Sunday, March 13, 2011

AC Milan Miss Opportunity To Pull Away

Ibra flops in Europe again - FOOTBALL - Serie AWhen Andrea Caraccialo equalized for Brescia in Inter Milan's 1-1 draw on Friday, Max Allegri must have thought that the title was all wrapped up. With a game in hand against lowly Bari, AC Milan held a four point lead over city rivals Inter, with the Milan derby coming up in three weeks.

However, come Sunday, and Milan's home match against Bari, the current league leaders found things less than easy. Having dominated most of the opening period, Milan were hit by a Bari sucker punch, as a cleverly taken free kick resulted in a goal for Bari's Gergely Rudolf. In the battle of first vs twentieth, David had struck first. Still reeling from the goal, the Milan players looked totally shell shocked as the two teams jogged down the tunnel for the half time interval.

However, come the second half, Milan looked a completely different side and within seconds they had the ball in the net, only for Robinho's strike to be harshly ruled out for offside. Clearly angry about that decision, Milan continued to plug away, and Zlatan Ibrahimovich was unfortunate to have his own goal ruled out for handball. With Antonio Cassano now on for Robinho, Milan continued to struggle with strike man Ibrahimovich becoming noticeably frustrated.

Then, on seventy-three minutes, came a moment which could prove pivotal in Milan's season. Having been called for a foul, Zlatan through his right arm across the chest of his marker, resulting in a straight red card, and a potential suspension from the Milan derby in three weeks time. If the big Swede's ban is extended so that he would miss that pivotal clash, then Milan will find themselves without their most potent attacking option, in what will be their most important clash of the season.

Despite going down to ten men, Milan continued to dominate, but with men piling forward in number holes began to open in their back line, and only a brilliant last ditch intervention from Nesta stopped Erik Huseklepp from putting Bari 2-0 ahead. As the clock began to tick and the prospect of a shock home defeat became more and more realistic, one could sense the anxiety around the San Siro, the fear of what would be an almighty blow to their title hopes. But, on eighty-three minutes, Antonio Cassano sent the stadium into raptures as he side footed home from an Antonini cross, to send his side five points clear at the top of Serie A.

When the final whistle blew on a one-one draw at the San Siro, there was a great feeling of disappointment as the Milan fans began to comprehend what could have been. Going into this game, supporters must have thought their team was guaranteed a seven point lead by the end of play, but the combination of a Champions League hangover, and Zlatan Ibrahimovich's stupidity insured that the Scudetto race remains very much alive. Next week Milan travel to the home of a struggling Palermo side, before an international break disrupts the rhythm of what has been a pulsating season of Serie A action. Following the break, Milan face Inter in a do-or-die clash at the San Siro, and one wonders how Milan will fare if talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovich is suspended for that game. One other aspect of the slip-ups by both Milan clubs this weekend, is that Napoli may be in with a shot of salvaging their fading title hopes with a win against Parma later today. If Napoi were to win that match, then they would be just six points off AC Milan, and with the Milan derby coming up soon, Walter Matzarri's men will see the next few weeks as an ideal opportunity for a late, late Scudetto push.

Can Napoli make another charge for the title?

Who will come out top in the Milan derby?

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