AC Milan vs. Parma: 5 Things We Learned
A 2-1 win for AC Milan over Parma means they are now tied for third place in the Serie A standings for the first time this season. Despite playing a poor first half full of sloppy errors and tactical disorganization, the Rossoneri took all three points through a fabulous Mario Balotelli free kick and an own goal from Parma defender/lumberjack, Gabriel Paletta.
Enough with the recap, let's look at five things we learned in this pivotal Serie A match.
Milan Remains El Shaarawy Dependent
The young phenom, most famously known as Il Faraone, has started every game he has played for Milan this season in Serie A. Netting 15 goals domestically, Stephan El Shaarawy has saved Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri more times than he has plucked his eyebrows this season.
Today, he nursed a late injury and had to be taken out of the starting lineup—this may keep him fresh for the pivotal Champions League first leg affair against Barcelona next week.
His absence was sorely missed against Parma, as Kevin Prince Boateng did his best impersonation of how not to play the No. 10 trequartista role. What El Shaarawy does off the score sheet doesn't get enough recognition, as he often tracks back as much as a defender to break up opposing play.
Mario Balotelli Decides Matches
As if we even needed this game to teach us such a thing.
Anyone who has followed the highly polarizing Super Mario through his tumultuous career knows what he's capable of when everything goes his way. All he needed was a little love from the coach, the fans and to return to a place where he feels comfortable.
A fantastic curling effort from the free kick spot means Balotelli now has four goals in three Serie A matches with Milan. He has shown that he can single-handedly change the course of a game with his inventions in shooting as well as creating for teammates.
Milan's Lack of Depth at Center Back Will See Them Struggle All Season
Paging coach Allegri:
"Who are Milan's two best defenders?"
In what has been a revolving door at the back all season long—a constant juggle of the mediocre—Milan went with the Colombian pair of Cristian Zapata and Mario Yepes. However, should the latter really be considered a backup at Milan?
Philippe Mexes is a red card threat any time he steps foot on the pitch, and some would vouch that the South American partnership seen today would be the best to face the rabid Barcelona attack.
Unfortunately, none have really established themselves as the clear starters—one poor performance from either Mexes or Zapata will mean the entry of new signing Cristian Zaccardo.
Nicola Sansone Has a Future with the Italian National Team
The 21-year-old Parma striker, Nicola Sansone, has been impressing ever since joining Parma from second-division side Crotone last summer.
Born in Germany and bred through the Bayern Munich youth system, the tricky striker has been causing havoc for opposing defenders all season long, scoring against top-tier opponents and even giving Milan fans a brief heart palpitation today with his goal in the dying seconds.
Despite his age, he has caught the eye of Italian national team coach Cesare Prandelli, and he will see stiff competition from a new, strong attacking core of Italians.
Balotelli Has a Bullseye on His Forehead
Unfortunately, opposing defenders know very well about Balotelli's documented short fuse, which has seen him become a tabloid icon both in Italy and England.
Parma defenders Andrea Coda and Gabriel Paletta did everything to get a reaction out of Super Mario. Visibly frustrated, the Milan hitman nearly exploded after Coda's rough play caused an open gash across his cheek. That same player went on to deliver a full-blooded elbow right into Mario's spine on an aerial challenge.
The time bomb inside Balotelli's head is ticking, and it'll take a Yeoman's effort from him to remain calm all season.