Monday April 15 2013
Held Milan still believe in second

Napoli maintained their four-point advantage over Milan thanks to a 1-1 at San Siro. Giancarlo Rinaldi wraps up the Week 32 action.

At the end of a rare bad week, it must have been something of a tonic. Juventus might have been singularly second best in their European tussle with Bayern Munich, but their closest rivals at home gave them some consolation. On the latest evidence, Milan and Napoli are still a bit short of challenging Antonio Conte’s men’s domestic dominance.

The first half at San Siro confirmed the good and bad qualities of both of Serie A’s other occupants of the Champions League places. Walter Mazzarri’s side started off in sluggish fashion and a low, sweeping Mathieu Flamini shot made them pay for their lack of focus. But then the Rossoneri left the back-door open and allowed Goran Pandev to celebrate an equaliser in bug-eyed Toto’ Schillaci style.

That sparkling opening period should have been the aperitivo before cracking open some valuable vintage from the Calcio wine cellar. Instead, with a lunging-tackle red card for Flamini and few clear chances, the second period had connoisseurs turning up their noses. It was more vino da tavola than breathtaking Barolo.

In the end, maybe the point was all either side deserved and it will certainly have pleased the Partenopei more, leaving their four-point lead in second place intact. But Milan, too, had some consolation in getting a draw without suspended Mario Balotelli and Stephan El Shaarawy who was controversially “rested” for most of the game. Boss Max Allegri was convinced that second spot – and avoiding the Champions League play-offs – would still not be out of the question.

“This is an important point and it keeps us in with a chance of automatic qualification,” he said. “We keep Fiorentina four points back and we’re two games through this tough run of three matches. The team is young and improving, we have to be patient. Even third place would be a great achievement.”

“There are still 18 points left to play for and we can’t let our guard down,” responded his opposite number Mazzarri. “After going 1-0 down, we started playing well and pressed them back and I thought we could win the game. We are still not clinical enough to take home the points from games like this.”

With Lazio and Juventus still to play, there was a chance for others to enhance their European claims but not everybody took that chance. Fiorentina did seize their opportunity to stretch away from the Biancocelesti in fourth with an improved second half – and a sweet Marcelo Larrondo strike – to see off Atalanta. Last week’s hero for the Bergamaschi, German Denis, fell from grace with a red card for a scything tackle on David Pizarro.

Roma, too, were able to move up the table with a hard-fought win over Torino. South American stars, and great dressing-room chums, Pablo Osvaldo and Erik Lamela were the goal getters – the latter’s a particularly spectacular effort. A typical piece of Rolando Bianchi perseverance was not enough to pick up a precious point for the Granata, despite the constant threat of a truly inspired Alessio Cerci.

The side to blow their chance to pressurise Lazio were, perhaps unsurprisingly, Inter. They were once again the victims of a pretty dubious penalty in the farcical surroundings of Trieste for a supposed away trip to face Cagliari. Credit, however, to Andrea Stramaccioni for not fanning the flames of conspiracy theory but accepting it was simply an honest mistake from the match officials.

The loss allowed Udinese – impressive 3-0 winners against a Parma side which clearly reckons it is already safe in Serie A – to close to within two points of Inter. Their classic late season rush might yet be enough to sweep the boys from Friuli back into Europe. Hands up all of you who think that would be a good thing for Italian football’s coefficient when they dismantle their team again this summer.

In the lower reaches, it was baseball caps off to Beppe Iachini. The former battling midfielder of Fiorentina, Verona and Venezia has worked a little miracle with his Siena side. A pulsating 3-2 win over Pescara – sealed by the impressive Innocent Emeghara – took them clear of the drop zone. Without their six-point penalty they would be flying clear of trouble like a top jockey at the local Palio celebrations.

Things were more grim for Palermo and Genoa who both ended up getting a point from matches they really needed to win. The Derby della Lanterna was a typically bitter affair with all the goodwill of Ebenezer Scrooge before his visits from the Christmas ghosts. A nasty tackle from Matuzalem in the opening stages set the tone of a grouchy encounter. At the final whistle Samp fans celebrated the draw by taunting their local rivals with chants of “Serie B! Serie B!”.

In Sicily, the recent revival under the 48th different manager of the season – that may be a slight exaggeration – hit the buffers against Bologna. Josip Ilicic opened the scoring early to raise hopes of a Rosanero victory with a strike worthy of winning any match. Unfortunately for Giuseppe Sannino, a calamitous error from the normally dependable Stefano Sorrentino in goal cost his side a couple of points. It would be truly cruel on the outstanding netminder if that blunder was to end up costing his team its survival in the top flight.

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Have your say...
Top 3 will probably finish as it is, and it is probably about right on balance. Napoli showed they are a match for Milan. Juve are ahead of the pack with room to spare, hard to see any other sides getting a look-in for the Scudetto over the next 2 or 3 seasons.
on the 16th April, 2013 at 9:52pm

No sir, YOUR the only one who doesn't see the skills of this 18 years old.
Just cause he hasn't scored doesn't mean he hasn't got skills. Watch and see within two years he'll be in either real, Man U, barca or psg.
on the 16th April, 2013 at 12:24pm
So now Allegri is under fire? lot's of knee-jerk reactors out there.

Last week was Mazzarri, who next?
on the 16th April, 2013 at 4:30am
Allegri must be the only manager in the world who could see anything good in the Niang boy!!! He is just too poor to even play for our reserve team, time to bench him and get another youngster in the team if it's youth we are looking for....
on the 15th April, 2013 at 10:23pm
@mdivito81 but SES offers more than just attacking options. His work rate means he tracks back and works for the team. And he keeps things simple. In fact it's his ability to keep things simple and move the ball quickly which has impressed me the most. In many respects De Sciglio and SES are the players who have shown more tactical awareness. This was another aspect missing from Milan's display. The players were holding onto the ball too long!
on the 15th April, 2013 at 4:10pm
This nowadays fashionable quick-fire coach-firing is annoying to me. Seems like you fire a chef because of a bad steak but you only give him milk and cereal to work with in the kitchen.
Do you truly think Sir Alex Ferguson is the only coach worthy of shining the bench of a team for so many years?
on the 15th April, 2013 at 3:07pm
I never played at professional level but my coach knew how and when to play me better then anyone else close like my Dad who was always in the stands with those burning eyes when I made a mistake ... I only made one mistake though ... telling him where my games were :)
I am sure Allegri saw something is SES we don't so however controversial it seems, I respect his decision, as I do with all coaches. They just know better, period.
on the 15th April, 2013 at 3:00pm
I'm with Maldini's Heir in that I think that Allegri does tinker too much. I also don't like that he plays both Flamini & Muntari. This results in the team lacking creativity & penetration. I'd switch KPB for one of those & give him a consistent position in cm. I wouldn't fire Allegri though, this is not a great Milan squad, & he has done well to get them into 3rd place. With a few good signings, less tinkering, Cristante's inclusion etc, Milan can be a real threat to Juve next season
on the 15th April, 2013 at 2:51pm
Let us not forget what Boban said after the game 'SES can be too predictable'
Which along with fatigue is the reason I believe he hasn't scored as much since Xmas.

Allegri has his faults no doubts, however he's a manager who's won 1 scudetto finished 2nd and with the poor signings we have he's turned the squad on its head who are now performing more like a unit.

this Milan squad any worse than the Inter squad?

People wishing max to be sacked should remember what we have before he's discard
on the 15th April, 2013 at 2:50pm
Nothing wrong in believing in anything and mathematically it's still an open race.
Lots can happen yet, with results going in some teams' favor on the expense of others but if Milan is worthy of 2nd place, they should have shown more against Napoli. I take a further step ... they should have beaten Napoli convincingly.
Short of that I remain pretty nervous, regardless off how many chips are left on the table.
Juve will be champions, hats down, good job once again but ... forza Milan! :)
on the 15th April, 2013 at 2:49pm
@ Dan Giambrone - It seems Allegri has just increased the pressure on him. Apparently it is all about goals. Does anyone know what's happened to Bojan? Is Allegri working on a 3 month rotational policy between him and Robinho just to keep them fresh
on the 15th April, 2013 at 2:42pm
Do we know for certain why SES was dropped? I've heard so many reasons: tendonitis, flu, fatigue, he is on a yellow card & didn't want to risk another booking, (& miss the Juve game)etc. Allegri has said on several occasions, that "football isn't just about goals", (when speaking of SES). Can we infer from this that Allegri would like to see SES provide more passes/crosses to the other forwards? Or is he just trying to ease the pressure on the youngster?
on the 15th April, 2013 at 2:21pm
@ Anonymous - I'm all for resting players but not in key matches. If Allegri used a proper rotation policy around something like a starting 11 then I would not have a problem with players being rested occasionally particularly young players. But Allegri doesn't. And for the reasons stated in my other posts he's simply not good enough. Yes we lost players over the summer but he also failed to pick the same starting line up two matches in a row. Imagine where we'd be if he had.
on the 15th April, 2013 at 2:20pm
How anyone can say Alliegri is a bad coach is beyond me, after a terrible start to be 3rd, unbeaten in 2013 is a great achievement. Finishing in CL places after losing Ibra, silva and all our experience in one disastorous summer window is an brilliant achievement.

He dopped SES as he is 20 and cannot play 46 games a seasn, or he will burn out and end up ruining his career like micheal owen, where he clearly says he played too much while he was young
on the 15th April, 2013 at 12:23pm
@Maldini's Heir

With yet another Juve vs. Milan encounter on the horizon you come out and claim Juve will beat this Milan side. Just like last time and we all know what happened then.

We still have to play Lazio today and hopefully can take the week to catch our breath. I certainly am not underestimating this Milan side and i think considering the game against Juve Allegri wanted to rest SES and hopes to get Balo back for the game as well.

Who knows second place might still be achievable.
on the 15th April, 2013 at 12:20pm
Another Stramaccioni Masterpiece.
on the 15th April, 2013 at 11:58am
We can't beat Inter under Allegri. And Juve will beat us next week because we've lost another chance to let SES and Pazzo gel. He doesn't seem to get it. If players keep being changed round they will never have consistancy. Allegri has to go at the end of the season. It's a shame that the club's hugely unambitious attempts this season will see him keep his job. What a joke!
on the 15th April, 2013 at 10:39am
Or you could say this squad was good enough to challenge Juve. Instead Milan suffered because it took Allegri until Christmas to starting picking the same CBs with any kind of consistancy. He still has not decided where to play Boateng. We dropped points to Fiorentina partly because he inexplicably took off Muntari at half time. Our record against the top teams is as bad as it has ever been under Allegri. We've beaten Juve (who were in a bad run of form at the time) and 10 man Lazio. That's it.
on the 15th April, 2013 at 10:37am
Now with Allegri's post match comments the pressure is on SES to score! If Allegri is so concerned about young players why did he play Niang against Barca? This is the problem all season. Allegri can't stop changing the starting line up. We've had a whole season nearly and he still does not know his starting line up. He doesn't know who the captain is. Monty one week. Abbiati the next week. If you look at the run of games we've had unbeaten you could say it's a great achievement.
on the 15th April, 2013 at 10:31am
As I said in another blog this is a new low for Allegri! I can't believe he dropped SES. It made absolutely no sense whatsoever. We were extremely lucky not to lose. Even if you look at it tactically. We were lucky that Maggio did not push on more but before the game you would have wanted SES ahead of Robinho to track back. Milan had no attack down the left hand side. SES's lack of goals recently was not really a big issue since his all round play was fine.
on the 15th April, 2013 at 10:29am

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