AC MILAN 1
In stark comparison to their spectacular encounter against Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico midweek, Milan gained a victory of attrition at home to Genoa on Saturday evening. Man of the moment Zlatan Ibrahimovic, was the difference between the two sides. The Swedish international’s clinical finish mid-way through the second half saw the Rossoneri claim all three points despite a less than convincing performance.
Despite Massimiliano Allegri’s failure to find a solution to Milan’s sluggishness in the early part of the new season, he can thank Ibrahimovic for keeping the Rossoneri in the hunt for the Scudetto. Throughout the 90 minutes the Swedish international was a threat to the Genoa defence and when all else failed, Milan looked to their number 11 to break down a stubborn Grifoni defence.
In the opening exchanges both sides probed each other’s defences with patient build-up, no attacks reaching fruition. Robinho slashed a shot wide that never really threatened Eduardo’s goal as neither side created anything substantial.
Genoa were impressive in possession yet lacked a real threat up front as Alessandro Nesta and Thiago Silva comfortably dealt with Luca Toni, who appeared to be off the pace. With the ball failing to be held around Milan’s penalty area by Toni, Giandomenico Mesto’s usual tricky movement off the ball was nullified as the Italian had to come deeper to receive the ball.
In contrast Ibrahimovic was holding the ball up well but received little support from the two support strikers that flanked him in the attacking trident devised by Allegri. Both Ronaldinho and Robinho were static and offered very little in behind for Ibrahimovic to find. Only when Gennaro Gattuso burst forward and exchanged a one-two with Ronaldinho, before a weak finish, did Milan threaten to get in behind the solid central defensive pairing of Dario Dainelli and Andrea Ranocchia.
As both sides’ momentum fizzled out as half-time approached, Genoa almost shocked the hosts. Christian Abbiati failed to punch the ball clear and the cross from Rodrigo Palacio was over-hit towards the back post before bouncing off the crossbar.
Just after the restart Milan broke the deadlock in typical fashion. Andrea Pirlo was operating as the pivot in the Diavoli’s formation, and when little opportunity arrived to play it short the Italian international dropped a looping pass over the top. Ibrahimovic reached the pass first before outmuscling the Genoa defenders and toe-poking the ball over the onrushing Eduardo who could only get finger tips to the shot.
Suddenly the pressure was lifted and Milan began to express themselves; Ronaldinho curled a delightful effort from outside the area that had Portuguese international Eduardo scrambling back towards goal.
With the clock running down, Genoa rarely gambled by committing men forward. But when they did, Milan counter-attacked with the lively Robinho. The Brazilian star saw his effort cleared off the line by Domenico Criscito late on after exchanging passes with substitute Clarence Seedorf.
Milan held on for the crucial win that gains three vital points over arch-rivals Inter who tumbled away to Roma later in the evening. Slowly Allegri is putting Milan in a position to challenge on all fronts, with Ibrahimovic evidently integral to any potential success.
67- 16 Flamini on for 8 Gattuso
71- 10 Seedorf on for 80 Ronaldinho