Bovo 9, Hernández 18, Miccoli 69
A trip to la Favorita is always a difficult task given the fortress that it represents for the Rosanero, so it seems appropriate that Sicily was the setting in which the kiss of death was applied to the Rossoneri’s challenge for top spot.
In an otherwise even game, Milan will point to errors in the opening 20 minutes which gave a two-goal start to a side who would always represent a tough proposition. Cesare Bovo does not score many, and was grateful for being granted the freedom of the island to apply a cool finish having been left unmarked from a corner. Then it was Massimo Oddo’s turn to make a charitable donation to the Rosanero cause. He dallied on the ball and a delightful Abel Hernández-Fabrizio Miccoli one-two resulted in a clinical low shot past Dida for the promising Uruguayan’s sixth goal of the campaign. For much of the rest of the game, the Rossoneri would be the better side, but the same old problems would mean that the threat of a comeback would not materialise. Swathes of possession were characterised by a lack of energy and urgency which did not fit the situation of the match or its importance in Milan’s season. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar produced a neat turn but shot straight at Salvatore Sirigu and Pirlo capped some neat build-up by playing Gianluca Zambrotta in down the right but the ball was scrambled clear. Their 4-3-1-2 formation resulted in narrow football once again and they badly missed Marco Borriello’s presence as a trademark No.9. Statistically they are an ageing team and at the risk of sounding cruel, their problem has been that too often they have played like one.
The early part of the second-half saw a 10 minute period which resembled the second-half of the first stanza and then out of nothing, a goal. Ronaldinho is an enigma who goes missing in games with disturbing frequency and sometimes appears to have an antipathy to hard work. However, his contributions add value and this is part of what makes the Brazilian the enigma he is. Fed by Pirlo, his through ball was perfectly weighted for the onrushing Clarence Seedorf. This writer noted it was the first time a red and black shirt had come from midfield and past the front players and Seedorf, the one Rossoneri midfielder inclined to do this, scored as a result. The tension was building as Palermo had probably scored their goals too early and settled into counter-punching mode as a result. Thankfully for the Rosanero, their nerves were settled as they found a shot that knocked their opponents spark out. Oddo gave Miccoli too much room, and stories that start with that sentence rarely have a happy ending. The diminutive frontman turned and curled an exquisite shot into the top corner of the goal. Edison Cavani had chances to score a fourth and Filippo Inzaghi had the ball in the net but was predictably ruled offside. Like many Rossoneri players, his best days are long behind him and he appears to have finally crossed the pugilistic threshold between ‘journeyman’ and ‘shot’.
Very rarely have Milan given the sense that they are Scudetto material this season and the truth is that a clear-out and some new, younger players are required to mount any sort of serious challenge next time. Too many of their roster are on the downward curve and may feel they have nothing left to prove. Tonight, injuries forced them to put four youngsters on the bench and maybe the last three games of the season are an opportunity to expose them to first-team football. After all, new personnel may cost money which the club simply does not have. Palermo, without playing especially well, was the more energetic and vibrant side and this was ultimately the difference between the Rosanero and the Rossoneri. While the former march on towards Champions League qualification, Leonardo and co. have much to ponder this summer.