WW in this case stands for ‘Winning Wagon’, a train which, judging the current Serie A standings, did not have many Rossoneri or Biancocelesti on board this year. Even AC Milan, a team which regardless of home league results has always done great in Europe, seemed to have lost its perennial CL optimum form after the shameful 2-1 loss at Celtic Park on game 2, and all the associated Dida theatrics. Meanwhile, Lazio were coming from 3 very shaky results in Europe’s top competition, after tying Olympiakos and Real Madrid, then losing away to Werder Bremen. On day 4 however, both Italian teams were reborn from their ashes, and obtained 3 capital points in the fight for next round qualification.
To anyone following AC Milan these last few years, the following sentence should come as no surprise: “Pippo Inzaghi came on from the subs bench, and provided the Rossoneri with the winning goal(s)”. It really reads like the script of a movie seen many times before, one that the Milan supporters know all too well: SuperPippo entered the field in the 63rd to replace an out-of-touch Gilardino, and within 7 minutes it was curtains for Shakhtar.
In the cold night of Donetsk, the first half of this match was rather drab. It almost seemed as if both teams were happy with a tie, and did little to modify the 0-0 scoreline during the first 45 minutes. Perhaps it was due to the cold Ukrainian temperatures, but the only highlights of the first period were sporadic attempts by the home team, such as those of Dmytro Chygrynskiy (central shot onto Dida) or Darijo Srna (a vicious diagonal effort parried away by the Milan keeper). The Croatian winger in particular was a constant thorn in the Rossoneri side, with his fast accelerations and creation of space for the cross. Ex-Livorno’s Cristiano Lucarelli on the other hand was keeping rather quiet, well surrounded by Nesta and Kaladze.
As for AC Milan, the biggest danger came from the unpredictable service of Andrea Pirlo, but his millimetric passes were being wasted by the lack of velocity exhibited by the Rossoneri finishing trio, in particular Alberto Gilardino who was constantly double teamed by the Ukrainian defense. Kaká and Seedorf were trying their best, but overall Milan was more worried about containment than creation of play.
In the 2nd half, something clicked in the Rossoneri’s mind. Perhaps it was the rippling howitzer shot of Fernandinho in the 50th (narrowly wide, with Dida rooted to the spot), because after that chance Milan finally shifted into gear. Massimo Ambrosini hit the woodwork in the 11th (exploiting a good Pirlo FK delivery), then minutes later another Pirlo set piece floated the ball to Kaká, whose header found keeper Andriy Pyatov ready. It was only the prelude to the inevitable though.
Carlo Ancelotti decided it was time for a change, and inserted talisman striker Pippo Inzaghi for Gilardino. Minutes later, Milan went ahead. Pirlo stole the ball at the 40 yard line, and fed an accurate through pass for Inzagol: as Pippo entered the box, he found the winning trajectory to the net to put Milan ahead 1-0.
Shakhtar had immediately a reaction of pride, as Srna (once again) got through on the right and crossed for the header of Brandão, but once again Dida was ready. Pyatov was not. Only a few minutes later, a Clarence Seedorf through pass found Inzaghi inside the box once again, and this time the Italian striker provided a lay-up pass for Kaká: inswinging shot, inside post, goal. 2-0 Milan.
The final goal for the Rossoneri came from yet another counter-attack movement, on which Kaká turned the provider and gave SuperPippo goal nº62 in Europe. Bravo Milan, with 9 points in the group the next round seems a lot closer yet. Now if only the Rossoneri could obtain their first win at the San Siro this season.
|GOALSCORERS: 65’, 93’ Inzaghi (M), 72’ Kaká (M)|
|SHAKHTAR DONETSK (4-3-1-2): Pyatov – Srna, Yezerskiy Chygrynskiy, Rat (73’ William) – Ilsinho, Hubshman, Fernandinho – Jadson – C.Lucarelli (78’ Castillo), Brandao (85’ Gladkiy). (bench: Virt, Duljaj, Lewandowski, Gai).Coach: Lucescu.|
|MILAN (4-3-2-1): Dida – Bonera, Nesta, Kaladze, Serginho (85’ Brocchi) – Gattuso, Pirlo, Ambrosini – Kaká, Seedorf (80’ Maldini) – Gilardino (63’ F.Inzaghi). (bench: Kalac, Oddo, Gourcuff, Ronaldo). Coach: Ancelotti.|
Meanwhile for Lazio, these were times of great uncertainty. The European campaign going average, Serie A going worse, it was time for Delio Rossi’s men to obtain a vital 3 points and prove that their team didn’t deserve the current standings. The mission was more or less accomplished tonight.
The first 45 minutes could have been psychologically shattering for many struggling teams, because it looked like this was one of those days where no matter how hard you try nothing seems to work. At the 10′ minute mark, the Biancocelesti had already 3 distinct scoring chances on the counter, through Tommaso Rocchi, Luciano Zauri, and Guglielmo Stendardo. Midfield playmakers Mourad Meghni and Cristian Ledesma seemed to be in great form tonight, constantly finding opening passes for their teammates up front, but Lazio lacked considerably in finishing touch at this point. Meghni was forced to shoot over the bar under pressure, then minutes later a pinpoint pass from Ledesma to Stephen Makinwa was wasted by the Nigerian, who went for power instead of accuracy and found Tim Wiese‘s foot ready.
Things calmed down a little after that, in terms of scoring chances at least because the battle at midfield continued to be fierce. So fierce in fact that it forced Luciano Zauri and Frank Baumann off the field due to injury problems, and otherwise kept the game’s score locked onto a 0-0 tie.
In the 2nd half, Werder returned on the field with a little extra propension for the offensive, the battle got tougher, Lazio went dangerously close to concede a penalty (De Silvestri shoulder barging into Rosenberg inches outside the box), but it was eventually Lazio obtaining a P.K. shot first, after Naldo upended Meghni inside the Werder box. Rocchi took onto the task of transforming the spot shot, but had his effort saved by the German keeper. Fortunately for Lazio, the Italian striker slid onto his own rebound and finally opened the score for the Biancocelesti. 1-0.
At this point, Werder’s offensive verwe multiplied as they were trying to obtain the equalizer. Marco Ballotta forgot his horrid mistake of the week-end against Fiorentina, and parried away the German shots with great confidence. On the other end, the passing accuracy of Ledesma and top speed of Rocchi kept the German defense on their toes, because Lazio were still dangerous on counter-attacks. And indeed, it would be precisely these last 2 players combining for the 2-0 tally, as Rocchi exploited a perfect aerial through ball of Ledesma, and beat a rushing out Wiese with a chipped shot.
Lazio’s night could have ended on a perfect note, had it not been for Cribari holding Per Mertesacker inside the box. Second yellow for the Lazio defender, and a lifeline for Werder (penalty transformed by Diego). It was however too late for the German team, and Lazio held tight to defend the vital 3 points putting them ahead of their rivals, and tied with Olympiakos at 2nd spot.
|GOALSCORERS: 57’, 68’ Rocchi (L), 88’ pen. Diego (W)|
|LAZIO (4-3-1-2): Ballotta – Behrami, Stendardo, Cribari, Zauri (18’ De Silvestri) – Mudingayi, Ledesma, Mutarelli – Meghni (74’ Manfredini) – Rocchi, Makinwa (88’ Scaloni). (bench: Muslera, Firmani, Baronio, Tare). Coach: D.Rossi.|
|WERDER BREMEN (4-3-1-2): Wiese – Fritz (76’ Harnik), Mertesacker, Naldo, Pasanen – Andreasen, Baumann (32’ Jensen), Borowski – Diego – Rosenberg, Almeida. (bench: Vander, Vranjes, Carlos Alberto, Tosic, Schindler). Coach: Schaaf.|