AC Milan 2-2 Werder Bremen: Claudio Pizarro Vaporizes Rossoneri’s European Dreams (UEFA Cup Round of 32, 2nd Leg)

Bremen forward Claudio Pizarro, right, of Peru, scores a goal as AC Milan defender Paolo Maldini looks on during the UEFA Cup, Round of 32, second-leg soccer match between AC Milan and Bremen, at the San Siro stadium, in Milan, Italy, Thursday, Feb. 26, 2009. (AP Photo)

Don’t trust the numbers you read between Milan and Werder Bremen in the title: the scoreline may say 2-2 but this was match with only one team on the grass. And it certainly wasn’t the Rossoneri. For not only did Werder fight back from an (undeserved) 0-2 half-time deficit: the German side had literally every other goalscoring chance of the 90 minutes, capitalizing the playmaking skills of Diego and lethal aerial ability of Claudio Pizarro.

The idea of winning the only silverware missing from Milan’s trophy room might have been tempting, but Berlusconi has to come down to the sad reality of things: this is a team in need of change, and team needing change fast. “Experience” and “name prestige” just don’t do it anymore.

UEFA Cup 2008-09 - AC Milan vs. Werder Bremen

UEFA Cup 2008-09 - Round of 32, Second Leg - AC Milan 2-2 Werder Bremen

Tactically Ancelotti chose the best lads available for the match, including Seedorf as playmaker, a freshly recovered Pato and his European talisman Filippo Inzaghi (still chasing his record-breaking UEFA Cup goal). Keeping the good 1-1 result obtained in Germany in the first leg, this was also Beckham‘s European debut this year while in defence, Maldini took the central position next to Senderos. On the other end, Thomas Schaaf relied on Diego’s creativity to supply his C.Pizarro/H.Almeida striking pair with playable passes, but also on Frings‘s experience as the leader of midfield.

Right from the first 10 minutes the theme of the match was clear: Werder had come to Milan to score, and they meant to do so at the earlist possible time. Just 90 seconds had gone by when Pizarro sent his shot just wide, his effort being quickly followed by another series of German attempts: Tziolis (min. 3), Diego (min. 5), and Pizarro again (min. 9) all tried their luck, finding an embarassed (and embarassing, without forgetting to include Dida) Milan defense to provide modest resistance. Only the courage of Zambrotta and Ambrosini (the latter almost conceding a penalty) saved the day for the home team, who were seemingly content to weather the storm.

AC Milan's Pato celebrates after scoring a second goal against Werder Bremen during their UEFA Cup soccer match at the San Siro stadium in Milan February 26, 2009. (REUTERS)

Eventually at the quarter-hour the Rossoneri organized their first serious attack on Wiese, orchestrating some passes and launching the ball forward for their pacey striker up front. Indeed, “rely on Alexandre Pato” turned out to be the recurrent pattern of Milan’s evening, with the Brazilian player advancing and wreaking havoc among German troops. Such as in minute 24 when upon drawing a foul on the edge of the box, Milan obtained a penalty kick after Beckham’s effort found the hand (elbow?) deflection of Frings inside the wall. Andrea Pirlo stepped up to do the honours, putting his team up by one. 1-0 Milan.

If that was hard to swallow for Werder, imagine how the visitors felt when just 10 minutes later (and effectively at Milan’s second chance of the night) Pato split into two the German defence and kicked a fantastic effort into the top left corner. 2-0 Milan and a big blow on reality as well: despite all their missed chances (including the ones following Milan’s goal, signed by Mertesacker, Tziolis and Almeida) the Germans were down by two at half-time. Surreal.

Bremen forward Claudio Pizarro, center, of Peru', celebrates with his teammates Mesut Ozil, left, and Markus Rosenberg after scoring during the UEFA Cup, Round of 32, second-leg soccer match between AC Milan and Bremen, at the San Siro stadium, in Milan, Italy, Thursday, Feb. 26, 2009. (AP Photo)

The second half would however have a different story for Werder, who came out of the locker-room ready to attack and tackle a daring comeback. The introduction of Markus Rosenberg (on for Almeida) opened up wide spaces in the Milan defense, now in considerable trouble even despite the fresh & muscular legs of Mathieu Flamini (on for an injured Seedorf in the 54th). Flamini himself certainly could do very little on one of the Rossoneri’s biggest pet peeves this season: defending set-pieces. Was it really so surprising then to see Diego provide the cross for Claudio Pizarro, and have the latter jump higher than Giuseppe “needs-to-eat-more-soup” Favalli for the headed finish? 2-1.

That was the beginning of the end for the Rossoneri. Ancelotti reinforced his defence with Jankulovski (exit Favalli) but Werder, unlike the first half, knew they were in control: Milan had disappeared from the pitch. With 10 minutes to go, Ozil crossed for Pizarro, Maldini and Dida stood there to watch and it was 2-2. We’re tempted to say 2-2 Bremen because effectively that’s what it was: a deserved qualification for the Germans, and a walk in the hall of shame for the Rossoneri (San Siro boos included and free of charge).

AC Milan English soccer star David Beckham reacts during a UEFA Cup, Round of 32, second-leg soccer match against Bremen , at the San Siro stadium, in Milan, Italy, Thursday, Feb. 26, 2009.  (AP Photo)


 AC Milan
2-2 (3-3 agg.)
[Match Highlights]
 SV Werder Bremen
GOALSCORERS: 26’ pen. Pirlo (M), 33’ Pato (M), 68’, 79’ C.Pizarro (W).
MILAN (4-3-1-2): Dida – Zambrotta, Senderos, Maldini, Favalli (77’ Jankulovski) – Beckham, Pirlo, Ambrosini – Seedorf (54’ Flamini) – F.Inzaghi (62’ Shevchenko), Pato. (bench: Abbiati, Kaladze, Bonera, Antonini). Coach: Ancelotti.
WERDER BREMA (4-3-1-2): Vander – Fritz, Mertesacker, Naldo, Pasanen (67’ Boenisch), Tziolis, Frings, Ozil (91’ Jensen) – Diego – C.Pizarro, H.Almeida (62’ Rosenberg). (bench: Mielitz, Prodl, Baumann, Harnik). Coach: Schaaf.


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Posted in German Bundesliga, Milan, UEFA Cup |

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