After making sensational comebacks against Roma, Real Madrid and Chievo, Milan need to mentally bounce back from blowing a 2 goal lead in extra time to Napoli. They better shake the memory quickly, as the battle with 4th place Parma is looming this weekend.
Let’s first examine the game with Napoli.
Milan scored two goals in the first 10 minutes of the match. Both goals came with Milan exploiting Napoli’s use of a high back line. Pippo Inzaghi’s opener came when Clarence Seedorf playing him through with a ball over the top. Alexandre Pato then opened the margin with a well-taken goal after Inzaghi flicked a header over the line to put him in the clear.
With Milan up 2-0, Napoli proceeded to control the rest of the 1st half and probably should have drawn a goal back. Luckily for Milan, their goalkeeper, Nelson Dida, played an immense role in keeping the clean sheet.
Early in the 2nd half, Napoli had 2 glorious pushes to goal, both of which were thwarted by Dida. The second flurry involved no less than 4 shots, two of which were from point blank.
The remainder of the 2nd half was largely controlled by Milan with Super Pippo narrowly missing a chance to go up 3-0 after rounding the goalie. Conversely, none of Napoli’s attempts to flop in the box drew any attention from the ref, much to the anger of the crowd at the Stadio San Paolo.
Ignazio Abate did his best to put his team in the hole by taking his second yellow card in the 85th minute. It was particularly foolish since his first yellow came early in the game for arguing a fairly innocuous foul.
Playing a man up, Napoli surged forward and scored on a Luca Cigarini thump from outside the box in the 90th minute. The Partonepei equalized on a German Denis header in the 93rd that left Dida flat-footed.
Ronaldinho again looked completely ineffective on the left wing, all too often giving the ball away. Thiago Silva was fantastic as an on-the-ball defender but looked clumsy tracking the opposition away from the ball. Pato was again Milan’s most dangerous player, drawing 3 or 4 tactical fouls throughout the match.
In the end, Milan gained their lead with goals less than a few minutes apart, and lost it just as quickly. A draw away to Napoli isn’t a poor result, it’s just that three points was within their grasp.
The clash with Parma will present a completely different challenge. Milan will be at home and playing a Parma team that has largely exceeded expectations given that they have less talent on their roster than Napoli.
However, the Rossoneri will be challenged by Parma’s unconventional 5-man back line, which will require more creativity in the final third of the pitch and likely won’t present so many chances on the break.
Pirlo and Seedorf could be the keys for Milan as their creativity in midfield will be needed to unlock the defense. If Milan are to find the net, these two will both need to push forward and provide chances for Pato and whomever is to start at striker. If Milan ever want get The Hunter, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, on track, this would be a great game to start him.
Kaka Kaladze will need to fill the irreplaceable shoes of Alessandro Nesta for a game while he nurses a sore hamstring. The partnership of he and Silva will be tested by the opportunistic strike pair of Alberto Paloschi and Valeri Bojinov. Paloschi already has 4 goals on the season and will definitely be looking for more against his former club.
In the end, I think Milan will prevail in the match, by a score of 2-1 with the San Siro crowd behind them. Milan seemed to have turned a corner and their newfound confidence will see them through this challenge as well.
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