THE GLORIOUS start to the Serie A campaign for Milan has seen them cool off considerably, following a loss to Juventus over the weekend and failing to earn a win away from home against bottom dwellers Empoli, settling for a 2-2 draw.
The opening few minutes of the game saw Milan take control as Empoli struggled to get any possession but that would soon change in the 13th minute. What seems to be Milan’s Achilles heel for the last few year’s remains the same. Set pieces. This time an unmarked Lorenzo Tonelli finds the corner kick and heads home from 6 yards out. Absolutely woeful defending by Milan.
The next minutes would see Milan on their back foot as Empoli began settling into the game more. Empoli began driving in a few shots at keeper Christian Abbiati’s goal. The 21st minute would prove to be a dagger to Milan. Again from a set piece, this time a free kick, who else other than dreadful defender Daniele Bonera would be the guilty party. Caught sleeping on the near post, Manuel Pucciarelli turns around and fires his shot past a diving Abbiati for a 2-0 score line.
Sad news would follow for Milan as Marco van Ginkel, who got the start tonight, was stretched off in the 29th minute with an air cast on his ankle. Giacomo Bonaventura replaced van Ginkel in the lineup and Milan began getting a foothold in the game soon after. It took until the 40th minute for Milan to muster an attack of any effect and finally get the ball on frame.
Three minutes later Milan fans would be rewarded with a dazzling piece of quality from Fernando Torres. The Spaniard made a great move in the box and latched onto fullback Ignazio Abate’s cross to head the ball into the far post past Empoli’s keeper who could do nothing but stare as it went in. This breathed new life into the Milan team as they began attacking with purpose now.
Out of the break it was a bit back and forth between the two teams. Coach Filippo Inzaghi decided to substitute Sulley Muntari and replace him with Andrea Poli. This substitution brought a bit more stability to the defensive midfield and Poli also offered some attacking play as well.
The 57th minute was a glorious one for Milan as Keisuke Honda finished off a lovely piece of football by burying the ball in the back of the net to bring the guests back to square one. Four minutes later Frenchman Jeremy Menez had the chance to put Milan ahead after wonderful work from Torres to create some space. Menez’s side foot effort crashed into the frame of the goal to everyone’s despair.
From there on out Milan were chasing the winning goal that never came. A bit of late drama as Empoli man Mirko Valdifori earned himself two yellow cards in the span of one minute to get sent off. In all fairness to the referee, both tackles were reckless and deserved bookings. Even with the man advantage, Milan were unable to unlock the Empoli defense and the game ended 2-2. Gone was the chance for Milan to climb back into the top of the table for now.
What all Milan faithful are continuing to ask of their team selection is the continued inclusion of defender Bonera. The guy is simply not Milan quality. He lacks pace, he lacks technical ability to play as a center back and most of all he lacks the IQ. Why on earth does coach Inzaghi continue to field Bonera with the likes of Mexes and Rami waiting in the wings? Even Mexes, who is much more aggressive and a bit of a hothead, would be better suited than Bonera. It is painful to see Milan play with a shaky back line as it ultimately affects the entire team when goals are conceded due to the lack of quality from the player’s selected. Thank God that Bonera was not available for selection against Juventus or that would have been a much bigger loss.
A positive note to take from the game is the debut of Torres. He was able to show his quality by scoring that marvelous header and time and again made runs into space and dribbled the opponents successfully. This is a positive sign for Milan who will need to rely on their attack to score goals since at the moment their defense cannot be relied upon.
As always, Forza Milan!