There is a horrible moment between the sickening crunch of reversing your car into another vehicle and getting out to survey the damage. You hope, despite all the evidence, that perhaps things will not turn out as badly as you thought. But for Milan fans, on early indications anyway, the fears that this season may be a write-off appear well justified.
The misery among Rossoneri followers recently has been as smothering as the thickest Lombardy fog. The big name departures and cut-price arrivals have produced a pessimism far deeper than they ever thought Silvio Berlusconi’s pockets might be. After years of watching Oscar-winning performances, they are facing up to some pretty grim reality TV.
Prior to the first round of Serie A matches there was at least the hope that their low-cost line-up might not be as disappointing as they imagined. Perhaps, if they could combine perfectly as a team, they might deliver a League challenge worthy of the club’s famous colours. Defeat by Sampdoria at San Siro saw that dream deflate more quickly than a bunch of balloons at a dart-throwers convention.
The players and Coach looked tetchy and Adriano Galliani appeared about as comfortable as a man trying to sit still on a bed of thistles. Max Allegri, understandably, preached against panic and promised his revamped squad would come on leaps and bounds in the weeks to come. He did, however, drop a heavy hint that the last few days of the transfer market might be vital to their prospects of achieving anything this year.
The trouble is that it will be hard to produce any quick fix to what has appeared to be a pretty ad hoc approach to acquisitions. There are gaps throughout the squad which it will be almost impossible to plug adequately in the space of less than a week. In truth, the radical belt-tightening at the club makes it seem unlikely any huge investment will be made to address the situation.
It is foolish, of course, to judge everything on one game. Milan had the odd splash of misfortune in their opening match and might yet click into the kind of form that can revive their fortunes. The first signs, however, are that this season will be no bunga-bunga party for the boys in red-and-black.
Their feelings will only have been made worse by the result of the reigning champions. Despite all the clamour surrounding their Coach, Juve seemed to indicate that they would not let it affect them by sweeping Parma aside. There are greater tests to come, of course, but the Bianconeri will have been delighted with how their new acquisitions seemed to slot perfectly into a winning machine.
It got no better for Milanisti looking for a crumb of comfort from their city cousins. Inter, who have quietly gone about some nice Calciomercato business, had little problem getting past newly promoted Pescara. That Antonio Cassano played a key part in one of the goals of their 3-0 victory will only have added to the melancholy air at Milanello. The boy from Bari, however, was beaming from ear to ear in post match interviews. He did not look like he was missing his old colleagues too much.
The other greatly anticipated encounter in Serie A was the return of Zdenek Zeman at Roma after 13 years away. The Stadio Olimpico was packed for the occasion but visitors Catania did their best to spoil the party. In the end, the match lived up to all the hype – and stereotypes – you would expect of one of the Czech Coach’s sides.
Having gone behind to an offside goal, the Giallorossi produced a rousing second half performance to send their supporters home just about happy. It took a Pablo Daniel Osvaldo overhead volley to drag them back into the match. It brought back memories of a similar outstanding strike from last season against Lecce which was ruled out for offside.
There was still time for Roma to slip behind again and then produce an amazing finale thanks to youngster Nicolas Lopez. His cool chip over the last defender and thumping finish showed plenty of promise and delivered a precious point. There was still time for the home side to try to throw it away as the visitors hit the crossbar. Nobody, surely, could have left the ground feeling they had been cheated out of their ticket price for the match.
The tactician himself, however, was unimpressed. In his own laconic style he told reporters that he was disappointed that everything he had tried to instil in his side pre-season had, by and large, failed to materialise on the pitch. Nonetheless, it underlined that, for neutrals at least, Roma will be a team not to be missed this season.
Above all, it was a pleasure to get back to playing football rather than all the scandal, doom and gloom and conspiracy theories of the summer. There was enough evidence to suggest that the fight for the Scudetto could still be a lively one, some beautiful goals were scored and a few new faces impressed. If the rest of the campaign continues like this it could definitely be a pleasing season – although Milan fans might find that hard to believe right now.
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