League leaders Milan were dominant during the first-half and the early stages of the second period against their rivals Juventus. The Rossoneri scored after another mistake by Leonardo Bonucci. The Juve centre-back committed two mistakes leading to Milan’s goal scored by former Juve midfielder Antonio Nocerino. Bonucci was not under pressure yet he misplaced his pace which eventually got to Nocerino who opted to shoot from a distance yet it appeared Gianluigi Buffon had his strike covered. However, the error prone Bonucci intervened to completely change the trajectory of the ball and his deflection left Buffon hapless.
Eventually Milan tired out and Juve mounted a late challenge to secure a 1-1 draw. Below are the main reasons behind Milan’s failure to achieve a precious win to avenge two earlier defeats to the Bianconeri during the current season, one in the league and another in the Coppa Italia:
1) Ibrahimovic: Former Juve striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic was serving the third and final match of his suspension from another one of his silly mistakes. There is no doubt Zlatan is one of the best strikers in Serie A, yet his erratic behavior has often cost his teams in big matches. His presence would have probably yielded more goals for Milan during their dominant first-half performance.
When Ibrahimovic plays, Milan’s offense does indeed goes through him but who can complain when he often scores leading pundits and the media to vocally criticize the Rossoneri for being over-dependent on the temperamental Swedish star? He was clearly missed against Juve because Alexandre Pato is a shadow of the player he was when he first joined Milan.
2) Pato: The Brazilian striker is still young but one cannot remember the last match when Alexandre Pato was fully fit and able to deliver the crucial goals. Injuries and fitness problems have hindered the Brazilian’s growth after a couple of promising years which witnessed Pato score some important goals leading some European clubs, such as Chelsea, to inquire about his availability.
The absence of long-term casualty Antonio Cassano (heart procedure) and the suspension of Ibrahimovic left coach Massimiliano Allegri with limited options since Filippo Inzaghi was unlikely to start against Juve.
3) Substitution: Coach Allegri made an ill-advised decision to remove Urby Emanuelson and replace him with veteran midfielder Massimo Ambrosini. The timing of the substitution was also questionable. Perhaps Allegri should have waited another 10 minutes instead of having two 34-year-old midfielders in Ambrosini and Mark Van Bommel trying to contain a dynamic Juve once opposing coach Antonio Conte inserted the dynamic Simone Pepe and then followed by introducing the effective Alessandro Matri.
Milan looked tired and slow towards the end but no one can deny having two older midfielders tipped the balance in Juve’s favor (of course before Milan gained back some momentum with the late sending-off of Arturo Vidal).
4) Chances: Milan’s strong start and first 45 minutes deserved more than a goal so when the two sides went into the half with a score of 1-0 in favor of the Rossoneri, the Juve players must have sensed the situation cannot get any worse. Juve’s players must have felt they had a chance to come away with at least a point if they improved on their disastrous first-half performance.
5) Linesman: The Sulley Muntari goal should have counted giving Milan a 2-0 edge. The ball clearly crossed the line and if the scorer (Muntari) was in an offside position then the linesman should have at least raised his flag to force the match referee to blow his whistle. Instead, the linesman’s performance was appalling and allowed the play to continue with Juve launching a lightening counter-attack which almost resulted in an equalizer had Christian Abbiati not produced a fine save. If Juve had scored on that counter-attack then surely the referee would have lost control of the match.
The same linesman would later deny Juve a goal by claiming Matri was offside when he was in fact onside to draw the two teams level. The linesman was dismal to say the least because covering for an earlier error with another glaring mistake is not the right way to redeem oneself.