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Milan-Bari 1-1: frustration hits the roof

Bari's 8th away goal of the season happened to be the 11th goal Milan conceded at the San Siro this year, and it came at a terrible time. Instead of taking advantage of Inter's slip-up, Milan had a frustrating afternoon in which everything that could go wrong, went wrong and it was almost by sheer will power that Milan found a late equalizer with 10 men. Bari defended with grit and determination, Milan had the necessary urgency in the second 45 minutes but, between Pato's disappearing act, Zlatan's ever-growing frustration and Robinho's failure to take a dangerous shot on goal it was hard to make the chances count.


It's a struggle for me not to blame this on the referee, the linesman and some pretty hard tackling that Bari players got away with today. However, while every referee decision seemed to go their way, it's hard not to laugh at the very assumption that Bari would have some sort of protection from the officials when playing at the San Siro. They did make some disputable calls, but in the end it was Milan's failure to penetrate the Bari back line that lost 2 points today. I can't, however, resist the temptation to say I told you so - this was the game to rest Zlatan and Allegri had to see that. Cassano was fresh, motivated and practically at home in Bari. If this wasn't the game to start him, I don't know what is. Zlatan chose his own way of saying 'I need a break' as he practically begged the referee for a second yellow, first with a blatant dive in the box and then with a completely unnecessary shove that earned him more than it called for - a straight red that, hopefully, won't warrant a lengthy suspension. I am not suggesting that Ibra wanted to be sent off, but it was obvious he had lost his cool and was acting on impulse and out of desperation.

Other than that, he was all over the place, he tried to make his presence felt and managed to be dangerous on a few occasions - he took his disallowed goal in true Ibra style, almost set up Emanuelson and missed a clear one on one, which may have tipped him over the edge. I don't blame him. Again, he never should have started this game. This is Allegri's screw up, I don't know whether he was forced into the decision by a higher power and it doesn't matter, it is the coach's responsibility to see these things coming. It's not as if Zlatan Ibrahimovic is known for being cool and collected during a period of bad form.

Bari's goal was a bit ridiculous, it takes a very complacent defensive effort to concede a goal like that, van Bommel unreasonably let Rudolf run free and was then too late to stop him from slotting in. This kind of error rarely happens to the Dutch enforcer and I'm not completely sure that it wasn't somebody else's responsibility to follow Rudolf even though van Bommel was the closest one in the end. The Dutch contingent gave a good contribution today, Emanuelson looked very lively and at least 3 levels above Merkel in terms of technique, pace and vision. His ball for Antonini was perfect and allowed the otherwise shaky full back to make a pin-point cross for Cassano in between three Bari players.

Cassano made all the difference when he came on, popping up everywhere in the final third and causing defenders to lose their marks in order to double up on him. His presence is what kept Bari's numerical advantage from showing, as he constantly shuffled their midfield and defense, pulling players out of position and opening more space than a team playing with 11 players against ten should ever allow. One has to compliment the effort made by the entire Milan team, especially after Zlatan's sending off. Thiago Silva, Gattuso, van Bommel and Nesta effectively stopped and thoughts Bari may have had of taking the game to Milan's half. Abate was once again phenomenal, the man once known as an unreliable makeshift right back is turning into a cornerstone for this Milan team.

Pato was about as dangerous as Flamini would have been. If only we had Inzaghi on the bench, you can rest assured that he would have came on for the Brazilian and created a ruckus. Pato tried to make his presence felt, he fell back for the ball and fought but Bari put more pressure on him than they did on Zlatan and he lost his composure, misplacing passes and making rash decisions like the 21 year old he is. We'll see how Robinho, Cassano and Pato will function together next weekend and, if Ibra gets suspended, in the derby as well. Looking at the names of those three and their recent performances, we should be fine. There is, of course, the question people love to ask - is Milan over-reliant on Ibrahimovic?

The answer is simple - yes, but only when there is no proper midfield to work with. 'Give it to Zlatan and then run forward' is a good gameplan when your midfield hasn't got the vision, creativity or pace to craft out chances for the forwards without relying on him to hold up the ball and distribute it a split second before he gets swarmed by 3 or more opponents. Boateng's presence in the middle makes the team more balanced and less reliant on the Swede, Cassano is a force to be reckoned with and, with those two starting, I am confident that Milan can get the best of Palermo. Don't forget, this is a side that recently got humiliated at home by an Udinese team that relies on pace, precision and technique to score, rather than power. They should be very afraid of facing a trio of three players with those exact qualities next Saturday.

All in all, we can pass the blame around, and there is a share of it all around indeed but in the end, it was one of those days. Nine times out of ten, this would have ended with 3 or 4 goals in Bari's net. This is that one time when things go wrong. We can hardly afford any more of those with the derby approaching, and Milan needs to be more than 3 points ahead of Inter going into the big clash.