Milan 1-0 Fiorentina: Ibrahimovic rescues Milan

November 21, 2010

The starting line-ups

Milan failed to play well, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s tremendous goal on the stroke of half-time won the game.

Milan kept faith with the 4-3-1-2 system that has proved successful in recent weeks. Daniele Bonera replaced the suspended Ignazio Abate. Ronaldinho was still on the bench, but Andrea Pirlo wasn’t fit enough for the 18.

Fiorentina were without Sebastien Frey, Adrian Mutu, Stevan Jovetic, Riccardo Montolivo, Cristiano Zanetti and Alessandro Gamberini, all of whom would have started if fit. Juan Vargas was only fit enough for the bench, so it was a patched-up 4-2-3-1 with Adem Ljajic and two wingers supporting Alberto Gilardino.

Milan started reasonably well, but they didn’t create too many chances. Fiorentina were happy to sit back and defend for the majority of the game, though they passed the ball well.

Fiorentina start well

What Fiorentina got right was to sit relatively deep. This may well have been primarily because of the lack of pace of their defenders – Cesare Natali, in particular – but it also meant that Milan weren’t able to knock balls over the top for Ibrahimovic to run onto, as has been their main route of attack in recent weeks – see the goals he’s scored against Ajax and Inter, for example.

Therefore, Milan were forced to create in a more cultured, nuanaced fashion. They struggled, however, because of the overwhelmingly functional midfield three they used. Massimo Ambrosini, Rino Gattuso and Matthieu Flamini give them a sturdy midfield base, and the use of this trio has been crucial in their clean sheets in the last two games. But, in a game like this where they were dominating the ball but struggling to break through, they needed the vision and creativity of Pirlo.

Trequartistas move wide

Ljajic was as bright as ever, and intelligent enough to venture to the flanks to get the ball, rather than playing into the hands of Milan’s central midfield area by staying central. Indeed, Fiorentina did seem to have a gameplan to move their attacks from flank to flank, to force Milan’s midfield to shuffle across the pitch, and so that Fiorentina’s wingers could take on the Milan full-backs straight away. Marco Marchionni was much more dangerous than Alessio Cerci.

Clarence Seedorf also drifted out wide from a trequartista position to a left-wing role, though here his lack of pace was often obvious.

Fiorentina were marginally the better side towards the end of the first half, and Ibrahimovic’s goal was slightly against the run of play. But it showed why he is such a dangerous striker – when defences play high, he has the pace to get in behind and score that way – when they defend deep, he has the tricky in the box to manufacture chances out of nothing.

Second half

The second half was a bit of a damp squib – Fiorentina looked gutted to have gone behind despite playing well, and struggled to get back in the game. Milan’s main problem – creativity – was no longer a problem once they found themselves in front, and they kept the ball in the middle of the pitch well.

Fiorentina created enough chances when they brought on Mario Santana and Vargas in wide zones, where Milan are at their most vulnerable, but they weren’t clinical enough and still rely too much on Gilardino – who hasn’t been on form in 2010 – too much for their goals.


The old ‘winning when you’re not at your best’ for Milan, three points clear at the top of the table. This was a game they needed Ibrahimovic magic in – the midfield didn’t look creating much otherwise, and Seedorf was too keen to move wide which made it difficult for Milan to get the ball forward.

Sinisa Mihajlovic stated that he was pleased with his Fiorentina side’s performance, and considering how many key players they have out, this was a decent performance against the league leaders. Mihajlovic’s mistake was in not allowing his full-backs enough freedom, and the changes he made in the second half meant the side was constantly reshuffling.

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