10 September 2006

Milan 2-1 Lazio: rossoneri able to keep control

The match was called a must-win for both sides. Of course that's not strictly true considering it was the season opener and both teams have 37 matches to go, but -8 Milan and -11 Lazio both desperately wanted to erase 3 points of their penalty. It was the rossoneri who were able to do so, not improving their position in the classifica but moving to just -5.

To counteract the home pitch advantage of Milan, Delio Rossi thought it would be wisest to start his first team lineup, despite previous reports that he would mix it up by starting Mutarelli and Makinwa on the left side. Both of them saw playing time, as they were subbed early in the second half, but by that time Lazio already had a 1-0 defecit.

That goal came off of a Pippo Inzaghi angled strike in the 27th minute. Milan put the ball into traffic in the box and Lazio performed one of its trademark defensive collapses. Three defenders were all in the immediate area and crashed Inzaghi as soon as he got the ball, but were unable to accomplish anything. Peruzzi was in good position but the shot was perfect and slotted straight into the back of the net.

Makinwa gave some surge of life (including a nice running goal from a Rocchi assist) to Lazio in the second half, looking much fresher than Pandev, who had only one scoring chance. The problem for Lazio was that although they seemed to be generating a fair number of chances, they were all on breakaways. There was never a strong midfield possession which moved upfield to generate an offensive strike. While the defense held and these few opportunities kept Lazio from looking completely unthreatening, Milan held control throughout the match. Eurosport's full box score gives some stats that are usually pretty trivial and esoteric, but today one of these told the tale: Lazio had only 133 short passes compared to Milan's 299. The biancocelesti had 47% of the possession, but no control.

Give credit to the defense and midfield of the rossoneri, but Lazio needs to develop chemistry between its starting talents. Rossi recognizes that the team did not perform as a whole:

Ha vinto la squadra più esperta: abbiamo avuto tante occasioni soprattutto nel primo tempo e con un po' di convinzione e cattiveria in più avremmo potuto uscire da San Siro con dei punti importanti
"The more experienced team won: we had many opportunities, especially in the first half, and with a little more conviction and trickery we could have left San Siro with some important points."

Instead Lazio will have to work in practice this week to solidify the midfield so that they can capitalize on their opportunities at their home opener next Sunday at the Olimpico against Palermo.

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