Friday, October 23, 2009
the enigma that is Milan
When I said Milan, I meant not the city. Yes, the city might lay claim to being the fashion capital of the world. I mean, this is the city where everybody is in designer clothes; heck even the priests/clerics wear armani! I am not making this out of thin air here, I saw it once or twice on Discovery or one of those documentary channels :) While I do know that this would make a better read to the fairer sex but I am today writing about the most worshipped thing in Milan, the AC Milan team. When talking about football, or calcio as the Italians call it, try not to say AC Milan or Inter Milan. It might sound OK to the uninitiated but man, that would be an insult to both sides of Milan's footballing divide. To the tifosi and those who aspire to become one, there is only one Milan and regrettably only one Inter.
Milan are a great team, a mighty team. This is a team who had won everything that is on offer in club football. You name it and they surely have won it. The scudetto (Italian League title), coppa italia (Italian Cup though one wouldn't brag about winning this one heh), UEFA cup, European cup and/or Champions League (7-time winners at that!!), European Supercup and Intercontinental cup. Yes Milan are a team of winners and to see they struggle this season is very tough on a rossonero like me.
Earlier in the season, Milan received a hiding from Inter - in the Milan derby - at home (though we actually share the stadium with Inter, Milan were the home team for the day). 4-0. That is the mother of all embarrassments for Milan. To make it worse, a few weeks after that, Milan managed to lose to a team from a country that is more apt at making watches than playing football, FC Zurich of Switzerland in Milan.
The thing is, this is about the same team that played last season except for the sad departure of Kaka to Madrid. True, Milan were not that great last season but this season, their performance had been catastrophic! I guess that goes to show how much Milan depended on Kaka before and his abrupt transfer, though very much anticipated, was a gargantuan blow. This is further compounded by Ancelotti leaving for the greener pastures of the premier league only to be replaced by Leonardo, a rookie coach! Italian football is on a downward spiral and leading its way is its most successful club in Europe, Milan. Milan have gone from an old team who occasionally play great football to an older team that couldn't even string a few passes. Sad sad sad.
That was why, no one, not even a tifosi like me could have fathomed what had transpired on that fateful Wednesday night. Milan were up against the very club that not only robbed them of their talisman but one that had since bought the world footballer of the year, Cristiano Ronaldo and one of the best strikers in the world, Karim Benzema to form a new dream team. Cumulatively, Real Madrid (the only team with more European cups than Milan (9), though they've won 5 of theirs in the first five seasons of the competition when teams were much less than today :P) have spent no less than GBP 200 million this season alone!
And to have seen Milan concede the softest of opening goals - courtesy of Didaster - I feared that another trashing was on the cards and Milan would be extremely lucky if they were to lose by a solitary goal. But after an anonymous hour - Milan wise that is - Pirlo struck and it was a cracker. Real were under no real threat when he received the ball and decided to unleash a thunderbolt from 35 yards out. It was a defining moment and Milan from then on were playing like the Milan of old with dizzying short passes and awesome movements. It was no wonder that 4 minutes later they struck again. This time a chip from il capitano Massimo Ambrosini found Alexandre Pato through on goal. Casillas, the Madrid keeper, decided to surge forward in panic to intercept the pass but found himself in no man's land and was caught out by Pato. 2-1 Milan!
Milan were playing really well by now though Madrid, in an attempt to salvage the tie went all out to force a goal. And score they did from a well-implemented corner play. 2-2. Milan continued to press Madrid and Ronaldinho, anonymous up until then, was now alive. Madrid's defence were in shambles and from a corner Thiago headed home though the goal was controversially ruled out by the referee. A fracas ensued and both teams luckily escaped with a yellow card each.
As the saying goes, you can never keep a great team down for long. Milan were full of passing when Ronaldinho laid a short pass to Seedorf who then picked out 20-year-old Pato on the far post. Pato calmly volleyed the ball home and Milan held on for a famous win.
Pato has arrived and for a brief moment all of Milan forgot their sorrows and basked in the glory of the moment. A victory in the historic Bernabeu was indeed sweet but we still have a long season ahead of us. Let this victory be a cornerstone to a new all-conquering Milan. I shall be waiting with bated breath to see how this one will unfold.
Till then, arrivederci!