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Qasa Alom On January - 6 - 2011

Match Report: Cagliari 0-1 AC Milan

AC Milan extend their lead at the top of the table to 5 points as rivals fall. Qasa Alom reports.

Strong headlines abounded in a game that had little else on display. Juventus’s shock defeat to Parma gave Milan the chance to capitalize; both managers faced former clubs, with Roberto Donadoni against the club of his playing years and Allegri against the club where he won il Albo Panchina d’Oro (Golden bench) for the past two years.

There were also auditions for potential Milan players Lazzari – recalled after 5 games on the bench – and highly rated defender Davide Astori. Pato made his return in a Milan shirt after being out with Injury since early November and finally there was the small matter of Italy’s enfant terrible Antonio Cassano; how would he fare on his debut.

However all of these headlines were eclipsed by the performances of Milans’ youth players – the effervescent if not slightly raw debutant Alex Merkel and the startlingly mature performance from match winner Rodney Strasser.

The game had quite the post-Christmas relaxed feel to it with heavy touches and many passes going astray from both teams. The patten to the game was extended periods of nothing followed by short bursts of heavy action.

And one of these burst provided the first real chance of the game. In the 12th minute, Merkel found himself in space running at the goal; slightly unsure of whether to shoot or pass he just managed to squeeze the ball to Robinho on his left, the Brazilian shaped a right footed curling shot from inside the box past the keeper but not the man on the line!

Then Pato’s lack of match sharpness was on display as he failed to the better of the defender and head home at the near post from Merkel’s cross.

The play was very much compacted into Cagliari’s half with even last man Thiago Silva inside the opposition half firing balls over the top for Robinho and Pato to run onto.

On the half hour, Cagliari were finally enjoying a period of more possession, diligently passing from side to side and working the ball into good spaces before Seedorf conceded a corner. Cagliari had the best chance of the half from the subsequence corner as Canini rose highest to nod past Abbiati and hit the post.

Cagliari were certainly the superior team now, chasing down every ball and concentrating play down their left with Lazzari showing why Allegri wants to bring him to the San Siro.

There was controversy in the 40th minute as Thiago brought down Matri inside the box only for the linesman to have flagged for offside.

As Cagliari were still bemoaning the decision, a quick free-kick from Seedorf slipped Pato away to drive a shot over from outside the box. It was quick thinking in an otherwise sluggish Milanese team that hadn’t created anything since the 17th minute.

Cagliari started the second half on the front foot pushing at Milan’s defence.

Pato should have made it 1-0 in the 50th minute when a low ball chipped over into the left channel by Seedorf was fired straight at the keeper. Then Antonini drilled a deflected shot just wide from the resultant corner.

At the other end, Abbiati literally side-footed the ball to Nene from 8 yards out who could only fire into the side netting!

Gennaro Gattuso made way in the 57th minute for Rodney Strasser to come on give the Milan midfield a more youthful look that would ultimately decide the affair. Straight away he was in the action and showed flashes of why he was highly regarded by Allegri as he showed great upper body strength to ride two challenges and get the ball to Merkel to play Pato in; unfortunately the Brazilian’s shot was blasted over.

The wastefulness of Milan’s attackers was again apparent in the 65th minute as Milan countered quickly from a Cagliari corner. Strasser launched the move to Pato on the left who sliced open the defence with a slide rule pass for Robinho to go one on one with the keeper. However the Brazilians first touch went straight to the on rushing keeper more akin to a back pass to the annoyance of Allegri.

At the other end Nene rose highest with an open net after Abbiati was caught in no mans land, but couldn’t get over the ball and only flick it wide. It was end to end stuff finally and Antonini burst into the box, but couldn’t cut back to Pato with the goal gaping.

Finally in the 73rd minute Antonio Cassano came on – with Rino Gattuso’s shinpads – to the sound of boos from the home fans. The former Sampdoria forward took up a position on the left of a front three.

Agostini’s cross in the 76th minute left a free header for Biondini but the ball was just behind the midfielder and difficult to control and went over. Afterwards the redheaded midfielder drilled a ball into the box which Tiago pushed out for a corner.

Cagliari looked content to hold out for the draw but In the 86th minute Milan finally took the lead and with a dream scenario for both Cassano and Strasser. Robinho’s back heel, fed in Cassano, whose bright orange boots played a reverse pass through a mass of Cagliari’s defenders that hoodwinked everyone. Strasser controlled the ball with his left and instantly used his right boot to finish with aplomb. The whole Milanese team were visibly delighted for the youngster from Sierra Leone and jumped on to him in celebration!

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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