Manchester City 5, Milan 3: Audi Cup - Between the Lines

Looking at how many players were not going to be available for the Audi Cup, my expectations were low. Looking at the lineups when they came out, my expectations were even lower. And looking at the first thirty-five minutes of the match, I think my expectations were effectively decimated. So when Milan pulled back not one, not two, but three goals in the space of about 6-7 minutes, I didn’t have to worry about having any expectations to raise. But it was a preseason friendly, a lot is going on, so rather than look only to the scoreline, I prefer to read between the lines.

Milan were just falling all over themselves to get Manchester City on the board.

But first the travesty…. 3rd minute, Antonini put up a resistance less than that of air for David Silva. Goal. 1-0 Manchester City. In the 8th minute, Constant, apparently trying to make “Captain” Antonini (and I do use that word VERY loosely here) feel better, so let Jovetic run right past him for a goal scoring opportunity that luckily wasn’t. In the 11th minute, the young Vergara in his debut for Milan made a nice tackle, but followed it up one minute later with an almost own goal.

So let’s just cut to the chase. Micah Richards scored in the 19th minute. 2-0 Manchester City. Kolarov scored in the 22nd minute. 3-0 Manchester City. In the 26th minute, Milan’s only chance on goal was managed by the player with the most shots not on goal, Kevin Prince Boateng. So Dzeko answered with a brace, scoring in the 32nd and 36th minutes. 5-0 Manchester City.

Too common a scene in the first half

One minute later, El Shaarawy shocked everyone with a goal. 5-1 Manchester City. And with an “anything Dzeko can do, I can do better” attitude, he scored another one in the 39th after Petagna had been pulled down just outside of the box. Ref correctly let them play advantage. 5-2 Manchester City. And just to show he wasn’t just any old Primavera player, Petagna slotted one in of his own in the 43rd, even if replays showed he may have been a hair offside. 5-3 Manchester City. And that was it for the goals.

The second half we actually may have played better. Maybe. It seemed like more possession and a lot fewer chances for Manchester City. Gabriel came on for Amelia, Niang came on for Petagna, and Nocerino for Traoré, so some of those subs may have made some difference. Gabriel continues to wow me on both ends of the spectrum. He mad a very inexperienced error in the 55th and got incredibly lucky that Manchester City couldn’t find the completely open goal while he was wandering in the wilderness outside of goal. But he backed that up with back to back great saves in the 63rd to keep us from hemorrhaging more goals, too. De Jong was only able to leave a crunching tackle or two on his former teammates, he had nothing to work with out there.

Il Faraone finding his scoring prowess again

Not to shock everyone so much in one week, but Zaccardo stopped a corner in the 62nd. I mention this because he was almost invisible for most of the match, but this was big, and also because we didn’t concede a corner (or for that matter, an own goal.) In the 63rd, El Shaarawy took a knock to the face from Micah Richards, so that was Allegri’s cue to start the subapalooza. Urby came in for Constant, Kingsley Boateng for El Shaarawy, Poli in for Muntari. Yes, you read that correctly. Urby played at his natural position, left back.

Poli came right in with a great chance, only to be stopped by Hart. Then more subs in the 72nd: Cristante on for De Jong, Pacifico on for Vergara. Then in the 79th, Pinato on for Boateng. Negredo hit the crossbar, but somehow Milan  kept Manchester City off the board for the second half, lessening the pain somehow. One could argue that this was a very young squad (and Allegri often does, as he did this time.) However, you look at the bright spots in the game, and they were almost entirely all by young players. So it begs the question: what is the problem with Milan?

Petagna did well... it's not the young players that are the problem, necessarily

This was hard. Looking at who Allegri did and didn’t have at his disposal, we knew it was not going to be pretty. We have a lot of young players, and these preseason friendlies are not always a good gauge for how the season will play out. What was frightening was how much worse the first 35 minutes were compared to our expectations. We didn’t even try to get the ball, let alone to try to score, and put up absolutely no resistance to Manchester City whatsoever. But the most disturbing thing is how Allegri linede up his midfield. He started with all of his most defensive midfield (who honestly did terribly, too.) Then he subbed on our more creative and attacking players in the second half. Now I know that he was missing some key players. But where is the balance? Where is the balance in playing some of the younger players early on and subbing them off, so that not all of them are on the pitch at the same time?

Reading between the lines, the deer-in-the-headlights start (especially when you consider that many of the players were still starters) and Allegri just not being able to lineup a cohesive, balanced squad (or have them properly prepared mentally) are the two things that worry me most. It was just a preseason friendly, but I do think we should be worried about these continuing problems. No need to panic, but we also shouldn’t be complacent and think that these issues are just going to disappear before the season.

Sao Paulo's keeper is actually old enough to be Gabriel's father...

And now on to the semifinal match tomorrow As if it was ever in doubt, Bayern defeated Sao Paulo 2-0, so we will face the Brazilian side. They certainly tested Bayern more than we tested Manchester City, so we are looking like a bigger challenge than we’d like. Their starting keeper is 40 years old, Gabriel is 20 years old. Which puts an odd spin on his “You are my son” phrase he likes to shout when he stops people. And puts us in the ugly position of facing a South American side in the semifinal again. We have played in this tournament twice, and twice we have played South American teams and lost on penalties. Will this one end differently? Only one way to find out. It may not be for the faint at heart, but I will be watching tomorrow to see if the whole point of these friendlies – trying new things and learning from mistakes - actually takes place.

This post inspired by the music of Rammstein

Our next match is the
Audi Cup Tournament
Milan vs. Sao Paulo
Thursday, August 1 • 18:15 CEST (12:15pm EDT)
This match will be shown on ESPN2 on TV and also ESPN3 online in the U.S.A.
Check here for stream links just before the match

Check out the latest podcast “Con il Milan nel Cuore” featuring the awesome p3trarch!
(You can also find the podcast on iTunes)

Manchester City 5, Milan 3: Audi Cup - Between the Lines Manchester City 5, Milan 3: Audi Cup - Between the Lines Reviewed by Elaine on 2:00 PM Rating: 5
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