FIVE STRAIGHT Serie A wins, the latest against relegation threatened Livorno, and the first run of its kind dating back to 2011 sees AC Milan firmly in the driver’s seat of their European football destiny for the 2014/2015 season.
Three goals for Milan proved to be too much for Livorno, as the home side played a complete team game with very little mistakes to show for. Forwards Mario Balotelli and Giampolo Pazzini, replacing the sensational Ricardo Kaka, sandwiched goals either side of mercurial loanee, Adel Taarabt.
The beginning of the match was a bit slow as usual for Milan with Taarabt coming painstakingly close in the 11th minute, only to see his 25-yard drive barely clear the crossbar. A few moments later, defender Adil Rami was unlucky not to score when a free kick from Captain Riccardo Montolivo from the half way line met his head and beat Livorno keeper Franceso Bardi, only for the shot to come back off the bar.
Hometown hero Kaka was the next to go close as Milan absolutely dominated the visitors, when he took a first time strike that was just wide of the far post. A bit of controversy ensued soon after as Livorno left-back and former AC Milan defender Djamel Mesbah beat Milan defender Ignazio Abate and was tripped up. Livorno desperately claimed for a penalty but the referee correctly ruled a free kick just outside of the box.
The first half looked like it was deemed for a 0-0 deadlock if not for Balotelli’s header 2 minutes from half-time. Left-back Kevin Constant played in a beautiful cross that picked out Balotelli’s head perfectly and the forward rose higher than everyone to nod the ball into the back of the Livorno net and give Milan the advantage heading into the dressing room.
Out of the break it was the same story as the first half with Livorno struggling to keep any possession of the ball and making any real threat on the Milan goal, with keeper Christian Abbiati largely a spectator for most of the game. One of Milan’s key winter break additions, winger Adel Taarabt, played a beautiful one-two with Balotelli who placed his defense-splitting pass right on the money as Taarabt made his run, kept his composure and slotted home from just inside the penalty area.
Largely disappointing for most of the season has been forward Giampaolo Pazzini, and it looked to be another similar outing for the substitute who replaced Kaka with just over 15 minutes to go. Shortly after he came on, Pazzo made a clever run in behind the defense and brought down a beautiful pinpointed ball, only to blaze over the on-rushing Bardi. A few moments later however, Balotelli would have his second assist of the game after timing his pass beautifully to beat the offside trap and Pazzo was one-on-one with the keeper again. This time he made no mistake a chipped the keeper for the final goal of the evening.
Milan’s display last night, albeit against a lesser opponent, shows that the team has made significant improvements under Coach Clarence Seedorf. Balotelli has been controlling his temperament very well, Taarabt has not made any headlines and the team played great football for the entire 90 minutes in all facets of the game. The attacking third has some work to do, especially with the final balls that seem to be mistimed or miscommunicated, but from where Milan was in November and December, to where they are now, Coach Seedor deserves a lot of credit.
The unfortunate rumors all over Milan have been very distracting for the entire organization, with news that Seedorf could be axed in favor of Fiorentina man Vincenzo Montella at the end of the campaign, or even Filipo Inzaghi. Rocky times at the Milanello does not bode well for the team that is heading into a very crucial stretch, starting this Friday evening when they face off away against Roma in an important battle. Seedorf must keep the team composed and focused on football in order to lockup 6th position in the table which guarantees a place in the Europa League.
As always Forza Milan!