AC Milan Off To a Shaky Start in the Champions League

michael coneyContributor ISeptember 15, 2010

MILAN, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 15:  Zlatan Ibrahimovic of AC Milan during the UEFA Champions League group G match between AC Milan and Auxerre at San Siro Stadium on September 15, 2010 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
Claudio Villa/Getty Images

AC Milan opened their European account this evening with a 2-0 victory over Auxerre.

The manner of the victory, however, should give even the most die-hard Milanistas cause for concern.

Two rapid goals from new signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic will have done little to paper over the cracks that are already becoming apparent, even this early in the season.

Milan were quite simply awful in the first half and were very lucky to be going in at the break with the scores level.

Despite the plethora of attacking options, the midfield and defence will struggle to cut it against the top level opposition in this competition.

The wastefulness of certain players in the Milan squad was almost comical at times.  Clarence Seedorf and Andrea Pirlo in particular will have to take a long hard look at their performances this evening.

Numerous times the ball was given away cheaply to Auxerre, with slack passing and attempts at tricks going awry.  The two players mentioned above were not the only ones guilty of this particular sin.

Both players have proven quality and really need to start showing it.

I lost count of the amount of times I saw Zlatan Ibrahimovic attempt a spectacular flick only for it to fail and possession be given straight back to Auxerre.  After one such failure he snapped at the heels of the Auxerre defender only to foul him. He was lucky to escape without a booking for his petulance.

Alexandre Pato hardly did his reputation any favours tonight.  He simply did not look up for the fight during the first half, and it was no surprise that he was rightly substituted early in the second half.  He will have to show that the glimpses of talent he has shown can be sustained game after game.

The defence does not look as solid when Silva and Nesta are not playing together.  Nesta was easily outjumped for the header that cracked against the bar.  Perhaps Silvio should have spent some of the money in bringing in Robinho on finding adequate defensive cover at the centre back position.

Of course, it was not all doom and gloom at the San Siro.  Kevin Prince Boateng put in an excellent showing in midfield.  His youth and energy are two qualities Milan sorely require.  He capped his performance off with a fine glancing header to set up Ibrahimovic's first, and should have got on the scoresheet himself late on.

One area that gives cause for optimism is Ronaldinho's play.  In the second half he was quite simply unplayable at times.  Better teams will cause him more trouble and restrict his movement, but if he can find the motivation to remain up for the fight for the big games then his link play could pay dividends for Milan.

Another aspect to remember is that this team has been bolstered by a number of players who have not had the right amount of time to get to know each other and to be able to function effectively as a unit.

We saw glimpses of it tonight and with time it will only get better.  Robinho in particular looked lively when he came on, and with more match practice and time to get used to the team's style of play, the attack can only get better.

It remains to be seen how this current team will fare against the top end of European football's elite sides.  With another signing or two in January, particularly in the centre back and left back positions, Milan could be a very dangerous force in Europe this season.

Only time will tell.  At least, this time, they kept a clean sheet.


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