Milan 0-1 Roma: Borriello punishes parent club
At first it looked like Roma were coming for a draw, but they ended up leaving with a win.
Max Allegri stuck with his 4-3-1-2 shape, the only change being Luca Antonini replacing Gianluca Zambrotta at left-back.
Claudio Ranieri made five changes from the team which beat Bari last weekend – the major news being that Francesco Totti was omitted, with Adriano making his second start for Roma. Daniele De Rossi returned.
The first half was played at a slow tempo, and there were relatively few goalscoring opportunities. As we’ve seen before with 4-3-1-2 v 4-3-1-2 battles, it was a cagey opening.
There were differences in the two shapes, however. Jeremy Menez, Roma’s trequartista, often moved out to the right flank when Roma lost the ball, meaning they sometimes looked like they were defending with two banks of four. Milan, on the other hand, usually protected Christian Abbiati with seven players.
That’s not to say Roma were defending any better, however. When any side wins 1-0 against the odds, the victorious centre-backs are often given plenty of credit, and whilst Philippe Mexes and Juan had good second halves, in the first period they were all over the place. Roma were using three very deep midfielders but a highish defensive line – there didn’t seem be any cohesion in the way they were setting out.
The obvious result was that Milan’s midfielders had time on the ball to chip balls over the top, and both Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Robinho should have scored when in on goal – Ibrahimovic chipped tamely at Doni, Robinho slipped over.
Roma weren’t doing much better higher up the pitch – the duo of Marco Borriello and Adriano offered little movement and Roma found it difficult to get the ball forward.
Milan’s shape changed slightly when Andrea Pirlo went off injured after twenty minutes. He’d been coming inside and creating from the centre, but his replacement Clarence Seedorf stayed wider and simply played poorly.
The major feature of the game, though, was a lack of attacking threat from full-back, which meant neither defence was stretched laterally, and both sides played the game in front of each other.
Roma were much better in the second half. The midfield was higher up the pitch, there was more link-up play from the two forwards, the full-backs had slightly more inclination to get forward – they weren’t necessarily providing width to stretch the opposition defence, but were at least providing a forward passing option for the three central midfielders.
Defensively, Milan were far more secure on their right than on their left. Rino Gattuso moved out to the right flank and covered his full-back well, but on the left Seedorf was lethargic. That was particularly worrying for Milan because Menez (playing as a “central winger”) drifted to that side – and created a goal from that position. A change of pace (not something we saw often during the game) beat Antonini, and his cross ended up the net fortuitously after Ignzaio Abate’s clearance hit Borriello and went in.
Milan’s lack of a plan B was alarming – Allegri failed to change anything until the 85th minute, and that was only when Kevin Prince Boateng picked up and injury and could no longer continue. Ibrahimovic and Robinho both faded – though they could reasonably blame a lack of service.
Neither side played well – but whilst Roma started slowly and improved in the second half, Milan started reasonably well before looking lost after half-time. The goal was fortunate and it’s difficult to attribute too much credit to Ranieri in overall, but it was significant that the only player who provided any width on either side – Menez – created the goal.