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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

English Red Devils Defeat Their Italian Counterparts, 3 x 2

In a very competitive Champions League semi-final first leg match, Manchester United defeated AC Milan, 3 to 2 in a come from behind victory. Both teams are known affectionately as the "Red Devils or Devil," and tonight's encounter was a fiery affair. This was the fourth European Cup/Champions League tie between the two storied franchises, and Milan held a 3 to 0 advantage. With tonight's win, Manchester United extended their unbeaten streak to 30 games in the Champions League at Old Trafford.

Paolo Maldini, the icon of Italian calcio and captain of AC Milan, made his 167th European league appearance. Nine of them have been semi-final ties. He has won the competition four times. Unfortunately for Milan, due to a recurring knee injury, Paolo was only able to play the first 45 minutes. By that time, after two superb goals by Kaka', and one gifted own-goal by the Milanese keeper, Nelson Dida, AC Milan was in control of the game at a scoreline of 1 x 2. They had slowed down the tempo of the game, which suited their own style of play. This was not going to be a repeat of the 7 to 1 mauling that Man U handed to AS Roma. The Milanese defense, anchored by Maldini and Sandro Nesta, was very organized.

The second half was a different story. Manchester United scored twice on goals by Wayne Rooney. The first one was developed by an excellent scoop pass assist by Paul Scholes; however, Dida, who had several strange moments tonight, could have done more with the shot. With Rooney's second, the game winner in the 90th minute, Dida was not at fault. It was a perfectly placed shot into the lower right hand corner of the net. Rooney is becoming a clinical finisher, and his behavior on the pitch seems much more mature.

The return game will be next Wednesday at the San Siro in Milan. Despite the 2 away goals, a draw will not do Milan any good. They need to win (but have to keep in mind away goals scored by Man U) in order to advance to the final game in Athens on 23 May. Where one of these two excellent teams will face the winner of Chelsea and Liverpool.


Merengue said...

Definitely an entertaining game. As a neutral I didn't have a horse in this race so was able to enjoy the attacking play from both teams. I thought the injuries to Maldini and especially to Gattuso really effected Milan as they lacked what we say in Spanish as "personality" on the field. I really don't know of an exact English translation but I guess you could say presence or maybe even leadership but really there isn't an exact translation for that in English. But without those two players Milan was missing something.

Milan played a brilliant first half but in the second they were troubled by Manchester United's quick one and two touch passing and the team's overall speed. But football is a 90 minute game and Milan seemed content with the draw and lost concentration at the end, losing the ball in midfield and getting caught off guard on the break by Rooney's injury time goal. I am going to have to disagree with Steve the blog author here whose opinions I certainly respect but for me Dida was at least partially at fault for all three of Man U's goals. On the last one he gave Rooney too much room, from the angle Rooney was positioned, to shoot at the near post. On the second he probably should have blocked Rooney's shot more effectively by getting his large body behind the ball and on the first goal he was caught in "no man's land" on a corner kick. No wonder an Argentinian friend tells me Milan are interested in River Plate's young but talneted goalkeeper Juan Pablo Carrizo for next season. It looks like Dida's best years have passed him by.

Anyway it was an enjoyable game to watch and sets up a good 2nd leg. 2 away goals will definitely help Milan but Manchester United's speed on the counter will be very dangerous at San Siro. Hopefully tomorrow's game can match this one.

Steve Amoia said...

Miguel, thank you for your fine commentary. After reviewing the video clips once again on Telefutura, your points about Dida were correct.

I think that Marco Storari, a keeper they obtained from Catania, would be a good choice to groom for the future.

When Maldini didn't come out for the second half, and Gattuso went off a few minutes later, the chemistry seemed to change. Unfortunately, to the detriment of Milan.

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