AC Milan 2-2 Real Madrid
Real Madrid qualified to the knock-out phase of the UEFA Champions League thanks to Pedro Leon’s 92nd minute equalizer last night at the San Siro. The substitute’s goal could well have been the winner if not for some poor refereeing and surprisingly poor goalkeeping from none other than St.Iker which saw Milan come back after going down to a Higuain goal just before half-time through a Filippo Inzaghi brace.
As expected Real fielded the same XI that faced Hercules last weekend while Milan made two changes to the side that started a fortnight ago in Madrid bringing in Ignazio Abate and Kevin-Prince Boateng for Luca Antonini and Clarence Seedorf. Real started the game positively created chance after chance testing Abbiati repeatedly mostly from range. Milan did put up a good fight literally with the likes of Gattuso, Pirlo and Nesta bullying around with us throughout the game. Gattuso, in particular, was totally fired up and was at his Wolverine best.
The first chance of the game fell to Gonzalo Higuain who received the ball on the edge of the box from Marcelo to drill a shot which was saved well by Abbiati for a corner in the 4th minute. Real continued to dominate and probably the best chance of the half (apart from the goal) fell to Angel Di Maria. The Argentine was set free of the defense when his compatriot flicked a Sami Khedira clearance only for the little Argentine to blow it despite faking off two of their defenders. He could not even hit the target. Higuain had the next chance with Di Maria involved again. This time the winger’s cross was headed goalwards by Pipita only to be cleared off the line by Pirlo. His clearance fell straight to Di Maria whose half-volley was yet again blocked by the Italian international. The Argentines were awesome in all in the first half and always looked like they were going to score. And score they did. Sergio Ramos’ stole the ball from inside our own half to start a counter attack. His eventual pass to Angel Di Maria let the angel fly free into the other half. Di Maria twisted and turned and then made a stunning dissecting pass to Higuain when everyone thought he was going to shoot. Pipita made no mistake finishing aplomb to score Real Madrid’s 700th goal in European competition. Real thus took a well deserved lead going into half time leaving Milan trailing and with a lot of thinking to do.
The second half was more open with both teams wanting to attack. Ronaldinho, who until then had had a poor game, was replaced by Filippo Inzaghi with the 37-year-old Italian coming in seeking an equalizer for Milan at the hour mark. Inzaghi was irritating our defense, our midfield, our forwards and our fans with his constant pestering of our players and foul play. Gattuso continued to assault our players and with Howard Webb, apparently England’s seniormost referee, doing almost nothing about it the former Rangers midfielder was at his best. Eight minutes on Milan would get their first. Pepe slipped while attempting a clearance of a long ball and Ibrahimovic was quick to latch on to it. The Swede’s cross was completely misjudged by St.Iker who spilled the ball only for a rushing Filippo Inzaghi to score and start off with his weeping celebration. I hate footballers who cry after scoring a goal and this man has a doctorate on such a celebration. Milan were back in the game and Real decided to change things around and attack a bit more. JM brought in Karim Benzema, the hero from the weekend, to replace the man who had given us the lead, Higuain At the same time Ambrosini replaced Pato showing the contrasting attitudes of the two managers. But it would be Allegri who would celebrate as Filippo Inzaghi scored again from an offside position to give Milan the lead in a game which they were trailing only ten minutes ago. Gattuso’s ball over the Real defense was received by Inzaghi who was waiting behind our last man. The Italian surged into the box and slotted it underneath a rushing Iker Casillas for Milan to lead 2-1 after 78 minutes.
JM then made his master move. Pedro Leon was brought on to replace Pepe leaving only three defenders in the playing XI. And the former Getafe man was fantastic. He ran continuously not ceasing for a second and fought for every ball in his region. With time running down it looked as though JM’s homecoming would end in a defeat and thus end Real’s current undefeated streak under Mourinho. But that was when JM’s subs came into light. In added time Benzema made a clever reverse pass to Pedro Leon who shot low and hard for the ball to pierce through Abbiati’s legs to save both Mourinho and Real the blushes leaving the San Siro crowd silent. It was Pedro Leon’s first goal in Real Madrid colors and afterwards he said:
The most impotant thing about my goal was that it helped the team. I’m happy with eventually drawing the match because we deserved to.
We had a very good start to the match; we played well and had many chances to score. We suffered more in the second half and Inzaghi’s two goals hurt us. We managed to draw the score in the end and took a very important point that mathematically qualifies us for the Last 16. We also remain undefeated.
Mourinho then brought on Albiol for Ozil immediately so as to avoid a disaster. Real thoroughly deserved to win the game but in the end had to settle for a draw. We played an excellent first half and probably should have finished off Milan when they were on the back foot. We wasted several chances and in the end we paid for it. The other thing I noticed was that Real was careless at times. Milan were given the ball too easily when we had to keep them under pressure. The manager was quick to acknowledge the fact that the game was rightfully ours in the post match presser. He heaped praise on Pedro Leon and Benzema and said that he will be forced to start Karim if he goes on playing the way he is playing at the moment and I concur. He also said something that really interested me:
My team has yet to learn and improve. It has to learn how to play Champions League knock-out stages, which showcase a completely different way of playing football. I believe tonight’s match was a fantastic experience for my men.
I believe we can play at this level at the end of the campaign. I have faith in all my men. I’m happy with all of them and I’m grateful to them all. Those aren’t just mere words. To thank them means to use them on the pitch. That’s why I will eventually use a rotation system. We have a fantastic squad and some of the benched players sometimes live each match more intensely than those on the pitch. I couldn’t be happier with my players.
And it couldn’t have been put in a better way. We haven’t played in a Champions League quarter final since 2004 and what he just said says it all doesn’t it? We really don’t seem to know how to play knock-out football. It speaks a lot about our Copa record as well.
Casillas had an awful day considering the standard which he usually sets. He lacked judgement and I realized that that’s a mistake even the best of players can make. Sergio Ramos was good. He kept Ronaldinho out of the game and forced him to make long balls and was pretty good in attack as well. Pepe I feel was not all that great. I don’t know whether it was the pitch or lack of concentration – the Portuguese was not as solid as he usually is. On the contrary Ricardo Carvalho was fantastic. We might have conceded two goals for the first time this season but I have to say that I was totally impressed with the way he controlled our defense. Marcelo I felt was playing like the Marcelo of last season. Attack more and defend less. It probably was because Ronaldo was on the left most of the time which meant that there was virtually no one there. Alonso was just Alonso. You just couldn’t see him but he was behind everything. Khedira I felt was not present in the fixture. It is very important that a holding midfielder makes his presence felt unlike Alonso. But it just was not his night. Ronaldo was OK. Then again, its only because of the standards he has set for himself. I felt that a few of his claims for a foul were pathetic. Ozil had a poor game. He virtually had no effect on the game and I was surprised to not see him subbed earlier. Its probably fatigue and that’s just my gut feeling. Di Maria and Higuain were fantastic. And I mean Fantastic. They virtually created all our chances. Di Maria would have been the standalone Man of the Match if only he had scored from the vital chance he had in the first half. But sadly that wasn’t the case. Benzema came on late and was really good. He created Pedro Leon’s goal from a zazzy reverse pass and worked really hard just like the other difference maker from last night Pedro Leon. Both the subs were running hard, going for the ball as though it was a matter of life and death. He had defensive duties as well considering the fact that he had replaced Pepe and he did that too with perfection. Hats off young lad.
Its easy to say that Pedro Leon would be my Man of the Match because of obvious reasons. But it wouldn’t be a whole hearted decision considering the fact that Di Maria and Higuain too were awesome. Yes, our official website handed them the honor of being the men of the match and I too will do so but will be adding the names Pedro Leon and Ricardo Carvalho along.
Its now time to shift our focus to the Madrid derby and Pipita came straight at it.
We achieved our main objective to reach the next round. We would’ve liked to confirm the pass as group leaders, but we have yet to play two more games and we will work very hard to achieve this. We are now very motivated to face Atletico Madrid. We managed to remain undefeated after such an important game and we want to keep this streak up.
And that we should. Its derby time!
AC Milan: Abbiati, Abate, Nesta, Thiago Silva, Zambrotta, Prince-Boateng, Pirlo, Gattuso (Seedorf 84′), Ronaldinho (Inzaghi 60′), Pato (Ambrosini 72′), Ibrahimovic;
Real Madrid: Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Pepe (Pedro Leon 80′), Carvalho, Marcelo, Xabi Alonso, Khedira, Di Maria, Ozil (Albiol 93′), Ronaldo, Higuain (Benzema 74′);
0-1, 45′: Higuain;
1-1, 68′: Inzaghi;
2-1, 78′: Inzaghi;
2-2, 92′: Pedro Leon;
Referee: Howard Webb (ENG)
Booked: Gattuso, Ibrahimovic, Prince-Boateng, Abate, Carvalho, Pepe;
Venue: San Siro
Attendance: Full house
Men of the match: Angel Di Maria, Gonzalo Higuain, Ricardo Carvalho and Pedro Leon