Have Milan turned the corner?
I think it is fair to say that AC Milan’s start to the season has been less than impressive to say the least. However, victory over Roma at the weekend propelled them into the top half of the table and then last night the Rossonerri did the unthinkable and beat Real Madrid at the Bernabeu in the Champions League.
The tie in Spain could have been oh so different. At half time Milan trailed 1-0 after a frankly poor first half thanks largely to a mistake by Brazilian goalkeeper Dida. With less than 20 minutes gone he fumbled a very easy catch and dropped the ball at the feet of Spanish legend Raul. The veteran Real striker made no mistake as he slotted the ball home to hand Los Galacticos an early lead.
Some slick skills from Ronaldinho proved a highlight in an otherwise stale first half and as half time approached it looked as if Milan were going to suffer a defeat to the big-spending Spanish giants. However, with just over an hour played Andrea Pirlo took aim and fired goalwards from at least 40 yards out. You would expect Real stopper Iker Cassilas to claim the ball from that range but Pirlo’s effort flew into the goal to draw Milan level. Game on.
Some may blame Cassilas for conceding Pirlo’s firecracker but in all honesty it was a great effort from range and had he got a hand to it I would have been hailing him for making a terrific save. Pirlo’s effort brought the game to life and Milan took the lead just four minutes later. Cassilas was certainly at fault for Alexandre Pato’s second goal, the Madrid keeper raced out of his box to intercept Massimo Ambrosini’s long ball but completely misjudged it. He seemed to try and knock it away with his hand outside the area but then thought better of it and pulled his arm away, but Pato was there to send the ball into an empty net.
Madrid knew they needed something special and the introduction of Dutchman Royston Drenthe seemed to re-ignite the home side. It was Drenthe who leveled matters for Real after Raul’s clever corner found him unmarked on the edge of the box. Drenthe showed great skill to control the ball with his right foot before sending an unstoppable drive past Dida with his left – if you haven’t seen this goal by the way try and check it out because it was a bit special.
Milan weren’t to be denied a famous victory though, with just two minutes of normal time remaining former Real favourite Clarence Seedorf chipped a clever ball into Pato’s path. The Milan striker made no mistake as he kept himself onside before volleying Seedorf’s cross beyond Cassilas to secure a famous victory for the Rossonerri.
Granted, the game was characterised by goalkeeping howlers as much as anything else but on paper Milan saw off Real Madrid 3-2 at the Bernabeu in the Champions League and that is what matters. After their shock loss to Swiss minnows FC Zurich in Europe this result puts Milan back in contention to make it out of the group stages and continue in the Champions League. Victories over Roma and Real have certainly improved the situation for Milan boss Leonardo, who must have been worried about his job going into that double header. Milan must continue from here and use this as a starting point to kick-start their season – their next fixture is an infinitely less glamorous but equally as important Serie A tie against Chievo.