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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