Well Milan fu**ed up again in Serie A, but what else is new. You know, if it weren’t for the fact that the Rossoneri are current title holders for the Champions League, it would be Carlo Ancelotti‘s head on the chopping blocks right now, not the coach from Milan’s cousins (a certain Roberto Mancini). No, the latter has nothing to worry about (or at least, can sleep a little better now following Inter’s 3-0 win over Sampdoria), because if Zlatan Ibrahimovic maintains his current form the Nerazzurri are in for a Scudetto repeat. The Swedish international is currently in the best form of his career, and compared to his previous 3 seasons in Serie A he’s just recently mastered the art of goalscoring (you don’t have to tell David Trezeguet, contributor of 1 goal in today’s Juve 4-0 slashing of Reggina, and with which Zlatan is currently tied at the top of the scorer rankings). Just have a look at Inter’s 2nd goal today and drop your jaw in awe.
But the real highlight of the day wasn’t Milan’s first loss of the season, or Inter and Juve’s target practice session with the little kids. No, the spectacle took place at the Stadio Artemio Franchi for Fiorentina-Roma, which much alike the Roma-Juve clash of Sunday ended 2-2 and provided plenty of entertainment.
For AS Roma, this second consecutive 2-2 draw means two things. Firstly, they have now descended from cloud nine and are back to the real world, where it’s not just enough to play a technical & spectactular soccer, it’s also important not to let your guard down when it counts. Also, it puts an end to their zero conceded goals streak on away games. For Fiorentina, it’s a good result (despite the home team advantage) because they fought back after going down twice, and have shown considerable resilience and refusal to bow down to anyone.
Tactically, both formations had some surprises in store. Despite the early doubts this week, both Dario Dainelli and Alessandro Gamberini were in the starting line-up for this match, as well as Franco Semioli (in place of Mario Santana). For Roma, manager Luciano Spalletti decided to do a little bit of turn-over (in light of the important matches vs. Inter and Man Utd the upcoming week) and started D.Pizarro, Ferrari and Cicinho for Aquilani, Juan, and Panucci. Totti, Perrotta and Cassetti did not start either, but no surprise there: they were out injured.
The match began at 100 miles an hour for both teams: on one end Fiorentina was trying to prove they had nothing to envy to the 1st-ranked Serie A team, and on the other Roma was trying to live by their role of favorites for this match. The first opportunity came for the Giallorossi 4 minutes into the game, as Mançini attempted a mid-range effort above the bar. Immediately onto the other end, Adrian Mutu sent a few shivers down Doni‘s spine with a narrowly wide header from close-range.
Eventually in the 19th minute (and under torrents of rain… like cats & dogs type of sh**), a team finally took the lead. Grabbing the ball on the edge of the Fiorentina box, Mançini looked around him and examined his options. He could have passed to the left, passed to the right, but spotting Sébastien Frey off his line the Brazilian winger actually chose to chip him! And my oh my what a beauty that was. The Viola keeper got a touch but couldn’t prevent the goal, 1-0 Roma.
The lead didn’t last very long for the Giallorossi though: 5 minutes later Fiorentina equalized through a bit of a defensive mix-up. Corner by Adrian Mutu, Doni tried to read the trajectory and parry the ball out of danger, but was preceded by Daniele De Rossi who jumped and flicked it over the keeper’s hands. In came Gamberini on the 2nd post, ready for the volleyed tap-in. 1-1.
Another 5 minutes passed, and Roma should have taken their lead back: in the 29th the linesman blocked Mançini through goal for offside position, when the pass had actually come from Fiorentina full-back Tomas Ujfalusi. Tough luck. Ensued a series of chances for Fiorentina or, cue the Adrian Mutu show: the first shot a 99% certain goal with an open net (saved by Cicinho’s counter with Doni out to catch butterflies), then 2 minutes later with a narrowly wide blast, and for the third chance the Roma keeper actually was in the right place at the right time, displaying some top reflexes on a close-range header by the Romanian.
Fate works in mysterious ways, but when it comes to soccer one can spot a few consistencies: if you fail to score too many times, you’ll have to pay the price and concede a goal on the first chance your opponent gets (the famous French saying “but raté, but encaissé”, not the first time you’ve heard it here). In the 37th, after a brilliant Alberto Aquilani (on for injured Taddei) dummy for Ludovic Giuly, the Frenchman was given enough space to actually blast one of his shots on target. Too much power for Frey, who got a touch by couldn’t prevent the goal. 2-1 Roma at the break.
At the restart, Viola manager Cesare Prandelli decided to take off Fabio Liverani and put Mario Santana on. Seeing it wasn’t working, he tried to put Bobo Vieri on for Semioli: it was a clear indication that Fiorentina were putting all their troops up to equalize, and as Italians often say “la fortuna aiuta gli audaci” (luck helps the audacious). At the 80′ mark, a great through ball by Adrian Mutu set off Christian Vieri on the left wing: dribble towards the end zone, mistimed tackle by Matteo Ferrari, and Bobo went tumbling to the ground. The penalty was duly transformed by Mutu to put the final touch on a great evening of soccer, and the full time 2-2 scoreline.
From the time of the 2nd half restart all the way up to the Viola equalizer, the match had somewhat dropped in intensity, with neither team having been excessively dangerous. Worth mentioning though: two back-to-back chances for Mirko Vucinic saved by Frey in the 28th and 29th, an elbow of Mutu to Cicinho (only a yellow card for the Romanian), and a red card for Marco Donadel in the 84th. Another two points lost by leaders Roma, but overall the tie was the most logical result.
|GOALSCORERS: 19’ Mançini (R), 24’ Gamberini (F), 37’ Giuly (R), 80’ pen. Mutu (F)|
|FIORENTINA (4-3-3): Frey – Ujfalusi, Gamberini, Dainelli (76’ Balzaretti), Pasqual – Donadel, Liverani (46’ Santana), Montolivo – Semioli (72’ Vieri), Pazzini, Mutu. (bench: Lupatelli, Kroldrup, Gobbi, Kuzmanovic). Coach: Prandelli|
|ROMA (4-2-3-1): Doni – Cicinho (86’ Esposito), Ferrari, Mexès, Tonetto – De Rossi, D.Pizarro – Taddei (36′ Aquilani), Giuly, Mançini (67’ Panucci) – Vucinic. (bench: Curci, Juan, Barusso, Brighi). Coach: Spalletti|
As for AC Milan, I’m running out of ideas on how to introduce the Rossoneri. “Another car backfire”? “It’s pitch black at Milanello”? “The Red & Black devils smell smoke, but there’s no fire in the oven”? After three consecutive draws, something had to happen to Carlo Ancelotti’s team: I mean the only team that could get infected by acute drawing syndrome is Inter (as they hilariously did two seasons ago), it would be catastrophic to see the Rossoneri grab the same kind of disease as their city cousins. Well, I guess the Milan coach doesn’t have to worry about that anymore: his team not only lost a valuable 2 points, they also lost the additional lone point from the draw, a draw which seemed so sure until the 93rd minute, when Miccoli decided to strike.
Milan can actually put a lot of tonight’s result on account of bad luck. Overall, they dominated most of this match (the 66% ball possession statistic of the 1st period says it all) and repeatedly came very close to doubling their lead. Yet once again, when it came down to striking the final blow the Rossoneri couldn’t deliver, and allowed their opponents to overtake them with victory within their grasp.
Coach Carlo Ancelotti had some early bad news to start off the match, as both his main keeper (Dida) and vice-captain (Ambrosini) had to sit out the match due to injury. To replace them, Australian international Željko Kalac and Brazilian midfielder Emerson. No worries for the Rossoneri though, because the Milan manager could still count on squad indispensables such as Kaká, Pirlo, and Gattuso, as well Nesta-Kaladze in defense and Oddo-Jankulovski as wing-backs. Oh yeah, but in attack he had Alberto Gilardino, which is not so good (at least until the (ex) Italian international wakes the fu** up).
To be honest though, Gila didn’t play too badly, especially in the first half where the Rossoneri domination was absolutely excessive. I mean Palermo was nowhere to be seen (and I mean nowhere) for at least 20 minutes, and the first 45 were a perfect example on why Milan are the current European champions: one-touch football and inch-perfect passes, exemplied best with Clarence Seedorf‘s opener at the 10′ minute mark. From Gilardino (yes, you’ve heard me right) to Kaká to the Dutch midfielder all in one touch, and beautiful scooped finish by Seedorf for the finish. 1-0 Milan, and a lot more where that came from.
Yet another Gila-Kaká-Seedorf exchange brought the Dutch international to try a curling shot from the edge of the box, but this time the post (the keeper’s best friend) saved Alberto Fontana and kept the ball out of that net. Not for long though, because as we will see the 2nd half the twine on the South Side of Renzo Barbera stadium was still waiting for more.
So the half ended on a 1-0 scoreline, and the only thing Palermo had to show for their presence on the field tonight, was the penetrating rushes of Fabrizio Miccoli (like a pixie on crack, always difficult to catch). At the restart the Milan assault resumed, and when it wasn’t their goalie Fontana keeping the Rosanero safe from drowning (such as on Seedorf’s shot in the 48th), it was the Rossoneri’s poor accuracy/bad luck close to the net.
At the 61′ minute mark, Palermo manager Stefano Colantuono decided to make a few changes to turn the game on its head: off Fabio Caserta and Mark Bresciano, in Edison Cavani and Bosko Jankovic. To little effect: Milan had another series of scoring chances, and if you were a Rossonero fan watching this match you’d still be screaming into the night wondering why any of those shots didn’t go in. Let’s count them: nº1, an Andrea Pirlo shot hitting the crossbar yet again; nº2, a header by Alessandro Nesta saved on the line by Fábio Simplício; nº3, a last-ditch clearance by Aimo Diana on Kaká’s winning tap-in.
Think it’s going bad for Milan? Try this, it’s getting worse: in the 72nd, long cross to the left for Amauri, the Brazilian controls the ball (suspiciously using his arm doing so, but the ref waves play on), turns around, Kalac comes out to challenge but he can’t prevent the pass to Diana for the tap-in. 1-1. What a shame.
The Milan players are tired, their morale isn’t doing any better, and more mistakes keep pouring in. The final nails in the Milan coffin have two names: Pirlo and Kalac. The first for fouling Diana on the edge of the box, and the second for allowing Fabrizio Miccoli‘s ensuing free-kick to enter the net. 2-1 Palermo, the entire crowd of the Renzo Barbera are on their feet, Ancelotti is spotted walking towards the tunnel. Shaking his head..
|GOALSCORERS: 10’ Seedorf (M), 72’ Diana (P), 93’ Miccoli (P)|
|PALERMO (4-3-1-2): Fontana – Diana, Zaccardo, Barzagli, Cassani (74’ Rinaudo) – Migliaccio, Simplicio, Caserta (61’ Jankovic) – Bresciano (61’ Cavani) – Miccoli, Amauri. (bench: Agliardi, Gio.Tedesco, Guana, Brienza). Coach: Colantuono.|
|MILAN (4-3-2-1): Kalac – Oddo, Nesta, Kaladze, Jankulovski – Gattuso, Pirlo, Emerson (76’ Brocchi) – Kakà, Seedorf – Gilardino (76’ F.Inzaghi). (bench: Fiori, Cafu, Simic, Favalli, Gourcuff). Coach: Ancelotti.|