AC Milan started their Serie A campaign on a winning note, beating Siena 2-1 at the Artemio Franchi stadium. Brazilian superstar Pato scored both the goals for Milan.
Heading into this season opener, there were many doubts about the Rossoneri and their performance this season. Having lost a couple of key players this summer, Milan had a terrible preseason where they not only lost a majority of games, but also experienced a drought of goals and creativity.
But coach Leonardo Nascimento de Araujo remained optimistic about his team's chances and it seems like the team has responded.
Leonardo started with Marco Storari in the goal, and had Alessandro Nesta and young Thiago Silva in the center of defense, with Gianluco Zambrotta and Marek Jankulovski as the fullbacks.
As expected, the team played a 4-3-1-2 formation, with Mathieu Flamini, Andrea Pirlo and Ivan Gennaro Gattuso in the midfield with Ronaldinho playing just behind Pato and Marco Boriello.
Star signing Klaas-Jan Huntelaar was suspended for this game, as he had received a red card on the final day of last season.
Siena, always a tough test for Milan, started with Gianluca Curci in the goal and Massimo Maccarone and Abdelkader Ghezzal up front.
After the first few apprehensive moments, both teams started to get into their own.
The Siena defense was alert and whenever the Rossoneri tried to make a quick move into the final third, they caught them offside.
In the 10th minute, Pato's volley was kept out effectively but Milan started to mount some pressure with the set pieces. More than once, Pirlo's free kicks were launched into the area without any Milan player getting on the end of it.
At the other end, Storari had to make his first save of the night as he blocked Ghezzal's effort. Storari was kept busy all night by the Siena front two.
The deadlock finally ended in the 29th minute, when Pato got to a Ronaldinho pass and scored.
But the joy was short-lived for Milan, as Lukas Jarolim took a shot from a distance, which Storari could only manage to block, but Ghezzal got to the rebound first and equalized for Siena in the 34th minute.
Milan then tried hard to regain an advantage before halftime, but couldn't do so.
Whatever talk coach Leonardo had during halftime worked, as Milan came out of the blocks firing. They directly launched an attack on Siena.
It was Ronaldinho again who created room for himself in the congested midfield and passed the ball on to Flamini who sent in a cross to the far post from where Pato scored his second of the night, making it 2-1 in Milan's favor in the 48th minute. Siena had to play catch-up for the rest of the game.
Around the hour mark, Milan substituted Gattuso with Massimo Ambrosini. Gattuso who had recently recovered from injury, made his 400th appearance for Milan in today's match.
Though Boriello had a quiet night, Pato and Ronaldinho remained a constant threat to Siena all the time. Ronaldino looked more energetic and his passing was more fluent tonight.
Around the 75 minute mark, a curling free-kick from Ronaldinho looked menacing but was kept out. Having cleared the danger from the corner kick, Siena stepped up the momentum and for the remainder of the game scurried hard for the equaliser.
Storari made two crucial saves, one from Daniele Ficagna and then an amazing diving save to deny Maccarone in the 81st minute.
Ronaldinho was at it again, as his long-range effort hit the wrong side of the net in the 88th minute. In the very next minute he created a great opportunity for Boriello who could have put the game out of the reach of Siena, but he failed to capitalize on it.
After playing two minutes of stoppage time, the ref finally blew his whistle and the game ended 2-1 in favor of AC Milan.
This victory will be very important for AC Milan. Not only will it mark a victorious entry into this season's campaign, but will also serve as an influx of positivity and self-belief, which is vital for the team.
Leonardo should be pleased by the performance of Storari in the goal, while Ronaldinho's form is a welcome sign as well. Pato's hunger for goals should alarm rest of the teams in the Serie A. And add to that Huntelaar, who will debut in the Italian league with his next game, Milan look to be a real force to be reckoned with.
In seven days time, Milan will face bitter city rivals Inter Milan. This game is less of a football game and more of a war, wherein the great city of Milan gets sharply divided into two parts, the Rossoneri and the Nerrazzuri.
That will be a tough test for the men in red and black, but for tonight, Milan can celebrate their win.
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