After a stagnant first half, Inter got the best of Milan Sunday night, using a Fredy Guarin goal to take all three points in a 1-0 win at the San Siro.
The story continues to be the same for Milan this season. The Rossoneri got nothing going in the midfield, proving again there is a disconnect between the middle and attacking thirds preventing Milan from hitting its stride.
Juraj Kucka lined up on the left side of the midfield, and the recent signing from Genoa did create a few chances. But those chances proved to be ineffective. Rather than looking for a teammate in the middle of the box, Kucka looked to shoot as hard as he can. These shots would hit his teammates or opponents in the midsection, serving only to produce a couple stingers, nothing more.
On the other side, Giacomo Bonaventura tried to create chances for Milan, but his few chances were squandered.
Riccardo Montolivo served as Milan's holding midfielder, with Nigel De Jong spending the full match on the bench. This was arguably Sinisa Mihajlovic's strangest tweak to the starting lineup. De Jong is the general in the midfield. And while Montolivo was not afraid to have a go from distance, De Jong is always the better option.
Up top, Luiz Adriano should have had Milan up at least 2-0 before half. The Brazilian got on the end of some steady forward play from Carlos Bacca, Kucka and Bonaventura. No chance was better than his point-blank effort within five minutes after getting on the end of a through ball from Bacca. Adriano should have been able to beat Samir Handanovic with ease, but he put the shot right at the Inter goalkeeper.
Mario Balotelli made his highly-anticipated Milan return in the second half, and what a showing it was. It was strange, however, that Bacca was the player sacrificed for Balotelli's inclusion. It should have been Adriano, without question.
Regardless, Balotelli was Milan's best player once he took the pitch. He showed strength, balance, agility and a motor unlike anything seen from the Italian striker in recent years. Balotelli had two incredible efforts from outside the box, but the first one hit the post, and Handanovic made a heroic save on the second. Balotelli has to start seeing more time. He is going to be dangerous for Milan this year, so long as he keeps playing the way he did Sunday.
In the back, Diego Lopez was superb, saving Milan right before halftime by stuffing Maruo Icardi at point-blank range. Alessio Romagnoli was also a bright spot, stopping several Inter attacks in their tracks. Guarin's goal was a fantastic effort from range. He turned past Romagnoli to get into position, but Cristian Zapata was there to close down. Guarin's only option was a long strike, and he hit it perfectly.
The issues remain the same. Milan needs to improve in the midfield on both sides of the ball. There is a blatant disconnect between the midfield and forwards, and it is causing too many problems. Perhaps Milan is missing Jeremy Menez. Keisuke Honda was underwhelming in the attacking midfield role. Bonaventura could fill in there, but he was needed farther back in the midfield. Regardless, the forwards need to recognize their chances are still few and far between. They need to capitalize when they have a golden opportunity.
Overall, it was not horrible from Milan, but the Rossoneri left plenty to be desired.