Milan blows it, again 5/5 (2)

Milan blew it up right at the death. Again! So did Napoli and Roma but against significantly lesser opposition. Juventus and Inter duly took advantage of it.

Game of the round was played at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome with Milan visiting fellow Champions League hopefuls Lazio. All square at the end which leaves the rossoneri still without a win against higher standing club. This time at least they got something out of it.

Credit to Gattuso

A lot of clubs have injury problems but none more than Milan at the moment. First choice center backs, first back-up and basically the only playmaker on the sidelines. And to cap it all also star-striker suspended for the outburst against the referee last time out against Juventus.

Milan Gattuso

Only 4 players missing, you’d say, but it’s the back-bone of the team, the whole central line! The biggest issue is that Milan doesn’t have quality alternatives.

Juventus without Chiellini, Bonucci, Pjanić and Ronaldo can count on Benatia, Rugani, Bentancur and Dybala or Mandžukić to fill the void. Not exactly the same but not bad at all anyway.

Inter missing Škriniar, De Vrij, Brozović and Icardi would present Miranda, Ranocchia, Borja Valero and Lautaro Martinez. Still enough to compete in Serie A.

Gattuso reinvented the whole set-up and proposed a 3-4-3 formation with 1 natural central defender. Left- and right-back tightened it up and filled-up the central trio.

Borrini was preferred to Laxalt in the left-wing role with the Uruguayan perhaps playing the price for the error that led to Juve’s second goal two weeks ago.

Lazio vs Milan

With a decimated squad and emergency formation managed to take home a point from a direct competitor. Credit where is due!

Angry Gattuso? With who?

The interesting fact is that Milan didn’t make a single substitution during the whole game! Not even in the final minutes when leading by a single goal to steal some time and disrupt Lazio’s assault.

As far as I remember, similar behaviour had Fabio Capello when still in charge of Juventus just before Calciopoli in a European cup match.

Admittedly Gattuso’s options were limited, to say the least, however there were some changes he could made. There were some players that already participated in important matches waiting for their chance.

One is surely aforementioned Laxalt. Replacing off-from Calhanoglu and adding some bite and dynamism would be welcome.

The other is Castillejo. Coming on for Cutrone in the dying minutes just to steal a few seconds if nothing else could be useful.

If a manager like Mourinho would do something like that the message would be clear to his employers; I need more quality players!

But Ringhio isn’t like that. He doesn’t play mind-games with anybody. He’s a sincere, straight-forward person, perhaps too much occasionally.

Laxalt and Castillejo

Milan doesn’t have a roster to compete with the big boys, proven on different occasions. Everybody knows it and the manager probably said it loud and clear to people upstairs in private. Ergo reported deals for Paqueta and Ibrahimović are being finalized.

Being an emotional individual he’s probably angry at mentioned players, Laxalt and Castillejo. Or at least not happy with their contribution in the last outings.

Should that be the case the duo are in for a very intense and most likely long period of regaining manager’s faith. Wouldn’t want to be in their shoes…

Milan blew it, again

Against a strong rival in difficult circumstances and with an experimental starting eleven, Milan still had three points in their pocket right until the end. Maybe not entirely deserving but had the win.

However this season they just have to concede. Only Udinese didn’t hit their net this campaign in Italy’s top competition. All others did and so did Lazio. In the most dramatic of fashions with the last kick of the game after a half-cleared high ball in the box.

Correa goal

Just as in the city derby against Inter and earlier in the season against Atalanta.

True, Milan did beat Genoa and Udinese with last-gasp goals but those were games Gattuso’s men deserved to win. Getting points from Lazio, Inter and Atalanta, direct competitors, would also add weight to their bid for Euro places.

Inzaghi also dissatisfied?

Biancocelesti’s manager also made a move that raised a few eyebrows. Contrary to his counterpart he made all the substitutions however unexpected ones.

Midway thru the second half he called out Luiz Alberto and Sergej Milinković-Savić. Two most talented players of the team with the score still tied at 0-0.

The pair didn’t set the world on fire but weren’t as bad as they were on several other occasions either.

Playing Correa instead of Alberto seemed logical and made sense and eventually payed dividends.

However Lukaku for Sergej, left wing-back replacing an attacking midfielder when pushing for a win, was very surprising.

Gattuso and Inzaghi

Not a strange thing for Lazio to lose at home but this time they saved themselves.

Both teams got a point for their troubles and neither can be really pleased with it.

Juventus and Inter cruise

Juventus displayed typical performance; routine victory without breaking sweat. Never free-scoring but also rarely allowing opponents a sniff at goal. Calm, steady, always in control and consistent. Champions stuff!

Ronaldo

Inter got over their embarrassing result in Bergamo 2 weeks ago with a “walk i nthe park” against Frosinone. And discovered a new weapon in the process. Balde Keita showed glimpses of what he’s capable of win a brace.

Lautaro Martinez also opened his account in Serie A. After a fruitful pre-season finally managed a goal in the league and a lot more should follow if given the chance.

Napoli and Roma fail, again

It’s hard to think of better opposition to face before crucial Champions League matches the following week then Chievo Verona and Udinese. However Southern giants succeeded in not taking advantage of the calendar.

Ancelotti

Napoli usually made light weight of games like this. Lost to Sampdoria and Juventus and drew with Roma but against bottom half teams eventually got what they needed.

Slippery turf played in favor of the team that didn’t care too much where the ball ended as long as it’s away from goal however Chievo shouldn’t pose any kind of challenge to title hopefuls. Especially not his season!

With Juve seldom failing to get the result final triumph for Napoli, and everybody else for that matter, looks more and more unlikely.

However it’s hardly a big surprise for Roma. Roller-coaster campaign already brought some astonishing results and 4th domestic defeat. If you lose to Bologna and SPAL, why not doing the same with Udinese?

Di Francesco

Elsewhere

Gervinho-driven Parma continue to impress and hold on to Europa League place. Salvation remains primary objective but after a third of the season gone it’s fair to say that targets could be reinspected.

Similarly important win for Empoli in their relegation battle. Not as high on the standings as Parma but nevertheless capable of causing a few headaches to anybody.

Home supporters can be quite happy this round as no guests took a victory. Milan could and should but ultimately didn’t.

Please review this article using the ratings

Milan vs Juventus No ratings yet.

Milan proved again that doesn’t have the tools to compete with the big boys in Italy. Juventus won without breaking sweat.

AC Milan lost 3rd match in the league. All defeats came against clubs who supersede the rossoneri in the standing. If in the derby della Madonnina the points eluded them at the last minute, versus Juve it was clear from the beginning that they have little chance of success.

Milan not good enough

Similarly to the other big match played in England this weekend, the Manchester derby, it was in plain view that it’s a game between two completely different worlds. Not just in terms of talent and quality throughout the squad. The main difference is that Juve has a clear identity, style of play, game-plan and a manager in full control.

Milan is pretty much a work in progress with a new formation and a lot of question marks still open on the manager. Some think Gattuso has the potential and is on the right path. Others, me included, think that he’s still too green for a club of such international pedigree. Particularly on the tactical and game reading level.

Missing basically half of the team is a point that has to be taken into consideration when judging the performance however he could do more with what he had.

Ringhio doesn’t have Allegri’s abundance in talent. He doesn’t have a Bernardeschi or Costa on the bench. Wouldn’t dream to leave Bonucci or Rugani out of the starting eleven.

So he needs to get creative and innovative. And given the opposition faced on the weekend his team selection was as much forced as it was brave. Or naive.

Gattuso

Stopping Juve

The biggest mistake, for me, was to play a 4-4-2 with Suso out wide in the midfield. Don’t get me wrong, Suso in the driving creative force of the side and is essential to have any chance of winning however not as a wide midfielder against Juve.

Alex Sandro as his mirror is an attack-minded full-back. With Juve keeping possession and controlling the game you have to close all channels leading to your goal. Suso can’t guarantee you much needed defensive stability to contain Brazilian’s forward forays.

The opener is evident proof of that. Alex had all the time in the world to adjust the ball, carefully check the situation in the Milan box and serve a precise cross for Mandžukič to head home.

In that situation Abate was outnumbered and couldn’t risk closing down Alex Sandro while leaving Ronaldo unmarked.

Juve goal

It bothers me to say this but in a game like this Borrini, with his fighting spirit and endless energy, would be a better option in the wide position. Suso would be moved in a free role behind Higuain in place of a confused Castillejo.

Even if he made the mistake leading to the second goal, on the opposite flank Laxalt would be a better option than Calhanoglu. The Turk is extremely talented and certainly has a future at the club but he going thru a rough patch and isn’t contributing as expected in the attacking sense. Without the ball he’s putting in decent work-rate however Laxalt offers you more.

Flanks closed, and the middle?

With Bonucci on the bench the only play-making option for Juve was Pjanić and Suso would go on to follow the Bosnian closely and disturb his game. This would force one of bianconeri’s central defenders to initiate attacks. But neither Chiellini nor Benatia are as nearly comfortable on the ball as Milan’s former captain.

Bakayoko and Kessie are capable of matching Matuidi and Bentancur’s dynamism so there would be less passing options for Juve.

Dybala was floating around in search for space and not giving any reference points to Milan’s defenders. His movement as well as Ronaldo’s would have to be tracked by central defenders and one full back, depending on which side Juve’s attack is developing.  

In this way Milan would have greater stability in defensive phase and Juve would have to work much harder to get in behind the defensive line or earn clean crossing positions.

When in possession?

With Suso’s free and his natural tendency to start from the right and cut inside on his magical left foot, you pressure Juve’s left side of defence. With Borrini’s aid in dragging defender’s attention and Ronaldo not tracking back, Suso would have only Matuidi on his way.

Kessie supporting from the central role would keep Pjanić busy so he couldn’t offer Matuidi enough cover all the time.

The Frenchman is a beast in breaking-up play but in the course of 90 minutes the Spanish wizard would have it better at least a couple of times and thus possibility to create something.

Milan

Additionally, I’d instruct Suso to mirror Ronaldo’s movement and always stay on the same side in case the Portuguese superstar shifts to the right. In this way numerical advantage on that side would be gained with wide midfielders, Borrini or Laxalt, occupying respective defenders and full-backs offering always a safe passing option.

Everything would depend from one man however it’s the case anyhow. Relieving him from strict defensive duties and leaving him floating in the attacking third at will at least you put him in better conditions to hurt the opponent.

Higuain?

I believe he was aware that he’d see even less of the ball as did against Inter. It’s difficult to prevent Juve to isolate your striker.

Anyway Higuain is a world class striker and needs just half a chance to take his team in front.

Actually, even with Milan offering next to nothing in goal threat sense, Pipita had his opportunity. But he blew it.

Szczesny read former teammate’s intention and produced a great save from the penalty awarded for Benatia’s hand-ball.

Leveling just before half time would give Milan much needed confidence for the second period.

I’m sure Juve would won anyway but Higuain would not be expelled later on for an emotional outburst towards the referee. For a foul on in the middle of the park.

Higuain

What about Ronaldo?

Same old story. Played his own match in the match, never let shooting opportunity go by and eventually scored the all important second goal. The one ended all hopes Milan had of getting something out of this.

After some dreadful defending pounced on a loose ball in the heart of the box and finished expertly.

During the week he was cut short of his free-kick privileges and rightfully so. Juve have valid alternatives in Pjanić and Dybala and it’s their turn to show what are capable of.

What next for Milan?

Three indications give a proof, as it is said, so Milan has a lot of work to do to compete with the big guns.

With this squad they can win against smaller teams, as they’re doing this season. But to push for greater objectives a lot more quality in depth is needed.

And fix the conceding issue! Defensive organization is a big problem this season. Milan just can’t keep a clean sheet!

Elsewhere?

Milan can take some satisfaction from Inter’s result this weekend. The neroazzurri’s apathetic showing was no match to Atalanta’s dynamic display and the Bergamo outfit deservedly won 4-1. Apparently congested fixtures lately took a huge physiological and physical tally, particularly the double clash against Barcelona in Champions League, which culminated this weekend.

Atalanta

Napoli and Roma won respective matches to keep within touching distance from Juve. Lazio and Cagliari got a point from a tricky away games against Sassuolo and SPAL respectively.

Fiorentina lost 2 points right at the death to Frosinone and Empoli earned an important win against fellow salvation hopefuls Udinese.

Juventus almost allowed innocuous opposition to get back in the game, again, but this Milan side simply can’t come close to the serial champions. Neither in terms of player nor managerial quality.

Please review this article using the ratings

Red Star euphoria and Monaco chaos No ratings yet.

Red Star made history in Belgrade by beating Liverpool on Champions League’s match-day 4 in group C. The Serbian side did the same already however it was over 45 years ago.

Champions League doesn’t provide a lot of surprises in terms of winners but in the group stages there are some. And this season we’ve had 1 major surprise every round. But the developments in the Serbian capital on Tuesday night are beyond every immagination – rookie in the competition wins against last season’s runner-up.

Red Star make history

As Napoli already felt in the opening game, there’s nothing to cheer about when you’re visitor in the famous Marakana, now Rajko Mitić stadium. Even if the red and white didn’t have a great game and actually had a lot of luck when earning a point against the Partenopei, they got it.

Red Star Liverpool

Tuesday night, however, the victory was well earned. After shipping in 10 goals in the last two CL trips to Paris and Liverpool you’d be forgiven if you wouldn’t give the Serbs a chance. And after their first choice forward was ruled out, slims chances took another cut.

Milan Pavkov

But in tight situation heroes are born and new hero in the Balkan country is Milan Pavkov. Who? Milan Pavkov.

To tell you the truth I didn’t hear of him either before his heroics against the Reds so more then the obvious I can’t explain.

Red Star Pavkov

He’s been at the club since 2016 but has managed just a few goals in the first season. The ever-demanding football public in Belgrade derided him however club president maintained his faith in the player.

To calm the surroundings the player was sent on loan to Radnički Niš last season where he flourished with 23 goals. That convinced everybody that there’s something in the big target man and he was brought back this summer.

The return wasn’t all roses either and until his double against the English giant he scored 5 goals in domestic league. And that’s much saying much given the quality of the competition.

In the CL preliminary rounds he did have some playing time but without any particular success. Apparently he’s a big occasion player and after his last performance more pitch time is guaranteed and we’ll just have to wait and see if he can deliver with higher expectations.

The game

Anyway, Liverpool opened the game in familiar fashion and after a sitter missed by Sturridge at the beginning it looked as if another high-scoring result is on the cards.

But the home side refused to just roll over and die! After the initial scare went by and some equilibrium was installed, Pavkov rose highest and nodded home an inviting cross from a corner.

Heating atmosphere in the stadium gave even more courage and while the guests were still wondering what happened Pavkov hit again.

This time it was an individual action as his relentless pressing awarded him a ball on the half-way line. He resisted Wijnaldum’s come-back, adjusted the ball on his preferred right foot and fired a thunderbolt past a helpless Alisson from 20 meters.

30 minutes played and 2-0 for the heavy underdog.

Red Star Salah

In little more then 5 minutes 2 strikes and the stadium erupted! If it was hot till then, it must felt like hell for Liverpool since.

The Beatles city team upped the pressure, controlled the game and found a way to be dangerous however I don’t remember any clear-cut chances of miracles from the home side goalkeeper.

Liverpool can be glad that both confrontations between Napoli and PSG ended without winners and actually have still everything in their own hands.

It’s now a very tricky situation in the group standings with 2 games left to play and all teams being within 2 points. Nobody gave Red Star any particular chance in getting any point from the 6 games they got to play and now they’re in with a shot of qualifying for the next stage. Perhaps to optimistic but the chances are there.

Juventus implosion

It might not be such a big surprise as in Belgrade but Manchester United’s victory in Turin against Juventus is surely a contender for top 3 surprises in CL this season.

It didn’t look like that at all at the beginning. The Bianconeri were their usual dominating self, controlling the proceedings and having the English counterpart on the ropes for over 80 minutes.

Chances were coming at will and if there wasn’t De Gea with his saves there was a post of a crossbar to keep Khedira and Dybala at bay respectively.

Juventus

However in the 65th minute Juventus finally got its break-thru with a fantastic finish from the star man – Ronaldo. Bonucci sent an exquisite over-the-top invite and the Portuguese super-star finished with rarely seen accuracy and power to finally give the much-deserved lead for the home side.

The punishment

Since the Red Devils have looked uninspired and unmotivated, their usual self this season, few could have predicted what followed.

The goal shook the visitors but the reaction needed some more time to be seen. Eventually Mata scored from a free-kick in the 86th minute and even a draw would be too much for the performance.

However, shocks weren’t over yet.

We’ve already learned that Juventus is so dominant this season that a lack of challenge brings the worst out of them. It happened against Genoa in Serie A a few weeks ago and it happened again last night.

Just a few minutes after the equalizer Manchester took advantage of Italian champions’ relaxation and scored again! Well, they didn’t have to because Bonucci and Alex Sandro took care of it by scoring an own goal in comical circumstances.

It’s hard to explain what happened but in the end doesn’t even matter too much. Mourinho and his team got an important win and reminded Allegri and his squad of a crucial moment in football matches. IT NOT OVER UNTIL THE FINAL WHISTLE IS BLOWN!

You’d expect such an experienced team to learn their lesson and see out games they deserved to win with greater authority. However, over-confidence obviously got the better of much-needed humility and fooled them. Again!

Proposal to Mourinho

This season his team has decided to play only in second half. I’m not sure if it’s a strategy, a necessity or just happens but in majority of first halves Manchester United was horrific. Against Juve, Chelsea and numerous other times United just stood there the first 45 minutes and let the opposition run them ragged.

Mourinho

Since it’s a trend this year Mourinho should have his team play an internal game for 45 minutes before the official match kick-off. In that way when the actual game starts they’d be already playing 2nd half . Perhaps in this way they would play the whole match on expected level. Even if in the later stages of the game Mourinho’s team would be a bit tired by then the result would probably be gained and could let the opposition chase the result.

Perhaps it’s an idea worth exploring.

Monaco chaos

AS Monaco is a club with rich tradition and with some success along the way. As far as last season played perhaps the most entertaining football on the continent and more importantly gained results.

This season it’s in complete chaos! On-field performances are bordering on the ridiculous and the league table clearly shows it. 

Coach change is inevitable in such situations however it didn’t bring any positive effect. Thierry Henry is a legend and his football knowledge is beyond doubt. However leading a demotivated and seemingly tense group of players appears to be a bridge too far for a managerial debut on the highest level.

Henry

Owner’s arrest and suspicion of fraud doesn’t help either and I wouldn’t be surprised if a talent exodus would be on the table in January. The talent is there and there won’t be any shortage of suitors. But given the club’s situation many of them could be sold way bellow market value.

Goals conceded against Club Brugge demonstrate current atmosphere in the camp. No focus, no idea what’s going on and no vision. Just confusion, lack of concentration and general state of shock!

The rest

Of the rest no stand-out results.

Inter got an undeserved point at home against Barcelona with the usual Icardi finding a way past Ter Stegen. At the end both will take it without stress as the result helps both clubs closer to the objective.

Tottenham got a laboured victory against PSV to keep the hopes alive. However, to secure progression they need to stop giving away early and cheap goals.

Napoli also got an undeserved point but because should got all 3 of them against timid PSG. The French champions will be glad with the result but they must improve drastically if they wish to advance to the next stage.

Manchester City fired 6 past Pyatov at the Etihad stadium. The performance was as dominant as ever but the game will be remembered for all the wrong reasons. It’s hard to explain, you have to see for yourself.

However, in Sterling’s defence, the goal he scored beginning of the 2nd half was simply brilliant.

Bayern Munich won against AEK to book its place in the knock-out phase but can’t be considered out of crisis. What the demanding public has to watch at the Allianz Arena isn’t worth of the glorious history the club carries and the squad assembled.

Ajax got and important point in Lisbon in their quest to make it in the next round.

Roma did the same in Moscow.

And Real Madrid’s resurrection under the guidance of Santiago Solari continues. 3 games, 3 wins, 11 goals scored and 0 conceded. That’s a record suitable to Real’s fame. The opposition wasn’t exactly world-beaters however neither was Real lately. And the fact that Benzema still remembers where the goal stands and started to hit it is a very good sign.

Red Star produced the shock of the round this time. That’s the beauty of the Champions League. Let’s hope leaked changes in the making don’t ruin the beautiful game.

Full results:

Group A

 Monaco 0 – 4 Club Brugge

 Atletico Madrid 2 – 0 Borussia Dortmund

Group B

 Inter 1 – 1 Barcelona

 Tottenham Hotspur 2 – 1 PSV Eindhoven

Group C

 Red Star 2 – 0 Liverpool

 Napoli 1 – 1 Paris Saint Germain

Group D

 FC Porto 4 – 1 Lokomotiv Moscow

 Schalke 04 2 – 0 Galatasaray

Group E

 FC Bayern München 2 – 0 AEK Athens

 Benfica 1 – 1 Ajax

Group F

 Lyon 2 – 2 Hoffenheim

 Manchester City 6 – 0 Shakhtar Donetsk

Group G

 CSKA Moscow 1 – 2 Roma

 Viktoria Plzen 0 – 5 Real Madrid

Group H 

 Valencia 3 – 1 Young Boys

 Juventus 1 – 2 Manchester United

Group standings

Please review this article using the ratings