Serie A day 3 – Saturday bears no good news for Lazio & Milan

Scudetto contenders AC Milan and Champions League hopefuls SS Lazio could not obtain more than 1 point in their respective matches Saturday, for Serie A’s game nº3 of the 2007-08 season. With the Champions League campaign about to begin (Milan will play Portuguese club Benfica on Tuesday, while Lazio will be travelling to Greece to play Olympiakos), it seemed as if both clubs had their minds elsewhere this week-end, worrying about their European cup preparation. In Milan’s case, it also didn’t help that coach Ancelotti decided to give half his team a round of rest, due to accumulated fatigue from international call-ups. 

Serie A day 3 - Saturday scores

In the Lazio-Empoli match, some interesting data concerning the goalkeepers: Lazio coach Delio Rossi fielded Uruguayan 21-year old Fernando Muslera, while his colleague Gigi Cagni decided to go with experience, and started Daniele Balli (age 40) in net. The Empoli keeper effectively turned out to be a second manager on the field: encouraging his teammates to shoot from the distance, and constantly repositioning his defence. On a sidenote, can you imagine if Rossi had decided to start Marco Ballotta instead? We would have had an age 40 vs. age 43 keeper showdown. I guess formaldehyde does wonders for player conservation in Italy… :)

Fernando Muslera and Guillermo Giacomazzi challenge an aerial ballAnyways, back to the game: the first half saw Lazio exhibit a slow and predictable gameplay, something that did as little to create chances as to finish them. Their opponents on the other hand (a very endeavoring Empoli team) were in full effort mode, dynamic and constructive albeit severely lacking in accuracy when it came to the finish. As a result, the first fraction of play had little to produce in terms of scoring chances, despite an asphyxiating ball possession dominance for Empoli.

In the 2nd half, the Lazio coach decided to re-ignite his team’s verve and inserted Mourad Meghni for Simone Del Nero. The half-time speech seemed to have sunk into the Lazio players, who immediately came knocking on Empoli’s doorstep. First an opportunity by Tommaso Rocchi, then Goran Pandev, forced the Empoli keeper to some quick reflex action, but Balli was ready to parry the shots away. A few minutes later, Pandev almost obtained a one-on-one chance in the clear, missing the control by a few centimetres.

At the 60′ minute mark however, the game reverted back to the pace of the first half, and the spectators of the Stadio Olimpico did not see much else happening. Ah, except a missed penalty call for the visitors, when following a great Vittorio Tosto cross, Empoli striker Luca Saudati had his shirt pulled by Emílson Cribari, causing him to miss the close-range header. A legitimate penalty claim for Cagni’s team, who in terms of scoring chances had the biggest regrets at the end of this game.

For Lazio this was the 3rd draw of the season in as many games, and the 2nd goalless result. Empoli managed to obtain their first point in the table.


SS Lazio
 Empoli F.C.
LAZIO (4-3-1-2): Muslera – Behrami, Stendardo, Cribari, Zauri – Mudingayi, Ledesma, Mutarelli – Del Nero (46’ Meghni) – Pandev (70’ Makinwa), Rocchi (78’ Tare). (bench: Ballotta, Scaloni, De Silvestri, Manfredini). Coach: Rossi
EMPOLI (3-5-1-1): Balli – Raggi, Vanigli, Marzoratti – Buscè, Moro, Marchisio, Giacomazzi, Tosto – Vannucchi (78′ Giovinco) – Saudati (84’ Volpato). (bench: Bassi, Piccolo, Rincon, Abate, Antonini.) Coach: Cagni


In the other match, Milan’s march in Serie A suffered another stop Saturday: after the draw against Fiorentina on day 2, Ancelotti’s team could not obtain more than 1 point against Siena. The team coached by Andrea Mandorlini has yet to obtain their first victory in Italy’s top league, altough they almost achieved their goal tonight against the European champions. However, both teams would have to settle for a 1-1 draw.

The AC Milan team that stepped onto the Artemio Franchi stadium today was quite unique: Ancelotti had a long look at his roster, and decided to give usual starters Oddo, Jankulovski, Pirlo, Kakà, and Inzaghi a rest in light of the team’s Champions league fixture Tuesday. While this was a sensible move in terms of turn-over (all those players were just back from a busy week of international duty), in terms of play Milan’s midfield suffered enormously from Pirlo and Kakà’s absence. Exploiting Milan’s lack of luster, the Siena players interpreted the game to perfection.

The first few minutes of the game actually were to Milan’s favor, as the Rossoneri obtained two back-to-back opportunities that would have been transformed into goal every other day of the week, had it not been for the exceptional reactivity of Siena keeper Dimitrios Eleftheropoulos. On the wrong end of the equation, Milan striker Alberto Gilardino (once again a shadow of his former self today) who had his shots denied by the Greek keeper. Eleftheropoulous had some repeat business a few minutes later on Cristian Brocchi‘s close-range effort, but once again was ready to parry away.

Alessandro Nesta is showing his determination after the equalizerOn the other end, Siena’s team was perfectly in place: a tight defence ready to block the Rossoneri, then immediately set up the offensive players for a fast counter. On loan winger from Juventus Paolo De Ceglie was often giving a hand to the attacking duo Maccarone-Bucchi, and the 3 players had plenty of real estate to work in, when Milan’s Cafu and Favalli were pushing too deep up their wing. At the 24′ minute mark, surprise: long-range effort by Bucchi, Dida fumbles the save and Kaladze‘s cover isn’t any better. Massimo Maccarone (in offside position at the moment of Bucchi’s shot) doesn’t need an invitation: sidestepping Milan’s nº1, he blasts the ball into the net avoiding Kaladze’s late tackle on the line.

At the restart, Ancelotti was forced to modify his team and come up with a back-up plan: off Gattuso, in Inzaghi. Formation change also: 4-3-1-2 with the hope that two strikers (Inzaghi and Gilardino, supported by playmaker Seedorf) would be better than one. Not so. Siena decided to re-define the term “catenaccio” today, with central backs Achille Loria and Daniele Portanova literally locking up Gila and Inzaghi and throwing away the key.

When the last of Milan’s chances (a close-range Massimo Ambrosini blast cleared off the line by David Jarolim) still refused to give them a goal, all hope seemed lost for Ancelotti’s men. Some higher power still cares for the Rossoneri though: deep into stoppage time, a corner-kick swung into Siena’s box couldn’t be cleared by the defence, and the ball dropped to the feet of Alessandro Nesta. The Milan defender armed a powerful blast below the bar than even Eleftheropoulos couldn’t get to. 1-1 the final score, and rendez-vous in Europe where luck will hopefully hold a better future for both teams.


AC Siena
 AC Milan
GOALSCORERS: 24′ Maccarone (S), 91’ Nesta (M)
SIENA (4-3-3): Eleftheropoulos – Rossettini, Portanova, Loria, Grimi – Jarolim (88’ Codrea), Vergassola, Galloppa – De Ceglie, Maccarone (74’ Corvia), Bucchi (55’ Frick). (bench: Manninger, Alberto, Ficagna, Locatelli). Coach: Mandolini.
MILAN (4-3-2-1): Dida – Cafu, Nesta, Kaladze, Favalli (61’ Jankulovski) – Gattuso (46’ Inzaghi), Emerson (65’ Ambrosini), Brocchi – Gourcuff, Seedorf – Gilardino. (bench: Kalac, Bonera, Simic, Digao). Coach: Ancelotti.


Posted in Empoli, Lazio, Milan, Serie A, Siena |

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  • One Response to “Serie A day 3 – Saturday bears no good news for Lazio & Milan”

    1. [...] rested his main players the previous week-end (and paying the price with a 1-1 draw vs. Siena), Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti could count on his best starting 11 Tuesday for the San Siro European [...]