It took only nine minutes for Milan take the lead, and suddenly this team was in a very familiar position. One goal lead to Barcelona thanks to an incredible effort from Kaka, a theme for the night, and a cheeky finish for Robinho who turned on the flair in this one. More on those two later, but as you watched this match, you sort of getting the feeling that Milan may be finding some cohesiveness, some identity, and that Max Allegri for all the flack he takes understands what his team needs to do to beat Barcelona. Did the the players execute? For the most part yes, it was once again sloppy defending that let the squad down, but the rest was actually fairly good football!
I have to start very plainly with Ricky Kaka. It seems while he was injured, he was baking humble pie and today he gave me a plate. I have never been his biggest fan, his work rate always pained me, and the fact that he needed a "bodyguard" do his dirty work, but today he basically said screw you to both of those issues. He worked his tail off in a 4-3-3 and frankly was proved a crucial cog in keeping Barcelona stretched and honest. It would appear on this tactical deployment that Max has given up the fallacy of Kaka as a CAM, but today seemed to make a bit more sense, with the front three working together and interchanging. There was no point man, Robinho is far from it, but instead a free flowing three with Birsa doing the heavy lifting and the other two working creatively as a unit to make things work.
The same could be said of the midfield who worked together to interchange and really make things difficult for the Barcelona danger men in Xavi and Iniesta. Muntari did in an excellent job, and for the first time this season a very fluid effort was shown in the midfield, the helped on the flanks and made sure their CBs were not entirely exposed. To bad those same CBs let them down as nobody put a body on Messi on the equalizer int he 29th minute. Truth be told that little gnome probably would have gone like a sack of potatoes if Mexes even breathed on him funny, but the defense should not have given him an opportunity to receive that ball so cleanly in the first place.
Not to blame the defense entirely, the attack had an opportunity to rectify the situation with a Robinho sitter and a Muntari chance late on. The problem is that Barcelona had their fair share of chances as well and if you looked at the state line you would not appreciate how well contested this game truly was. Barca dominated in shots and possession but on this night not the match. It seemed both teams were content to play a bit, but Allegri's compact mentality shined tonight as the players executed in most areas of pitch save the two that matter most, the opposite eighteen yard boxes!
With this draw Milan sit second in the group, and for a team who is searching for an identity and a glimmer of hope this is a building block. Do we make out of the Group stage, I say it's feasible, undefeated in three, but the stranger things have happened and this team is one for the wacky stuff. A solid draw, a decent performance out of Kaka and a bit of good spirits before the weekend visit to Parma.