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Qasa Alom On January - 24 - 2011

Match Report: AC Milan 2-0 Cesena

AC Milan maintained their 4 point lead at the top of the table after a 2-0 victory at home to Cesena. Qasa Alom reports…

Back in week 2 Cesena made the dream start to life in Serie A, defeating Milan to sit pretty at the top of the table, whilst many doubts loomed over the work ethic and cohesion of Milan’s attack. Surprisingly Cesena have been only one of three teams to defeat Milan this season and even more astounding is that Cesena are the only team not to surrender any points to Milan as the home side. There were no such surprises tonight though, as Milan’s attacking trio of Cassano, Ibrahimovic and the ever-more confident Robinho combined mesmerically to create a number of chances and came through unscathed thanks to an own goal from Maximilano Pellegrini in the first half and a clinical finish from Zlatan just before the final whistle.

There was however a sense of deja-vu as the game began though, as Cesena started brightly, dominating possession and a flurry of chances in the first 20 minutes. Striker Dominique Malonga in particular was posing a lot of problems and his volley on the turn inside the box was just kept out by Abbiati within the first 3 minutes. This was the first of a number of chances for either side in the first half, as the home side looked vulnerable nervous and imbalanced mainly due to Milan’s injuries that forced them into a makeshift midfield trio of Massimo Ambrosini, centre-back Thiago Silva and promising youth product Alex Merkel.

There was no excuse though for experienced Luca Antonini, who almost gifted Cesena the opening goal as his back pass sold Abbiati short, however the milan goalkeeper stood firm at his near post to beat away Schelloto’s effort. At the other end, Milan - and Robinho in particular - were starting to find space as Cesena began to step off and defend deeper. Ibrahimovic’s cute flick around the corner left Robinho making a beeline towards the goal but unfortunately after beating defenders with a lovely stepover he could only fire tamely at Antonioli. It was to be the first of many chances that the brazilian missed who despite all his trickery still remains wasteful infront of goal.

The confident Brazilian continued to cause trouble, popping up on both flanks, commiting players and creating chances for his team-mates. Firstly he played Thiago through, who’s drilled shot was just cleared off the line, before a lovely piece of improvisation saw Robinho - strapped for space - flick the ball up in the air before lofting it over the square defence for Ibrahimovic’s header to be saved. It was evident to see that the former Manchester City player was beginning to enjoy his football again in Italy and express himself more freely as a consequence.

However it was Antonio Cassano - the quietest of the front three - who provided the moment of the game as the first half was drawing to a close. The Cesena defence sat deep and square giving FantAntonio the room to lift the ball over them,  before Zlatan did enough to force Pellegrino into scoring his second own goal in successive games. Cesena were in disarray at the back now, and Yepes almost doubled the lead with the last kick of the first half as he forced himself through a mass of players but the sharp Antonioli smothered the veteran defenders shot.

In the second half Cesena turned to Milan youth product Paolo Sammarco and Erjon Bogdani to find an equaliser. The striker was so effective in the first game between the two that it was a slight surprise he was on the bench in the first place. However neither player could make much of a difference as Milan looked more comfortable in possession with Merkel and Thiago Silva in particular growing into their midfield roles.

With 10 minutes to go, Robinho carried the ball forward from his own box before a masterful give and go with Ibrahimovic to slice through the buttery Cesena defence, however yet again the brazilian was too nonchalant infront of goal and Antonioli stood tall. It was simply one of those days for him, as even after rounding the keeper in the last minute, ‘Binho was still foiled by the post to everyones disbelief!

However with the last kick of the game Zlatan showed him how it’s done, as the big Swede raced clear on the right hand side and finished emphatically into the opposing side netting to seal the points. After the game, Adriano Galliani was impressed with the team’s ability to professionally grind out the result with so many injuries. The performances of Merkel and Thiago were very encouraging and even the reserve defensive duo of Yepes - Papastathopoulos shows the depth to the squad.  Indeed the only downer in the game would be losing Alessandro Nesta for next few weeks and potentially the round of 16 champions league first leg against Tottenham Hotspurs.

Qasa Alom

Broadcast Journalist. Writer for Serieaweekly, subtitled online or anyone else daft enough to want me. These are my thoughts (even the clever ones)

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