I have to admit when I saw Reja’s 3-4-1-2 formation I was nervous that Milan would be unable to cope with Lazio’s width and that they would lose the vital numbers game in the midfield. Cisse’s early goal seemed to affirm that point with a lack of pressure from the midfield causing disarray in the defense and poor marking leading to the goal. But the disarray was only for a fleeting second as Milan began to possess the ball and exploit Lazio’s back three and their inability to link the ball from the midfield to attack with Hernanes looking less like the player he can be and more like a headless chicken.
Robinho opened the scoring with a class finish, yes you read that right, for all the people who say he can’t finish, he seemed to take offense and buried it. But it wasn’t so much the finish that was stellar but the buildup and ball movement from El Shaarawi, Abate, and the flick from Merkel. El Shaarawi would be responsible yet again on one of the most sublime flicks I have seen in a while to Seedorf who buried a shot and basically put Milan in the driver’s seat for the rest of the match. With that flick El Shaarawi proved why his attributes, or strikers like him, are so important in Allegri’s Milan. Strikers are responsible for the killer pass and creativity that keeps the midfield balanced. I don’t even have to mention Pato’s one dimensional player anymore because he has done a fine job proving that all by himself. Who needs a Duck when you have a Pharaoh?
The rest of the game was very well managed by Milan and while Lazio forced a solid save or two from Amelia the Milan were consistently able to retain possession the attacking third and exploit Lazio’s three man defense.
Allegri wasn’t satisfied with simply holding the match at one goal, he made some proactive subs bringing on Zlatan and creating the hybrid 4-3-1-2/4-3-3 we discussed on Tuesday and it worked effectively yet again creating Milan’s third goal with Zlatan in alone on Marchetti for the finish. I have to say I wasn’t impressed with Marchetti was highly touted and supposed to be on his way to Milan last summer, but he looks shaky in games that matter and doesn’t have the air confidence that we are accustomed to in Abbiati and Amelia. Gone are the days of Didasters and Spider Hands Kalac and Milan have two solid keepers for the time being to step in and play.
Another interesting point to note from was the play of Van Bommel. As mentioned earlier I was worried that he would be overwhelmed in the midfield but he held his own and even made some solid runs forward to create chances, yes his shooting boots are rusty, but it was nice to see the entire three man midfield interchange in attack and defense. Even more suprising was the fact that he got punched in the head by Andre Dias but did not retaliate and kept his cool. Could it be our 34 year old Dutchman with a penchant for red cards has finally grown up!? We can only hope!
A good win and now and eagerly anticipated semifinal match up with Juventus with the potential for the both teams fighting it out for Coppa and Scudetto glory. If Milan wants to get their hands on silverware they are going to have to prove they can beat the big teams because right now they stand clearly in the way. Pretty excited for those next three matches, hopefully Conte has run his old ladies into the ground by then!
Before we worry about Juventus, we kick off the season reset with Max’s old friends Cagliari. Cagliari can be a tricky opponent. Does Nainggolan play or does he go to Juve to meet us then? Can we deal with the danger presented Ibarbo and Cossu. At the end of the day you expect Milan to perform in a match like this one and with the table so crowded you have to continue to take points when you can. Allegri will have to take into account yesterday’s match when deciding on the lineup for Sunday. I would expect to see a few repeats and a few new faces as well:
Amelia; Abate, Nesta, Silva, Mesbah; Urby, Ambro, Nocerino; Seedorf; Zlatan, Robinho
Amelia will continue to play until Abbiati is fit. I expect to see the first choice defense which now includes Mesbah who had a decent first match but was not necessarily tested. The injury to Merkel hurts and hopefully it is minor but it may force the use of Seedorf as the Urby CAM experiment is an epic fail. Nocerino will most likely play because he always plays and Ambro can give Van Bommel a break. At striker I wanted to play El Shaarawi/Robinho in the hole but we need a bit more balance and patience in possession so the first choice striker pairing of Binho and Zlatan it is with El Shaarawi on the ready.
As always three points is imperative, but building momentum into the CL knockout rounds and matches with Juventus becomes a priority as well. Stay tuned on the conclusion of the Tevez/Lopez/Pato saga as well, 4 days left in the window is a LONG LONG LONG time to negotiate.