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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