MILAN are 5 points clear at the top of the table ahead of Napoli’s clash with Inter later tonight. In a game which the Rossoneri could have ended without points, Milan head home with all 3 thanks to Rodney Strasser’s fist goal for the club! After 2 inspired substitutions by Massimiliano Allegri, Antonio Cassano assisted fellow substitute Rodney Strasser’s goal with an ingenious flick.
In a much changed side due to several injuries and the 1 game suspension of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Massimiliano Allegri fielded youngster Alexander Merkel behind Pato and Robinho in a 4-3-1-2 formation – whilst Massimo Ambrosini, Gennaro Gattuso and Clarence Seedorf played in midfield. In defence, Ignazio Abate, Daniele Bonera, Thiago Silva and Luca Antonini started in front of goalkeeper Christin Abbiati.
The Rossoneri started off the better side, holding possession well early on – and Alexander Merkel impressed as the away side kept the ball well. The first chance of the game came just 10 minutes in, Alexander Merkel dragging a center back out of position before slipping the ball in to Robinho. The Brazilian controlled well and shot but it was deflected wide off the foot of Agazzi.
The pace of the game took a turn for the worse and slowed drown dramatically, this seemed to suit Cagliari much more than Milan, and the home side began to take advantage. Cagliari were keeping the ball better now, and were dominating the game, and with half an hour played Canini’s header crashed off the inside of Abbiati’s post before bouncing away mercifully. A close-shave and an indicator that Milan needed to take charge.
However it was Cagliari who ended the half on top. With 40 minutes on the clock a long pass from Clarence Seedorf deflected to Matri, who was brought down in the box by Thiago Silva! However, he was deemed to have been offside, once again Cagliari came close but the score remained 0-0, and the half drew to a close scoreless.
The second half started as the first did – with Milan dominating possession and play, and Milan should have taken the lead in the fifty-first minute. Clarence Seedorf picked up the ball near the half way line, before dinking an excellent through ball for Pato over the Cagliari defence. The Brazilian managed to remain onside, and after taking a touch forward shot, but his effort was saved well by Agazzi, even if Pato should have done a little better.
Cagliari were making the second half an end to end affair, but it was an error from Christian Abbiati which almost lead to a goal for the home side next. After Daniele Bonera played the ball back to him, the Italian goalkeeper kicked the ball straight to Nene inside the box! Nene should have scored but Abbiati made a fairly good recovery to tip the effort wide after a moment of madness!
Shortly after that came Massimiliano Allegri’s first inspired substitution – bringing on Young Rodney Strasser for Gennaro Gattuso, to make his 5th ever appearance for the club!
The home side were pressing hard, and came close to taking the lead once more in the 68th minute, after a very good cross from Agostini, Nene headed across goal whilst Abbiati was in no-man’s land! However, As Matri powered the header at goal Christian Abbiati just about managed to recover and managed to smother the ball after his initial error.
Then came Allegri’s second substitution, taking off Alexander Merkel (who started well but faded as the game went on) to give Antonio Cassano his official debut. It was Cassano’s first proffessional appearance since October, and the Italian had an almost instant impact.
With just 5 minutes left on the clock, time was running out for Milan, but Robinho flicked the ball to Cassano on the edge of the Cagliari area, and Allegri’s substitutes combined wonderfully to craft a winner! Receiving the ball in to feet Antonio Cassano played an incredible back heel, for Rodney Strasser who held off his marker, took a touch, and fired the ball in to the back of the net! There were suspicions of offside but replays have since proven the linesman was right to keep his flag down.
Despite intense pressure in the last 5 minutes of the game from Cagliari, and an additional 4 minutes of stoppage time, Milan managed to hang on to the lead well, and take all 3 points from the Stadio Sant’Elia.
In a game that could so easily have gone the other way, Milan (Christian Abbiati in particular) will be very grateful to have emerged with all the points. Allegri’s substitutions were wise and attacking, and it was excellent not only to see Antonio Cassano create a crucial goal on his debut – but to see Rodney Strasser scoring his first goal for the club – what a time and place to get it!
Man of the Match: for the full game Thiago Silva defended well overall, but Strasser wins it just for the goal!
Best Moment: The excellent improvisation and then goal from Cassano and Strasser of course!
By Hefin Davies, Rossoneri Blog