On paper, this looked like a fairly predictable match up. Despite Roma’s obvious “title contender” status in Serie A, prior to this game, Claudio Ranieri’s men had slumped down to mid – table, and if Milan won at San Siro, the Rossineri would have opened up a 13 point gap between the Gallarossi and Allegris men, and a 9 point overnight lead on Juventus.
However, you can never predict Roma. At the start of the season, Roma coudn’t buy a win drawing to newly promoted Cesena, and losing 5-1 to Calgliari, yet beat derby rivals Lazio, who were unbeaten at the top of the table. However they continued their poor form through Serie A, then shocked Bayern Munich by coming back from 2 down to spark a brilliant comeback, thanks to Marco Borriello and Francesco Totti penalty sinking last years finalists and providing the group stages most exciting match. So where do you place them? Despite their inconsistent form, on their day, Ranieri’s Gladiators can genuinely beat anyone. And Roma have a very impressive record against Milan, winning 3 of the last 4 games between the two, something that should have been emphasised to the Rossineri prior to kick off.
But it would seem that Allegri forgot to mention this in his pre match speech, as Milan, despite starting very well, with Robinho and Boateng causing Mexes and Burdisso problems early, seemed a little blase’ about the match, with very little of the penetration we saw against the likes of Bologna and Brescia, especially in the second half.
Milan started well, and could have perhaps should have scored when Robinho dribbled into the Roma box, leaving Mexes scrambling, but pushed his shot just wide. The Milan forwards were not the only early penetrators, with full backs Abate and the swashbuckling Antonini testing the Gallarossi backline, with latter’s dangerous cross being headed out by Juan in a defensive melee’, and Boatengs’s strike from the ensuing set piece smothered by Doni.
Milan then suffered yet another injury set back, when Andrea Pirlo limped off from a thigh strain, (and is out for a month, sorry Milan fans) and was replaced by Seedorf. As a result of this, the Rossineri seemed to lose a little balance in midfield, emphasised somewhat by the Dutch trequartista’s poor performance on Saturday night. Milan had a great chance on 34 minutes, when Gattuso’s through ball found an onside Ibrahimovic, who uncharacteristically hit his shot straight at the onrushing Doni.
The second half started slowly, with only Borriello looking lively, but Nesta tackled his former teammate before he could make an impact. Milan were dominating possesion, but were regularly falling victim to the offside trap, with Ibrahimovic and Robinho regular perpetrators, with Brazilian forward in partucular looking fustrated at several desicions, with one in particular infuriaring the Selecao attacker, who on reflection seemed to have an arguable case.
Roma, were causing problems on the counter, and Milan’s lacklustre defending was allowing then thus, with Adriano, Simplicio and Borriello causing problems in particular. Roma started piling on the pressure, and eventually broke through with Borriello, when Menez’s low cross was not dealt with by Abate, allowing the Milan man to finish from 6 yards. Milan should have equalised when Ibrahimovic got in behind Romas defence and controlled Seedorf’s longball, but again wasted his oppurtunity, firing over the bar.
He had a similar chance no more than 5 minutes later, but did not control Boateng’s as acutely as he hoped, and minutes later De Rossi nearly scored the goal of the season when his vicous volley was tipped over the bar by Abbiati, who must have been glad to touch the ball.
Ronaldinho had the final chance of the game, after replacing the ailed Boateng, but his typically extravagant overhead kick beat Doni, but the crossbar as well.
Allegri’s men should watch this game back, and take some positives. They controlled the game, kept possesion well and created chances, but this is football. If you dont take them, there is always a chance it will bite you back later, and thats what happened to Diavolo, in the most footballish way, with the goal that deciding the game coming from one of their own. However, as Juve got held by Chievo, they only go into Christmas having lost a point off their lead, but Milan, in particular Ibrahimovic know, that they could have been seeing in the New Year 8 points up on Juventus.