Contray to popular belief and criticsm, Max Allegri went attacking on this night in Russia. Yes, you read that correctly, he played attacking football from minute one away from home! For sixteen minutes, it was all working, the rest was, well, a bit of a nightmare! Which always leaves me wondering is that sort of swashbuckling football worth the grief!?
Following the game at work via stream and blog comments never gives the full picture, but seeing Milan start this match was a sight for sore eyes following this season's inconsistency. El Sharaawy continues to set the World alight and while comparisons are coming in and hot heavy, I can only say I haven't seen this sort of play since Kaka burst onto the scene. While I often temper expectation, it is a joy to watch a player grow and evolve, and with each match he continues to cement the fact that he is improving. It would also appear that Allegr's preferred formation, for CL matches as least, is a balance killing 4-2-3-1. While I don't agree with this formation and deployment, the reality is that it appears more like a 4-3-3/4-4-2 then the actual starting formation. This was an improvement over the weekend's match with Urby wide right, he dropped back when needed and gave me a presence that was missing against Parma.
The bright start however was short lived as Milan lost a grip of the match and while not conceding until the final minute of the first half, the pressure was strong, and Abbiati saved the day time and time again. Alarmingly, or maybe not so much, Milan conceded their sixth set piece goal of the season on the second. As for the first, one has to admit it was an incisive run by Hulk to score a great goal, and little could be done by Abate, but the lack of focus and concentration by the defense is becoming a real problem. Speaking of defense, one thing was clear the pairing of Bonera and Zapata is not a good one, and while Zapata has all the makings of a good CB, he is a way off any sort of form or function at the moment. Helps to understand the questioning of why Max waited so long to play him. If the path forward is Acerbi and Zapata for the future, I have to believe we need some patience. I can also see some value in putting Astori's agent on speed dial.
In the end it was Pazzini, on for Bojan, who had an "exquisite" performance. I have to say that because apparently I was hard on him on the weekend, and while he proved me right, popular opinion says I should say something nice. Screw it, he was average on the weekend, but today he was flat out poor, and the fact that he lasted seven minutes into the second half was a miracle. While Pazzini didn't set the World alight with his performance his hustle and good run led to the mistake and the own goal, and for that he deserves some applause. But the build up before the goal was excellent and while the team has struggled, that little bit of tenacity has been missing from back to front and seeing it today was a welcome sight.
End of the day, it wan't a pretty, but it was a win in hostile territory. At the end of the day nobody remembers how you earned the three points as long as you have them, and this game fell into that category. Some would say beating a Zenit, a team with "High Priced Players" is better than Milan and a good way, but I can't agree. Zenit has it's own issues, and buying players doesn't make you a better team, so while this win was probably realistic and welcome, we are not out of the woods quite yet. Derby time is nearly upon us, in the meantime, enjoy the victory!