Milan 2, Lazio 2: Reality Check

Sometimes as fans, I think we see our team win a title, and we assume that they will pretty much automatically win every match from there forward. But this year’s title race started today, and our team only earned one point of three. And while I think our players were both very determined and yet realistic, maybe some of us fans were rudely awakened from our fairy tale by a very well organized Lazio side.

Coach Eddie Reja put out a 4-2-3-1 squad. The 2 holding midfielders could be part of a 6 man defensive wall, or push forward to support the 4 man offense. The perfect answer at both ends to a team that had both the best offense and the best defense last season in Serie A.

It would be their offense that shone straight away. The 30 year-old Cissé came out with incredible pace. Pace that would trouble the notably fast Abate within this match. Right away, they had the Milan defense up against the wall, and a 4th minute shot from Ledesma was gratefully wide.

After a back to back free kick and then corner that didn’t bring any results, Aquilani missed a chance in the 8th from a brilliant pass by Ibra. First blood would not be drawn by Milan, though. Showing his class, The 33 year old Klose scored a brilliant goal in the 12th minute by schooling poor Nesta, with Silva close behind. Even as a Milan fan, it was a beautiful goal, worthy of being the first goal of the Serie A season.

Klose was as shocked as Milan to draw first blood.
It was the 12th minute, however, that brought the facepalm moment of the day. Gattuso, displaying more enthusiasm than self control, tackled Nesta trying to clear a ball. And as if that wasn’t enough, he injured himself. Now I love Gattuso, but if he had broken Nesta, he would have been in bigger trouble from me. As it is, he’s the first player on my “list” this year. He forced an early sub, as Van Bommel replaced him.

In the 21st, Cissé doubled the pain for Milan with nice header to show that Lazio had purchased very wisely this summer. The second goal seemed to be enough to finally wake up Milan’s attack, and after a little more effort, Ibrahimovic scored on a nice assist from Cassano. Still determined, Cassano scored a header on a corner from Aquilani just 4 minutes later. 2-2.

Van Bommel earned himself a yellow card in the 38th, and then a shot over the crossbar in the 45th. but it is of more note that Antonini actually had a decent clearance in the 39th. This is something I never ever thought I could write, so I had to include it. The rest of the match he was the same old player that conjures up words I am not supposed to use as a lady.

The second half saw Milan return to the pitch with winning on their minds and renewed strength and pace to try to pull it off. In the 48th, Dias earned himself a yellow card, and then Boateng seemed to injure his shoulder on an unsuccessful header attempt. The shots from Milan were escalating, Bizzarri was being forced to work hard. He would have 6 saves on the day, but the post is what saved Cassano’s stellar chance in the 63rd.

"Which player hurt you? I'll kill him. Was it that one over there?"
Now for those who doubted Nesta or faulted him on Klose’s fantastic goal, in the 65th he redeemed himself for all wrongs with an amazing save on Cissé, who looked certain to convert. Old? Washed up? He chased him down and made the clearance, and did it cleanly. Brilliant. This was followed by Nocerino coming in for Aquilani. The latter did well enough on set pieces, but was not nearly as dynamic as I have seen him play for the national team or for Juve last year. Nocerino showed some quality and should be helpful when Gattuso does stupid things like tackle a teammate and injure himself.

In the 76th, Prince was subbed out for Pato, who had a couple of late shots but wasn’t given enough time to make a real impact otherwise. In the 79th, Lazio captain Mauri was subbed off for Lulic, but Rocchi, the ref on the day, showed him a yellow on his way out for timewasting. Which I suppose was fair, but he was quite stingy with time on the day, blowing the final whistle before Milan could take their corner. And he has done that before. Not cool, yet fully within the rules. Makes me think of a quote attributed to Bill Shankly: “The trouble with the referees is they know the rules, but they don’t know the game.” Cassano found that out the hard way by complaining about the whistle, and earned a very silly yellow for dissent. Not a pretty way to end the match.

Milan had 60% possession and 18 shots, 8 of which were on goal. Yet Lazio maximized their possession and had 12 shots, 5 on goal. You would think Milan still deserved to win, and I believe they would have, were it but a bizarre twist of fate. You see, Marchetti, their new starting keeper, was suspended for this match. Frankly, I think Bizzarri is a better keeper, as he demonstrated today. So Marchetti’s suspension paid off today, and depending on how well he plays after having been frozen out all year last year at Cagliari, he may very well have to compete for his spot.

Always replace your divots.
I loved Ibra and Cassano together today. They made me so excited for the rest of the season. Prince was okay, but it remains to be seen as to whether he can play well enough in the hole. Ambrosini was his usual capable self, and I thought that van Bommel subbing on, though not ideal, worked out great, as he had a great game. Abate picked up right where he left off, and I think both Nesta and Silva had great games, too. Abbiati was dependable as ever, and despite taking 2 goals that a magician couldn’t have stopped, he will have another amazing season.

All in all, I thought it was a decent first game back, even if there will be plenty for the boys to work on. Milan’s passing looked really sharp for much of the game, and it really seemed like they played quite well as a team. Their 7 offside calls show their hunger to score and to win, and despite dropping 2 points in our first match, I am optimistic for the season. Maybe I was just so grateful to finally have my team playing again, but I think today was a good reality check for the fans and an encouraging start for the team.

This post inspired by the music of Rammstein.

Milan 2, Lazio 2: Reality Check Milan 2, Lazio 2: Reality Check Reviewed by Elaine on 3:43 PM Rating: 5
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