AC Milan vs. Lazio: Winners from Serie A Clash

Anthony LopopoloFeatured ColumnistAugust 31, 2014

AC Milan vs. Lazio: Winners from Serie A Clash

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    Luca Bruno/Associated Press

    It is only one game, but what a boost of confidence. AC Milan held on to beat Lazio 3-1 in their home opener, and Fernando Torres was watching from the stands.

    Silvio Berlusconi was there, too, and so was new Italy manager Antonio Conte, but this was Pippo Inzaghi's night. The 41-year-old was making his Serie A debut as coach of the team he has come to love. The ultras behind the goal chanted his name, as if he was playing. The fans—the few thousand that were there—got right behind him.

    Banners for Pippo Inzaghi during Milan-Lazio: #MilanLazio #SerieA #ForzaSuperPippo pic.twitter.com/ThkuGcP2ME

    — AC Milan News (@Milanello) August 31, 2014

    Season ticket sales have hit record lows, and it is Inzaghi's goal to bring the supporters back en masse.

    Inzaghi also said after the match that "we could be a surprise," via Sky Sport Italia (h/t Football Italia). On Sunday, they were. Milan played with pace, and their moves were slick. They conceded an own goal—Alex directed the ball past fellow debutant Diego Lopez—but the rest worked out.

    Let's look at the winners of this fixture.

Pippo Inzaghi Is Inspiring the Group

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    Luca Bruno/Associated Press

    After Sulley Muntari scored Milan's second goal, the players called over their coach, and he ran over. They all huddled in a big circle, grabbing each other by the neck.

    "Inzaghi is like one of the group," said Ignazio Abate to Sky Sport Italia (h/t Football Italia), who provided the assist on the goal, "and I think this season we can achieve great things together. He really fired us up and I think the Milan DNA has returned.”

    Even on the sideline, Inzaghi was active. He pointed this way and that, shouted at his players and looked like he was sweating. Inzaghi was wearing a suit, but he easily could have been wearing a uniform. He hasn't lost his passion as a coach.

Stephan El Shaarawy Is Finding His Feet

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    Luca Bruno/Associated Press

    Just seven minutes into the match, Stephan El Shaarawy picked up the ball and dashed up the left flank. He pushed the ball over to Keisuke Honda for the opening goal, and it was a sign of what may come. Milan need Honda and El Shaarawy to lead this team, and they look up to that task.

    But El Shaarawy has to be careful. Teams now identify the 21-year-old winger as a primary source of trouble, and early on, Lazio tripped him up and fouled him. They could not keep up with his pace. And boy, was he quick with the ball and on his feet.

    El Shaarawy's skills vs. Lazio: https://t.co/iGhJqV69HM #ForzaFaraone @OfficialEl92

    — AC Milan News (@Milanello) August 31, 2014

    El Shaarawy looks comfortable playing without Mario Balotelli.

Keisuke Honda with a Mission

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    Luca Bruno/Associated Press

    Honda is convinced that he can do better, via ACMilan.com, but he had one of his best games in red and black on Sunday.

    Honda was running and finding space all game. He looked like a totally different player.

    Last season, the 28-year-old could barely keep up with the pace of the match. Sunday, he was darting all over the place, and he was quick enough to stay with El Shaarawy and receive his pass in the box to score the opening goal.

    Honda also dug in, tackled and won the ball. He was playing with real spirit—perhaps the same kind of spirit Inzaghi had as a player.

    "The coach told me that I had to work hard and be professional," Honda said after the match. "The coach teaches me lots of tricks in how to play as an attacker."

Diego Lopez Offers Peace of Mind at the Back

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    Luca Bruno/Associated Press

    Diego Lopez was also making his first Serie A appearance, and he saved his first penalty as a Milan player. He also parried away a couple of good chances from Lazio, and despite allowing an own goal, Lopez was largely a solid presence. 

    Diego Lopez saves the penalty. Great keeper and he will probably give Milan at least 10 more points this season

    — Siavoush Fallahi (@SiavoushF) August 31, 2014

    Inzaghi told the Milan Channel (h/t ACMilan.com) that back-up goalkeeper Christian Abbiati made a motivational speech before the game: "It moved me and I am really happy to have him with us," Inzaghi said. Abbiati was not so consistent last season in goal, but now, he doesn't have to be. He is part of the group in a different way.

    Lopez is now there, and he looks like one of the best in Serie A.