Milan continued to build on their recent form and put on a good show to hold on to 2-1 victory against Lazio in Rome.
Coach Leonardo opted to elect a 4-3-3 with Marco Borriello as centre forward, supported by Alexandre Pato and Ronaldinho, whereas Tommaso Rocchi and Mauro Zarate started in attack for Lazio. The Biancocelesti threatened in the very first minute as Rocchi managed to get behind Milan’s defensive line and latched onto a pass only to fire it wide. The game was evenly balanced until 20 minutes with Milan not making much of their share of possession and Zarate’s runs causing problems for them. The deadlock was broken one minute later as the Rossoneri won a free kick. Andrea Pirlo whipped in a curling free kick to find Silva who headed the ball into the net.
Zarate was causing all sorts of problems as Alessandro Nesta hacked down the electric forward on 29th minute, earning a yellow on the process. On 34th minute, Ronaldinho produced a cross in the box from left hand side to find his compatriot Pato. The diminutive striker headed down the ball to score his fifth league goal of the season. The disappointment in the crowd was evident as the Lazio players were jeered at the stroke of half time.
Coach Davide Ballardini brought on Julio Cruz after the break in attempt to turn the result. This change seemed to have effect as the Eagles continued to press hard on the Milan goal. Their efforts produced results as in the 63rd minute Zarate produced another of his trademark runs followed by a shot which was deflected by Silva in the back of the net. Minutes later, he tested Dida again with a fierce shot from outside the box. Milan had their chances to seal the match with substitute Mathieu Flamini testing goalkeeper Fernando Muslera with a tremendous volley from 30 yards out.
Coach Leonardo: “When we push up and attack our opponents, then we are a great squad. The opposite and we struggle badly. We will continue to follow the path of humility, taking the example of Pippo Inzaghi and Mathieu Flamini, who came off the bench today and immediately made an impact.”
The two teams went into the match with highly contrasting forms. Milan have been unbeaten since the disastrous 0-1 loss to FC Zurich at home. Lazio had not won in nine league games prior to this game. The record books did not help either as the Roman side have not been able to beat Milan in a league game for the last 11 seasons. So, it was no surprise as Milan came out as winners. Sampdoria’s shock 0-2 defeat to Cagliari meant that the Rossoneri have now climbed to third place in the league table which is beginning to assume a familiar shape.
Zarate showed exactly why he is one of the hottest properties in Italy. His dazzling runs, cutting inside defenders and powerful shots constantly threatened the Milan defence. However, more often than not, a one-man show is not good enough to win matches in football. Zarate was not helped by poor defending, impotent attacking partners, lack of support from midfield and an unforgiving crowd. Coach Ballardini’s position at Lazio hangs by a thread. Rumors are strife that Zdenek Zeman is the man to replace him on the bench. The Czech-Italian coach has already guided the Biancocelesti between 1994 and 1997. After this game, Lazio have slipped down to 16th place – only two points above the relegation zone. Due to the volatility of a Coach’s job in the Italian Leauge, Ballardini has precious few games to improve upon Lazio’s current position before he is fired.
Lazio has already issued a press silence and Ritiro – something which is a characteristic of Calcio so no post-match comments were available from Ballardini or any of the players as all of them left immediately after the game. Due to the upcoming international break, The Eagles will have two weeks to prepare before facing a tough fixture against Napoli. Director Igli Tare had already approved the ritiro last week. The team will retreat to a training ground in Norcia, Umbria to train in tranquility. It will be interesting to see how this move affects the fortunes of Lazio.
There is joy in the Milan camp after a well-deserved victory in which they had a very good first half. It is not a coincidence that the Rossoneri’s recent string of good results is accompanied by Ronaldinho’s resurgence in form. The Brazilian playmaker showed us that he can still run at defenders and produce his famous “flip flap”. Borriello, who scored a brace against Parma last week, was hugely disappointing today as he wasted a number of chances in front of goal. Nesta, who is back to his best, has forged a solid defensive partnership with Silva. Leonardo has already started believing that he can coach Milan to Scudetto. But at the same time, he also identified that inconsistency is still a problem and that they need to work on that. The last international break helped Milan pull themselves together after a woeful start to the season, hence Leonardo is looking forward to the upcoming one.
Lazio 1-2 Milan – Thiago Silva og 64 – Thiago Silva 21, Pato 35
Lazio (4-3-1-2): Muslera – Lichtsteiner, Siviglia (Cribari 72), Radu, Kolarov – Brocchi, Baronio (Meghni 62), Mauri (Cruz 46) – Matuzalem – Rocchi, Zarate
Milan (4-3-3): Dida – Oddo, Nesta, Thiago Silva, Zambrotta – Ambrosini, Pirlo, Seedorf (Flamini 81) – Pato, Borriello (Inzaghi 74), Ronaldinho (Abate 87)
Lazio – Milan
10 – Corners – 5
14 (10) – Shots (on target) – 6 (4)
22 – Fouls – 18
2 (0) – Yellow cards (Red) – 2 (0)
2 – Offside – 1