Italian Serie A News, Results, Analysis and Features on Football Soccer

Frank Tigani On November - 3 - 2011

Ibrahimovic Drives Milan Forward And Prayers For Cassano

UEFA Champions League Recap: BATE Borisov 1-1 AC Milan

On Tuesday night Milan secured qualification to the next phase of the Champions League after their 1-1 away draw against BATE Borisov. Despite seeing his team qualify with two games remaining, Max Allegri was clearly not content with how things unfolded in Minsk. The Italian said he was “very disappointed” and regretted that his side “wasted chances, played bad final passes and failed to get shots on target”. Milan’s official website ran the headline, ‘a bitter draw’.

There are good reasons for such bitter reactions. Defeating BATE Borisov should have been a mere formality. The Belarussians, all due respect, are the definition of a European minnow. This was just their second appearance in Europe’s premier competition. Heading into the match they held the worst defensive record while they had managed just one goal and one point.

Not only was a win expected for these reasons but also because Milan wanted to avoid the situation of needing to beat Barcelona to top the group. The Italians host the European champions in a few weeks’ time and despite the fact they will have home advantage, defeating the seemingly invincible Catalans will be a particularly difficult task.

The unfortunate news that Antonio Cassano will not be available will make matters even harder for Allegri’s men. The diminutive Italian has been, arguably, Milan’s most consistent striker this term. He may have only scored three goals but he has created three times this number of goals for his team-mates. When Milan were desperately seeking a winning goal on Tuesday night Allegri had only young debutant Simone Ganz to call upon in attack. One can only wonder what greater impact Cassano would have had.

Yet, if one takes a closer look at the statistics, it was not that Milan were not creative enough. In total the Italians registered 23 attempts on goal with ten on target. Compare this to Barcelona’s number at the same stadium a few weeks ago and the difference is negligible. The Spanish side recorded the same number of attempts with just two more on target. In addition, like Barcelona the Rossoneri also dominated possession.

However, the Messi-inspired Barca claimed five goals whilst not conceding one whereas Milan only scored one and allowed the home side back into the game via the penalty spot. Defensively, Allegri has much work to do with his team, only on three occasions in all competitions have they kept a clean sheet this season while they have the worst defensive record of any side in the top half of the Serie A table.

Questions may be asked of Peter Rasmussen’s decision to award the penalty for what seemed an innocuous challenge by Ignazio Abate. Even more dubious was his assistant’s inability to see a clear handball by a BATE defender in the box from a Kevin Prince Boateng shot. To some extent, these two incidents helped define the game.

Nevertheless, the fact remains is that Milan simply failed to make the most of their chances and, as happens so often, they were made to pay.

Urged on by a delirious home crowd, the Belarussians ended the game the better of the two sides and on another day may have recorded their most memorable victory in their short 38-year history. But, even the draw will have provided its fans with memories they will not forget in a hurry.

But, all is not lost for Milan. The team has satisfied its objective to qualify for the round of 16. After four wins on the trot in the Serie A they are back on course to defend their scudetto and star man Zlatan Ibrahimovic is back in form with five goals in his last five matches. They may not be the finished article yet, but, Tuesday’s night draw should not be regarded as a minor blip in the resurgence of the Rossoneri.

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