Milan 1 Napoli 1

Claudio Villa

Odd tactical choices, injuries, and poor execution made the battle for second match the battle for third.

I think it is important to set the stage a bit for this match. For this time in a long time my family from New Jersey was in town, due to the future Mrs. AC Milan Offside Bridal Shower. The ladies were at the local Italian eatery for festivities and the fellas at home eating cavatelli, trippa, cappicola, you get the drift. At 2:45, stuffed to the gills, 14 gentleman sat down to watch the match, 2 Milanista, 2 Juventini, and 10 Napolitean! It wasn't pretty, oddly it mirrored the match!

The first and most puzzling choice, which even to this moment remains inexplicable to me, was Allegri's lineup choice? I know he was worried about the width, I know he wanted to plug up the middle of the midfield if he couldn't stop it, but to go 4-3-2-1 with Robinho was a mistake. Playing Constant ended up being a master stroke, but the rest of the lineup lacked the pace and urgency and to break Napoli down with precision. Instead they would win the ball in solid areas and hoof it forward or simply stop the game to a halt. Napoli was not all that much better, and the game turned from what could be a heavyweight classic into a sloppy affair, especially in the box.

Fitting Flamini would score the first goal, the Napoli tifosi in my family despise, the "hack" and I don't feel all that different. They all felt he handled the ball in the box early in the match, so when he scored they were angry. Then he went from hero to zero and left Milan with little to no chance of overturning this match. In fact the Red Card didn't seem to matter all that match, Napoli's best phases came early in the match, the well worked goal from Pandev was actually quite nice. Milan simply played prevention football instead of proactive or even reactionary on the counter. One point was better than none and it was evident for the much of the second half.

The draw was not without positives. Niang looked quite confident and his hustle is incredible. Mexes and Zapata continue to form a strong partnership, and Constant looked to get some confidence back. Conceding the goal was a tough pill to swallow, considering the last two goals conceded were not from the run of play, but the team held well defensively and stayed organized.

It wasn't a far-fetched result, but disappointing no less after what felt like much progress of late. However, third place is still a reality, and one game at a time remains the mantra. Don't forget Milan has not lost since Roma at the end of the year, a solid run, and one that would more often than not vault a team to the top of the table. So much of my family was left disappointed except for the two Juventini, who were promptly shaken down and not allowed any espresso or sfogliatella, but in true Juventini fashion they simply went and paid for it!

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