Milan continued its impressive week with a stunning victory against a Real Madrid side missing Cristiano Ronaldo, yet spearheaded by the likes of Raúl and former tifosi idol Kaká. While the result is quite impressive, the performance left a lot to be desired in terms of defensive lapses. Both Brazilian goalkeeper Dida and full-back Gianluca Zambrotta could have cost il Diavolo precious points with a comical error and a rash challenge respectively.
The Rossoneri look much less assured with the Brazilian goalkeeper between the sticks. Dida later performed a number of fine saves, but that does not excuse his horrendous error which allowed Raúl to slot home the opener. At this level, mistakes cannot be tolerated and especially if they are frequently made as is the case with the Brazilian custodian. As for Zambrotta, he was lucky to escape a yellow card and a penalty when he scythed down Frenchman Karim Benzema inside the penalty area. Zambrotta’s legs no longer allow him to go on his marauding runs and he is having fits handling wingers and forwards coming fast at him as he performs his defensive duties. The refereeing had a good game, except for Zambrotta’s call which went in Milan’s favour and then late on when he inexplicably disallowed a valid Milan goal following a corner kick. The goal should have stood and had Brazilian Alexandre Pato not scored moments later, then Milan would have been unjustifiably robbed of a famous road victory.
Milan capitalised on the apparent defensive frailties displayed by los Galácticos in the second-half. Surprisingly, even the form of Iker Casillas was below par with his terrible mistake leading to Pato’s first goal (and Milan’s second), and he did not seem confident throughout the encounter. Milan’s Alessandro Nesta was a key figure in defence and the Italian supporters must be sad about the central defender’s affirmation that he will not return to la Nazionale. Players of Nesta’s caliber grace the football fields once in a generation and the Azzurri have had only two outstanding centre-backs in the past decade, Nesta and Fabio Cannavaro (the exception being, of course, the legendary Paolo Maldini, who started-off as a full-back before converting in the twilight of his career to the less demanding centre-back position). Nesta and Pato have been carrying the Rossoneri in recent games, while Brazilian Ronaldinho’s displays continue to hover between the acceptable and the mediocre. The former Barcelona forward did not impress against los Blancos yet his recent performances have been visibly better when compared to previous months. Coach Leonardo will be relying heavily on Nesta and Pato, as well as Clarence Seedorf in order to re-launch Milan’s season as Ronaldinho continues to struggle to find his form.
Another player who has been inconsistent this season is Italy midfielder Andrea Pirlo, who despite his great equalising strike, is still way short of his best. The ingredients are there for the team to pose danger to opponents yet it is looking increasingly like the squad will need solid performances from the aforementioned players in order to achieve results in order to help the squad cover the deficiencies, particularly in both full-back positions. If Dida continues to play then expect Milan to drop needless points. While the presence of a healthy Gianluigi Buffon guarantees extra points for Juventus, the participation of Dida implies uncertainty and moments of ridicule for the Rossoneri back-line. Without being too pessimistic following the valuable victory in Madrid, a warning ought to be served that the triumph in Madrid and beating Roma have not solved any of Milan’s problems. Those wins have only delayed the inevitable by disguising the squad’s glaring weaknesses.
Il Diavolo will have two winnable away tests against Chievo and Napoli but the odds are on Milan either grinding out results or stuttering to lose some valuable points in the race to qualify for next season’s Champions League. Those who believe that beating Real Madrid is a turning point are mistaken and only need to look back at the Bianconeri’s season after defeating Madrid twice last season. The Old Lady was able to string a number of positive results following the victory in Madrid before stuttering to barely make second place in the league.
Milan Club Focus 2009/10
Pre-season expectation – August 18, 2009
Leonardo breathes as Brazilians relieve pressure – August 25, 2009
Kaka returns to the San Siro – August 27, 2009
How to play 4-3-1-2, a lesson from their rivals – September 1, 2009
Reshuffle the current squad, regain the winning mentality – September 4, 2009
International week (Georgia-Italy, Italy-Bulgaria)
Leonardo’s time to react – September 7, 2009
Livorno springs opportunity to end crisis – September 11, 2009
Serie A slides down priority list – September 15, 2009
Leonardo lurches into decision-making territory – September 18, 2009
Off the pitch rumours continue to swirl – September 22, 2009
Old legs cannot win forever, will Berlusconi follow in Della Valle’s footsteps? – September 25, 2009
A powerhouse that no longer strikes fear – September 29, 2009
Time is running out to save il Diavolo’s season – October 2, 2009
A draw as bitter as a defeat – October 6, 2009
The club is not for sale – October 9, 2009
International week (Republic of Ireland-Italy, Italy-Cyprus)
In search of strikers and defenders – October 13, 2009
Berlusconi reiterates he will not sell as the Rossoneri prepare for Roma – October 16, 2009
Brazilian duo see off Roma – October 20, 2009
Rossoneri record famous win in Madrid – October 23, 2009