Carlo Ancelotti has a plan for December. His plan is to catch up to Inter before the Christmas break, so that his team can go on holiday with a good psychological advantage.
After the events on Sunday evening, it seems like Carlo should think of a “plan B”.
AC Milan got litterally trampled on Sunday, besieged and mocked by the best Palermo side of the season. Even though the goals were all scored in the second half, the Rosanero dominated all of the 90 minutes of play, eventually piercing through the (weak) Rossoneri defenses with Miccoli, Cavani and Simplício. Milan’s late reaction (Ronaldinho P.K.) was thoroughly insufficient as Ancelotti’s team repeated (and even amplified) all of the limits shown in the draws against Lecce and Torino.
According to Davide Ballardini, his team could only beat Milan with brilliant tactics, speed and athleticism. The Palermo manager opted for a 4-3-1-2 line-up with Simplicio behind Miccoli-Cavani, the duo that drove Rossoneri defenders crazy last year. With Kaká and Gattuso out of action, Carlo Ancelotti relied on Flamini, Pirlo and the returning Ambrosini in midfield, placing Pato in front of Seedorf and Ronaldinho in attack. The highly-experienced Zambrotta and Maldini completed the defensive set-up, although in hindsight experience obviously wasn’t enough today.
The first half unfolded as expected; Palermo spared no energy and attacked full steam ahead, while Milan tried to maintain a balance between defence and midfield. The Rossoneri’s goals were to minimize being outplayed, nip any feelings of paranoia right in the bud, and to rely on counterattacks to surprise their opponents. The latter were in reality too slow in reality to frighten Palermo, even though the first chance of the match was to the benefit of Pato, whose powerful left-footed finish from close range (after a messy Simplicio backpass) was parried away by Amelia.
Miccoli‘s response to Pato’s effort didn’t take long to come, as the Palermo fantasista combined with extreme ease with Balzaretti on the left-wing, and eventually forced Abbiati to three decisive saves from mid-range. Milan suffered, and the constant pounding and rebound shots unleashed by their opponents increased the Rossoneri’s nervousness, especially that of a defensive line which often got into trouble all by themselves.
Then, the possible turn. In minute 25 Amelia knocked down Pato just inside the box, and referee Gianluca Rocchi pointed to the spot. Ronaldinho stepped up from 12 yards, but saw his effort well-parried by Marco Amelia (alongside the double encroachment of Cavani & Simplicio inside the box, which should have resulted in the kick being re-taken -ref turned a blind eye). To make matters worse, not only had Milan’s scoring chance gone up in smoke, but they also lost Alexandre Pato to injury (he was replaced by Inzaghi). Definitely not a good omen for Ancelotti’s boys, and Ronaldinho’s crossbar on set pieces (just before the half ended) only confirmed the recurring bad vibe.
Palermo on the other hand had continuously built up momentum, something which finally paid dividends in the second half. Five minutes after the break, Fabrizio Miccoli finally found the winning trajectory, getting rid of Zambrotta and unleashing a powerful & spectacular long-range effort: it was a cannonball from the edge of the box that found its way into Abbiati’s bottom-right corner. 1-0 Palermo.
Palermo’s ability to keep up their fast pace while concurrently keeping Milan at bay was impressive. Ancelotti made two changes in midfield (Shevchenko and Emerson on for Ambrosini and Flamin) but it didn’t make one bit of a difference: Palermo continued to dominate, and 60 minutes in doubled their lead thanks to a lovely piece of football: Liverani’s aerial pass forward was finished by Edinson Cavani with a very well-placed header, far out of Christian Abbiati’s reach. 2-0 Palermo.
AC Milan’s heart just wasn’t in it, and Palermo sealed the fate of the game in the 80th minute of play, thanks to a close-range header by Fabio Simplicio (completely unmarked) that made it 3-0 for the Rosanero. It was only at this point that Palermo slowed down and Milan reacted, eventually finding the consolation goal with a Ronaldinho-earned and converted penalty-kick. 3-1 but too little too late for the Rossoneri & Ancelotti, who will have plenty of time from now until Christmas to revise operation “Inter overtake”. The gap is now -6 Carlo…
|GOALSCORERS: 50’ Miccoli (P), 60’ Cavani (P), 80’ F.Simplício (P), 83’ pen. Ronaldinho (M).
| PALERMO (4-3-1-2): Amelia – Cassani, Carrozzieri, Bovo, Balzaretti – Nocerino, Liverani, Bresciano – F.Simplício (91’ Guana) – Miccoli (91’ Kjaer), Cavani (94’ Succi). (bench: Ujkani, Dellafiore, Migliaccio, Michedlidze). Coach: Ballardini.
| MILAN (4-3-2-1): Abbiati – Zambrotta, Bonera, Maldini, Jankulovski – Flamini (56’ Emerson), Pirlo, Ambrosini (56’ Shevchenko) – Seedorf, Ronaldinho – Pato (29’ F.Inzaghi). (bench: Dida, Kaladze, Antonini). Coach: Ancelotti.