Saturday, August 24, 2013

Hellas Verona 2, Milan 1: Same Old Story

It’s not surprising that Milan would underperform in their opening match. Despite the fact that the race for the Scudetto started today, Allegri is notorious for his slow starts. Add to that the history of our two clubs, and it shouldn’t have surprised anyone that Verona came out on top. And if points were given for a sense of urgency and the desire to win, the score would have been even more decisive. Well done, Verona. But for Milan, it’s just the same old story with Allegri.

The price of complacency

I don’t even know how much of the match to recap here, it’s the same old story. We went ahead in the 14th thanks to a brilliant goal from Poli off of some brilliant play from Balotelli and Poli. 1-0 Milan. Then we sat back. Same old story.

Then, in the 30th, we conceded. On a corner. Scored with a header. Goal by Luca Toni. 1-1. There will be some argument as to which Milan defender was at fault here. Constant almost got there, but it really should have been Zapata’s man. But at the end of the day, there were 9 outfield players lined up to defend that corner, and none of them did. It was headed beyond a helpless Abbiati in goal, hung out to dry again. Same old story.

Poli's goal almost the unique highlight of the match

After the half, we did not come out with much more intensity. So it was also not surprising on a play where the buildup seemed to stop time, that we should concede again. On another header. Luca Toni again in the 53rd. 2-1 Verona. So Milan lost to a newly promoted side on the first day of the season. Same old story.

I could practically cut and paste this review from so many of our games under Allegri’s tenure. It is getting really old to write the same things over and over. What was different this time were the names. Without his precious Ghanaian duo, Allegri was forced to give Poli the start, and Nocerino, too. And what did Allegri learn? Nothing. He’ll probably never give us a lineup like this again, even if De Jong was a big piece of the puzzle that we were missing. Same old story.

Let the yellows begin

We also got ourselves into yellow card trouble straight away. Montolivo earned one for a last ditch foul in the 26th, then Zapata got a little unlucky in the 50th. Balotelli perhaps should have gotten a free kick or maybe even a penalty called in the 70th as he was sandwiched at the top of the box, but instead was rewarded a yellow. He barely kept his cool, too. So now we have 3 starters starting the season on yellows. Same old story.

Something that we thought was different was that Allegri subbed early. But actually, we’ve seen this before. When down, he will sub on every attacking player on his bench, rather than give the midfield fresh legs to intercept balls and create plays for our strikers, or shore up our defense so we stop conceding goals. So he brought in Petagna for El Shaarawy and Urby for Niang in the 64th. Then he brought on Robinho for Constant in the 77th. And while he was certainly more proactive than he has been sometimes, the “throw on all of the strikers” tactic rarely ever works. So still the same old story.

We're not happy either, Allegri

Statistically, Verona were not the underdogs, either. While they only managed 39% possession, they did better at taking advantage of their chances. Verona had 14 shots with 8 on goal, whereas Milan had 15 shots, but only 5 on target. Milan had more fouls, which shows our desperation and sloppy play, but the most damning statistic for me was that Verona had 17 tackles to Milan’s 9. It shows Verona’s intensity and desire to not only play, but to win. So Milan’s complacency was probably the biggest factor in tonight’s loss. Same old story.

The last 15 minutes or so was painful to watch as once again, with four Milan attackers on the pitch taking shots of desperation. Everyone was shooting, no one converting, and we almost gave up another goal or two with quick counters near the end of the match from Verona, too. Allegri’s method of operation, digging out from behind, with an armada instead of a strikeforce on the pitch trying to make up for 75 minutes of complacency. Same old story.

Balotelli was fighting more than just defenders tonight, but where was everyone else?

And so it begins. The all-too familiar tale for Milan fans under Allegri’s reign of terror. Not a loss that should have been a huge shock, but a loss that was not necessary. Rather than avenge the losses to Fatal Verona, we succumbed and submitted to their will. Not to take anything away from Verona, as they had a tremendous performance, their 12th man was epic. They showed that they really reinforced well in the mercato, and they showed their desire to stay in Serie A from matchday one. Very well done, Verona. Allegri should take notes. One cannot just assume that they will get the ref calls, that they will win because of the colors of their kits. Winners are always hungry. They are managed by coaches who drive that hunger and instill in them the desire not only to play well, but to win. Winners defend, and after three seasons of conceding on set pieces and headers, Allegri has to be able to right this glaring wrong if he expects to compete with even the newly promoted teams. Otherwise this season will still be… yes, you guessed: the same old story.

This post inspired by the regret and pain of watching this team for the past three seasons

Our next match is
Champions League Qualification Round, 2nd leg
AC Milan vs. PSV Eindhoven
Wednesday, August 28 • 20:45 CEST (2:45pm EDT)