THE ROSSONERI are 4 points clear of Napoli at the top of Serie A, and 9 points ahead of Inter, after beating Cesena 2-0 earlier tonight. Milan took the lead just before half time – with an Own Goal from Pellegrino after an excellent chip from Antonio Cassano, and despite dominating throughout the second half too, Milan were frustratingly uncomposed in front of goal, however, Zlatan Ibrahimovic secured the points in the last minutes of the game with an excellent finish.
Milan fielded a 4-3-1-2, with Abbiati back after injury, behind a back 4 of Abate, Nesta, Yepes and Antonini. Thiago Silva was pushed in to defensive midfield after an injury for Gattuso in the warm up, joining him in midfield were Massimo Ambrosini, and Alexander Merkel. The same front 3 from the coppa Italia game returned in attack, with Robinho, Cassano and Ibrahimovic.
The match started off at a high tempo, and just 2 minutes in Christian Abbiati was called in to action! With barely any time gone it was Malonga’s driving effort which forced the returning goalkeeper to dive low to save, and Cesena were pressing hard. The away side earned a few corners and looked quite threatening, but nothing came of them. Milan had little time on the ball to begin with, but did look quite threatening at times, and the link between the front 3 was still there to be seen.
Cesena very nearly took the lead after 17 minutes, despite the game being even at that point. After Antonini was caught out by miscontrolling the ball, Schelotto found himself with a free run at goal. As he drove in to the box Abbiati intelligently made himself as big as possible and kept out Schelotto’s near post effort, ensuring the scoreline remained level. After a slight scramble, Nesta managed to clear the ball out for a corner, however a poor delivery meant Cesena couldn’t profit from it, and the score remained level.
More injury woes troubled Massimiliano Allegri then. With 23 minutes on the clock, Alessandro Nesta was forced off with injury. After an awkward fall, he was forced off the field, and although it didn’t look too bad, the full extent of the injury is not known – though it was either a dislocated shoulder, or a dislocated wrist. Sokratis Papastathopoulos replaced him, joining the other summer signing Mario yepes at the heart of the defence. More news on the injury to follow.
Milan were the next to come close to scoring. Wih 26 minutes on the clock, a very nice touch from Ibrahimovic allowed Robinho to run at the Cesena defence. After beating a defnder, he decided to take another step and shoot. WIth the goal gaping a clean connection would’ve surely meant a goal, however he didn’t hit the ball cleanly, and in result it was a fairly poor shot.
Just moments later, Milan had another oppertunity to score. Antonio Cassano picked up the ball around 25 yards from goal, and played an inch perfect through ball in to the box for Ibrahimovic. The swede attempted to just lift it over the keeper, but his effort was saved well by Antonioli, who – like Abbiati – made himself as big as possible to deny Milan the opening goal of the game.
Despite there not being a goal, Milan were at least beginning to get in to their stride – and they crafted another oppertunity shortly after. After some excellent defending from yepes, before a logn sweeping ball out to the right, Robinho picked up the ball, and made an excellent flick behind him for the oncoming Thiago Silva, however, his driving effort was scrambled away by the Cesena defence.
Milan were knocking on the door, but so far Cesena had shut them out. After some poor indecision and failure to clear the ball, Ibrahimovic managed to flick the ball on just outside the 6 yard box, and Luca Antonini bore down on goal. However, if anything he made too much contact with the ball and pulled his shot narrowly wide of Antonioli’s left post.
The Rossoneri were really pushing for the opener, and 3 decent chances came up before the end of the half, first, Antonio Cassano took a shot from the edge of the box, however, he couldn’t keep it down and the ball sailed over the crossbar. The second was a knockdown won by Ibrahimovic, which ended up with the ball bouncing back out just inside the box, but Robinho’s right footed effort could only find the side netting. Lastly, Robinho’s volleyed cross went to the far post, but Ibrahimovic pulled off a diving header which was saved by Antonioli.
In the last minute of the first half, Milan took the lead! Antonio Cassano once more the artist (and the man who will get the assist) after he picked it up inside the edge of the box, before chipping the ball over the last defender to the onside Ibrahimovic, who dived at the ball and attempted to volley it. The ball ended up in the bottom corner and Ibrahimovic will claim it, however, there were suspicions that it was Pellegrino who got the last touch and that it was an own goal by him, replays have since shown this to be the case.
There was 1 more chance at the end of the first half, after a scramble in the Cesena box due to some indecision meant Mario Yepes could stick out a leg and prod it goalwards past Antonioli, however, it was cleared before reaching the line. Milan had attacked well and definitely grew in to the game. Despite looking suspect at the back occasionally (mainly due to Antonini’s poor defending) the Rossoneri finally did get the lead which they probably deserved, even though it seemed as if they were lacking composure earlier on.
Milan’s first real oppertunity of the second half fell to Ambrosini. After Ignazio Abate managed to find Ibra inside the box, Ibrahimovic held off 2 defenders before rolling the ball back to the edge of the box for the italian to strike. Ambrosini couldn’t control his shot though, and his effort ended up going narrowly over the bar. It seemed Milan were playing like in the first half, with some good attacking play, if not enough composure.
With 55 minutes on the clock, Antonioli was forced in to making a good save. After a 1-2 with Ibrahimovic, Robinho drifted in to some space and ran goalwards, but he was brought down outside the box for a free kick. Ibrahimovic stepped up and hit it with real power – he did well to get it up and down so quickly, and Antonioli was forced punch it up and out over the crossbar.
In the next 15 minutes, Milan continued to press, but still lacked composure. Thiago Silva had a decent shot from long range after Ibrahimovic’s lay off, but his shot ended up going wide. Moments later Antonio Cassano received the ball on the left side of the penalty area, before beating a Cesena defender and striking it goalwards – however, his shot was blocked, and then scrambled away.
Milan should perhaps have received a penalty with 75 minutes on the clock, after Ambrosini was brought down in the box after a chip in from Ibra, but the ref waved play on. Just seconds later Cesena broke and Budan was through, but just as he was about to slot the ball past Abbiati, Sokratis Papastathopoulos made a decisive tackle, and successfully managed to knock it away – great defending.
The Rossoneri should have wrapped the ga,e just moments later, as Robinho was put through in to the box, but once again Antonioli pulled off an excellent save. Robinho had another effort within seconds, but Antonioli made yet another save, and although he didn’t parry it far away, nobody was fouling up the ball at the far post for Milan, so the score remained just 1-0, despite all the chances. Milan had enough creativity, but not the composure needed to kill the game off once and for all.
With just 7 minutes to go, Cassano was replaced by Alexandre Pato. Cassano had played quite well, not his best Milan game but he was decent, and his chip for the goal was exquisite. Perhaps Pato was brought on to add that cutting edge and composure Milan seemed to be lacking.
In injury time, Milan should once again have scored, but again didn’t. After an excellent tackle from Thiago Silva, Milan then earnt a free kick, and taken quickly Robinho was put through. The Brazilian managed to round the keeper, but he narrowed the angle too much, and then hit the post from a few yards out. The Brazilian had played very well, but his finishing was very poor (somewhat like his early season form)
The victory was finally sealed though, by Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Robinho was key once more, after getting the ball from midfield, he played a good through ball for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who – despite running to the right – hit the ball and placed it perfectly in to the far left hand side of the net, leaving the goalkeeper with no chance despite it being a difficult angle! Finally Milan had killed off Cesena!
Best Moment: Ibra’s second goal
Man of the Match: Despite the woeful finishing, Robinho actually played very well and worked very hard with a lot of running.
By Hefin Davies, Rossoneri Blog