You know it’s funny: it seems that whenever AC Milan are in trouble, all they need to lift their spirits is a little Lazio “rejuvenation cure”.
Just around the same time last year, the Rossoneri had just played an abysmal UEFA Champions League match against Celtic Glasgow (in which Dida infamously faked being mortally hit by an invading Celtic supporter, remember?) and occupied one of its lowest Serie A rankings in years. On matchday 7, they were travelling to Stadio Olimpico to play Lazio, at which point… a miracle took place. Contrary to every pre-game prediction, Milan won the match 5-1, virtually (temporarily) ending their results crisis and sending them on the way to a FIFA Club World Cup champions title.
I’m beginning to think that playing Lazio when you’re wearing red & black must have therapeutic powers…
(From Gazzetta dello Sport): Four very loud trumpet calls sounded at the San Siro Sunday night, just to let the Serie A know AC Milan is very much alive and kicking. No doubt also to convince Carlo Ancelotti, who wanted a clear sign and some impressive football in order to declare the Rossoneri crisis well and truly broken.
A sign of the kind that brought Lazio literally to their knees, with a superlative 4-1 win in a goal-filled, showtime bonanza. Most importantly, the match demonstrated what Milan is truly capable of, albeit with a little help from Lazio (the Biancocelesti forgot to put up barricades for this one, but they kept their heads up and faced the Rossoneri with a brave face). A night for football epicurians let’s say, who were served up Seedorf‘s (lucky) opening shot and Zarate‘s equalizer for starters, then wined and dined by some wizard shots from Zambrotta, Pato and Kaká to bring the banquet to an end.
When you have still yet to score a point in the standings, playing conservative is not an option. Lost ground is regained by taking risks, and that’s just what Ancelotti put on the menu: diamond formation with Gattuso midfield between Ambrosini and Seedorf, Kaká up top behind Alexandre Pato and Marco Borriello (Ronaldinho and Sheva on the bench). Lazio lined up a similar formation, with Stefano Mauri covering the backs of the top-scoring Goran Pandev-Mauro Zarate duo.
Milan got off to a shaky start: on a hazardous Kaladze back-pass to Abbiati (just a few seconds into the game), Mauri almost managed to capitalize and put his team in the lead. This was to be the first in a long series of Kakhaber-blunders, but its was also crucial in making the Rossoneri get a clear idea on Lazio’s intentions: the Biancocelesti had come to San Siro to win.
Milan perked up and started pressing. 6 minutes in, Seedorf and Kaká combined (one of the recurring themes of tonight’s match) to set up Pato inside the box, but the young Brazilian’s backheel did not fool Carrizo. Two minutes later however, breakthrough time: from Pato to Seedorf on the edge of the box, the Dutchman litterally played a wall pass with… Ledesma’s back, to pick up the ball just inside the box apply an easy finish. 1-0 Milan.
It was an unfortunate goal for Lazio, but the Biancocelesti were not demoralized. Playing a razor-sharp, well-balanced game with no hesitation of moving forward, Delio Rossi’s man launched themselves into the Milan box. Mauri forced Abbiati down with a ground shot in minute 18, shortly followed by Zarate (well-served by Pandev). During this phase of play, it became evident that Lazio maneuvering variety was superior to Milan’s, and that Pandev can be a playmaker of the highest level at times. It was precisely through the Macedonian player’s assist that Zarate took control of the ball, burned Kaladze on the run, and put an accurate effort past Abbiati’s first post. 1-1.
Milan responded immediately. Pato (great dribble followed by a low shot on Carrizo) and Kaká (double dribble on Lichtsteiner and shot wide) tried their luck a few times, but it was through Gianluca Zambrotta’s scorcher (in minute 35) that Milan took their lead back. Similar to Maicon’s shot in the Torino vs. Inter game, the Rossoneri right-back unleashed a marvelous strike from 30 yards that ended its course straight into the top-left corner. 2-1 Milan.
The goal really got Milan’s motors going, driving them harder and faster to claim the game as their own. Pato was feeling inspired, Borriello a bit less (although his pass for Kaká’s header in minute 42 was worthy of note), while Lazio patiently waited in their own half, hoping to hit the Rossoneri on the counter (especially through Kaladze’s turf, whose lack of confidence put the entire backline on thin ice).
In the second period Lazio came back out strong, with Zarate showing he was no flash in the pan. While half of Milan’s defence (often forced to foul on the edge of the box) tried to stop the Argentine striker, the Rossoneri attacking line was lurking. In fact as soon as Milan stepped up the tempo again, it was goal nº3 for the Ancelotti’s boys: Jankulovski darted off on the left and served a perfect ball to Alexandre Pato, setting him up for an unstoppable short-range diving header. 3-1 Milan.
Milan was finally calling the shots, almost oozing in confidence as Kaká continued his vintage show of ball control & technique. The Brazilian playmaker first tried his luck from 15 yards (receiving a pass from Borriello) but was denied by the Lazio keeper. Carrizo could however do very little three minutes later, as Kaká did… well what Kaká does best, sending a great long-range inswinging curler straight into the top corner. Lots of top-corner goals this week-end, and 4-1 Milan.
It was the coup de grâce for Lazio, guilty perhaps of having underestimated their opponents’ crisis-recovery abilities. In the final minutes, even Ronaldinho (on for Pato) got some playing time, immediately setting Borriello up for a fifth goal (blocked by Carrizo) and sending the ball onto the crossbar. Lazio were spared further humiliation, as Ancelotti grabbed the first points of this Serie A season… Phew! Huh Carlo?
|GOALSCORERS: 8’ Seedorf (M), 26’ Zarate (L), 35’ Zambrotta (M), 59’ Pato (M), 60’ Kakà (M).
| MILAN (4-3-2-1): Abbiati – Zambrotta, Kaladze, Maldini, Jankulovski – Ambrosini, Gattuso (79’ Emerson), Seedorf (64’ Flamini) – Kaká; Pato (71’ Ronaldinho), Borriello. (bench: Dida, Bonera, Favalli, Shevchenko). Coach: Ancelotti.
| LAZIO (4-3-1-2): Carrizo – Lichtsteiner, Siviglia, Rozehnal, Kolarov – Brocchi (79’ De Silvestri), C.Ledesma, Matuzalem (68’ Meghni) – Mauri (63’ Foggia) – Pandev, Zarate. (bench: Muslera, Cribari, C.Manfredini, Makinwa). Coach: D.Rossi.