. Abate, in his new role was very impressive. This however is a dangerous position he finds himself in, because if he isn't careful, he could be easily typecast into a fullback. And I surely wouldn't like it. Abate is most effective in attack, and defensively he is ok as he puts in a lot of effort in games. But we need a well established fullback and this (Abate) can be a temporary option, only. Storari joined the thousands of spectators, as he dint have to do anything much until late on in the game, where he had to be alert to pull out a good save from Mingazzini. Nesta is back! That is what the papers say, several other reports seem to concur. I don't. Its still very early, and the quality of opposition he has faced so far isn't a decisive measure. I am not saying he dint play well. He had a sound game, a very sound game. But, it was after all Bologna. Favalli and Kaladze were high risk low return resources. And thankfully, they turned out just fine. Pirlo and Ambrosini too strutted around contributing in their own little way. Actually, Ambrosini's assist led to Seedorf's goal. The Dutchman is continuing his rise to form, and I am certainly enjoying it. This is atleast keeping Ronnie out of the team, which is definitely a good thing. Gattuso's horrendous miss in front of goal, and his indifferent performance vests in me an emotion I would like to call anger. Gattuso is finished, and he is bringing nothing new to the table. His challenges are more like vendetta moves, he loses the plot often in the game, and he continues to disgrace himself and the jersey he wears by the unproductive football he plays. Flamini's earnest performances should displace the Italian, but Leo wants to rotate the squad to keep the players happy. Fair enough. But not for too long, I hope. Huntelaar has been very disappointing. His impotency continues to be amply demonstrated in every game. Lets give him time? Ok. Lets give him some more time. Pato drifted in and out of the game. He did hit the post, but the fluctuation in his game-play is becoming a sort of trademark. Inzaghi's introduction changed our latency in attack. He was a live-wire this warrior. He hit the post, tested Viviano from short range and continued to prick the Rossoblu defense. He is a star, Inzaghi. And he isn't as useless as Huntelaar. In other words, he is more useful. Inzaghi is the kind of striker who will create something from nothing. Huntelaar needs to be fed, and even then, there is no guarantee.

If I am happy, it is because of the result, and arguably the performance even. But I am disappointed with the scoreline. Juventus disposed Livorno with ease at the weekend. Champion teams do that. Yes, we are a far cry from that at the moment. But atleast we are notching up points on the board. This win would relieve Leo, only for now though. Udinese in midweek, and Fruili isn't a very forgiving place. Yes, the Zebrette aren't the same side from two-three seasons ago. But they still have the bite. And it could be vicious, putting us back into a state of misery. I only hope that doesn't happen. That we stop relying on the Champions League music to spur us on and for Seedorf to bail us out repeatedly. Its time the strikers stepped up to the challenge. It is up for grabs.

Scorers -
Milan - Seedorf 75'
Bologna - /

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

a sound start

Fillipo Inzaghi

Marseille 1 Milan 2

No one expected us to walk out of this game with 3 points on the table. This club might have lost all of its glory, class and quality. But it refrains from losing its unpredictability. Stade Valedrome is actually a haunted ground, one of the few for any visiting team in Europe. It is a recognized fact that beating Marseille here needs more than just the right skill and quality. We dint have enough skill or quality in the squad, but we did have a certain Pippo Inzaghi.

Not many know this Italian, and its sad for a legend like him to be known for his killer instinct, only amongst a few educated circles. But there is barely anyone who can slot goals from chances that most strikers would scuff. Poachers are hard to come by these days but Inzaghi is the rarest of the species. Milan barely had two chances, Inzaghi took both of them with tremendous expertise. The second one especially was a gem of a goal. It would make any striker on the planet happy. Another player who has been playing very well recently, and that includes this game is Clarence Seedorf. A lot of fans (including me) wanted his head last season for several indifferent performances. But the veteran midfielder still has a lot to say(and this time, its not just literally). Even against Marseille, he chipped in a wonderful performance. He was Milan's liveliest player, and assisted Inzaghi on both the occasions. Our wingbacks, awful as they are, surprisingly put in decent performances. Our centre back partnership is confidently winning us games. The duo of Nesta-Silva, with their no nonsense defending, restricted the likes of Niang, Cheyrou and Lucho to long distance shots. Storari put in some top class saves to keep the scoreline respectable, that always gave us the odd fighting chance.

Our midfielders were forever combative. Even though it was a physical mess this game, we were always up to the task. Marseille decided the way to beat us would be to over power us, and they managed to do that to Pirlo and Pato who had a fairly unproductive night. But our solidarity in defensive duties was a bit too much for the French side to break down. Deschamps would have done his homework, but the approach of his team reflected a very different attitude. They played with the impression that they would walk all over Milan. But sadly for them, it worked in our favor. This underdog tag, no matter how painful it is for us to carry, brings its share of advantages to the table. And considering we have Madrid in a month's time, we will gladly take it. Zurich is up next, but before that, a must-win game against Bologna awaits us. Its at home, and 3 points are desperately needed. This win should lift several deflated hearts in the dressing room. And when we return home, should spur us onto several more gritty victories.

Goal scorers -
Marseille - Hienze 49'
Milan - Inzaghi 28', 75'

Sunday, September 13, 2009

euro trip

15.09.09 - Marseille vs Milan
30.09.09 - Milan vs Zurich
21.10.09 - Madrid vs Milan
3.11.09 - Milan vs Madrid
25.11.09 - Milan vs Marseille
8.12.09 - Zurich vs Milan

Goalkeepers / portieri: Nelson Dida, Christian Abbiati, Marco Storari, Flavio Roma.

/ difensori: Kakha Kaladze, Oguchi Onyewu, Alessandro Nesta, Gianluca Zambrotta, Marek Jankulovski, Thiago Silva, Massimo Oddo, Luca Antonini.

/ centrocampisti: Gennaro Gattuso, Clarence Seedorf, Mathieu Flamini, Ignazio Abate, Andrea Pirlo, Massimo Ambrosini.

Strikers / attacanti: Alexandre Pato, Filippo Inzaghi, Klaas Jan Huntelaar, Marco Borriello, Di Gennaro, Ronaldinho.

Hmm, well. Here it is. This squad can give any educated fan nightmares. Oh, I forgot to mention; any educated Milan fan nightmares. Our squad is paper thin, and MilanLabs is no longer as good as it used to be. Into November, and the players available to Leo (or Juande Ramos) would be a fraction of what is on paper currently. Lets look at the games, important ones during this period. One glance at the fixture list, and I reckon we might not have to stretch until Madrid sends us the invitation. We have Roma on the weekend before the galactic game. And boy, would it be interesting to note how intense our mid-table struggle would be at that point of time. Its likely that either/both of these games would be a 'whipping boys' experience for us. And by no means am I implying that we will hold the whip. But after which, the games preceding the big European games, are simple ones, - games that we don't need to fear losing, I mean. The crucial game would be the last one against Zurich. That would be in the beginning of December, as I have already mentioned. By then, we would have had faced Madrid 2 times and Marseille twice as well, if you include the potential negative result we are going to have in two days time. I don't see us beating Madrid in either of the games, also considering Marseille aren't the easiest of nut to crack, the Zurich game would be an important one to decide the 2nd slot of the group. Fingers crossed, here is hoping that we have a reasonably strong squad until then, and no crucial injuries, or mental collapses like Gattuso's take place.

silence of the lambs

Andrea Pirlo

Livorno 0 AC Milan 0
I know, its been a while since I have come in here. Dint know what to blog about, if you ask me. This club's conditions are depreciating faster than the state of human rights in Palestine. Anyway, after the tormenting international break, club football resumed. Milan had decided it was time to silence the critics with their performance. On hindsight, it all seems so funny.

This was supposed to be the game where the team and the coach were going to vindicate themselves after the drubbing at the hands of Inter some 2 weeks ago. However, it was going to be a reality bite and not a fairy tale as the men from Milan would have expected. To start things on the wrong foot, Leo decided to bench our most influential player, Pirlo. The no. 21 was reborn for the Azzuri over the last couple of games, and benching him in the game of exculpation dint make the least bit of sense to me. The result was visible for all to see. The midfield was as dead as a block of wood, and was static as well. Lack of creativity was so blatant, that it started to pierce my eye. Livorno strikers were getting the better of our defense, but lacked the finishing touch. Flamini's effort from distance was praiseworthy. Our forwards were on sleep mode. I find it astonishing that the set-piece from Seedorf wasn't punished by our strikers. Huntelaar-Pato partnership was something I was looking forward to, but if yesterday's game is anything to go by, then testing times are ahead for the optimist. They looked completely out of sync, and lacked any sort of understanding. As I mentioned before, with Pirlo out of the team, the team looked savage and disjointed. Flair and spark were clearly absent. Huntelaar wanted a start, and finally got it, but I am sure, he wouldn't have wanted it to be against Livorno if he knew how woeful he was going to play. Storari came up with some top class saves to keep the scores level. Milan still felt that direct football was the way to go, and despite no returns, they continued with the same tactic. It was one of those off occasions when Seedorf's long ball found Pato, but his finish was obstructed by De Lucia.

After the break, Pirlo and Inzaghi replaced Ronaldinho and Hunter. R80 was anonymous for the second game in succession, and call me a sadist, but I'm loving it. I was glad to see the switch, a move I would have endorsed if I was Tassotti. Pippo's rusty finishing was at its best, after Pato's mesmerizing run following a lovely interception, which goes onto indicate that Inzaghi isn't the man to rely on for the constant banging in of the goals. ACM did look the better team in the second half, but there wasn't clear domination in terms of possession. Abate then replaced Flamini, but it was surely too little too late. We did control the tempo but Livorno gladly soaked up the pressure. Towards the end, we did manage to keep the ball, but there was no sense of urgency in our game. We kept knocking the ball around, waiting for the final whistle.

Marseille in the Champions League in midweek up next. I apologize for not having updated the post on Europe. I shall soon. However, the scenario isn't promising. Our coach is not an ambitious man, and I don't need double digit games to ascertain that. With someone like Leo at the helm, we will be calling for help. Like we are at the moment. We don't have a 'Kaka' to rescue us this time in Europe, so God bless us, as well as America.

Goal Scorers -
Livorno - /
Milan - /