The Champions League was back in action again today with the marquee match up featuring Real Madrid and AC Milan.
After blowing an early lead at the Bernebeu last week, it was time for Madrid to venture back to Milan for a match at the San Siro.
With Milan still riding a string of success to a 2-0 win at Parma and Madrid’s strong showing against Getafe, the clash promised to be eventful.
Madrid controlled the early run of play and had a 7 to 0 shot advantage by the 14th minute. Most of the shots were coming from well outside the box, but Benzema did have one effort from wide flash just past the post.
Milan was clearly attempting to counter-attack and it almost paid off in the 23rd minute. Seedorf pushed the ball out wide to Pato, who probably should have shot. Instead, he stepped inside of the defender and was closed down quickly on the shot by Casillas.
With Madrid now pressing Milan up the field, Seedorf gave the ball away and it eventually ended up on the boots of Kaka. He skipped inside past a defender and launched a shot that was deflected onto goal. Dida managed to make the save but the rebound fell to Karim Benzema, who slotted inside the far post for the goal. The shot could have been stopped by Dida if he had sprawled instead of standing so tall.
Less than five minutes later, with Zambrotta surging into the left side of the box, his cross was blocked by a sliding Pepe, although the ball hit his outstretched arm. The referee called it as a handball, for a penalty. Ronaldinho calmly took the penalty to make the score 1-1 at the 33 minute mark.
Three minutes later came the controversy. Pirlo unleashed a long ball towards Pato, who leaped to control the ball off his chest with a defender all over him. He then calmly regained his balance with another defender closing him down and drove a shot past Casillas. The goal was downright “Kaka-like”, just take a look at this clip. Unfortunately the ref blew the play down, apparently either believing Pato had controlled the ball with his arm, or fouled the defender. Either one would have been an incorrect call, the goal should have stood.
Madrid continued to take shots from outside the box, but really weren’t getting any chances from closer.
Near the end of the half, the physical play picked up with several tussles between Marco Borriello and Pepe of Madrid.
The second half started slowly, with more emphasis on midfield dominance and possession, resulting in very few chances as both sides held onto the ball, waiting for their opening.
With 58 minutes gone, Ambrosini missed an open header on a free kick that would have put Milan ahead. In the meantime, the Madrid defense was doing everything in their power to take the physical play to Pato. They knocked him down repeatedly in the opening half and continued the mugging into the second stanza.
At this point, it’s safe to say that Borriello has been completely invisible and quite indecisive when he’s had the ball. Milan would have been better off to start Inzaghi or give Huntelaar a chance for revenge versus his former team. However, Milan’s experience in big games appeared to help them, as they gained possession several times with crafty plays along the sideline and efficient tackles in midfield.
With only 16 minutes remaining in regular time, Pellegrini made his first coaching move by bringing on Raul in place of a largely ineffective Higuain. Only a minute later, Arbeloa finally got a yellow card for taking down Pato on every surge by Milan. The irony is that this altercation was more of a leg entanglement than the others.
Eventually, Leonardo came to his senses, and put Super Pippo on the field in place of Borriello. Pellegrini countered by bringing on Van Nistelrooy for Benzema.
With Milan hoping to find yet another late game tally, Pato sent a low cross into the box, but Inzaghi couldn’d handle it as it glaces way over the bar.
In the final minutes of the game, Nelson Dida made a nice save on a shot by Marcelo and then made a great lateral save on Raul as he spun and fired.
The game finished as it began, with very little decided, but both teams happy to add a point to their group stage total.
Milan kept with their successful 4-3-3 formation.
DEF: Oddo – Nesta – Silva – Zambrotta
MID: Ambrosini – Pirlo – Seedorf
FWD: Pato – Borriello – Ronaldinho
Real Madrid played with a 4-5-1 formation.
DEF: Ramos – Albiol – Pepe – Arbeloa
MID: Xavi Alonso – Diarra
A-Mid: Kaka – Benzema – Marcelo