Milan: Abbiati, Abate, Nesta, Tiago Silva, Antonini, Gattuso (‘ 20 Van Bommel), Ambrosini, Aquilani (’68 Nocerino), Boateng (’75 Pato), Cassano, Ibrahimovic.
Lazio: Bizzarri, Konko, Biava, Dias, Zauri, Ledesma, Brocchi, Mauri (’77 Lulic), Hernanes (’86 Matuzalem), Cisse, Klose (’68 Gonzalez).
A draw against Milan away is always a good result for Lazio. Starting the season with 2-2 at San Siro is in one sense impressive, but at the same time the game gave plenty to be worried about. Up front Lazio has brought plenty of firepower, which became obvious very early in the game. As early it became obvious that the defense had not been given the face lift it needed.
A magic first half hour of offensively gifted, and defensively confused, football kicked Serie A off for the season. The first few minutes Lazio looked to have been pumped up perfectly and put pressure on a slow Milan, but it was the home team that created the first clear cut goal chance as Aquilani broke free only to be stopped by a well timed run by Bizzarri in the Lazio goal. As early as that, after only seven minutes, the feeling was that two of the new additions to the starting eleven – Zauri and Konko on right and left back respectively – were up for a tough night. Before that becoming too obvious though, Lazio managed an impressive 15 minutes. Mauri, being used partly as a midfield winger this evening, delivered a good ball to Klose, who came a little too late to get his first goal in the biancoceleste shirt.
A few minutes later he did; the set up of Mauri and Hernanes in the attacking part of the midfield showed decisive as the lethal German found himself with the ball and one on one with Nesta in the Milan defense. Klose looked sharp when he handled the ball perfectly and shot Lazio to the lead after twelve minutes.
Up front Hernanes looked energetic, Mauri hungry and Cisse quick. At the back, Konko looked lost and Zauri as belonging in Serie B. Cisse found a good chance after the Milan defense messed things up by bumping into each other, but Abbiati denied the French this team. Before he got the upper hand over the Milan goalkeeper, Klose showed he understands the game perfectly as he had two great chances to double the Lazio lead. For the two new signings in the attack the season started perfectly, as also Cisse got his name on the score sheet. A well delivered cross by Mauri was met perfectly with the head by the fiery attacker, and Lazio had chocked everyone with a 2-0 lead. Reja had been speaking of a Lazio on a new level in attack after the signing of the two, and for the first 20 minutes many must have started hoping this could be the game breaking the 22 year spell of losing to Milan away.
The dreamers were forced to wake up though. In minute 29 and 33 respectively, the defensive game of Lazio looked exactly as unprepared and weak as could have been expected. After initially having put pressure on Konko on the right, the game had been brought over to Zauri’s area and Milan managed to exploit the away team’s weakest point twice. First Ibrahimovic was left with an open net after a Cassano delivery inside the penalty area, and shortly after Cassano broke free from Zauri on a corner and headed home the equalizer.
The rest of the half saw Lazio try to be danger on the counter while Milan realized what a chance they had in attacking Lazio through pressuring Zauri. A sloppy and unfocused defensive game from both sides had given the neutral viewer an enjoyable game, but fans on both sides must be worried after the first half. The attackers had taken advantage, but in the longer run the defense in both teams need to be worked on.
When the second half was started by referee Rocchi, Lazio looked far from ready. The first part of the second half saw Cassano, Boateng and Ibrahimovic continuing to exploit the capital outfit and the champions looked as if to score soon again.
With Mauri falling too far back in defense, Hernanes being isolated and still seeking his form, it was Ledesma and Brocchi that did the hard work in the midfield this evening. Cisse and Klose were left without balls to work with, and as the minutes passed Milan advanced their game. Miraculously the Lazio defense managed to stand against Milan, and after Cassano hit the post in ’62 neither of the teams went closer to scoring. Cisse was unlucky to see Nesta save a brilliant effort only three minutes later, but the Milan attackers should be the ones more upset with not grabbing all three points this evening. Had not Bizzarri showed Marchetti needs to be on his toe to be the first choice, Lazio could have seen their two goal lead result in no points.
The second half, just as stated above, looked very discouraging for Lazio despite managing the collect one point in one of the hardest games. Reja has plenty to consider though, as the criticisers will have a few things to complain about.
The defensive game looked unorganised, the midfield unbalanced and only creating occasionally, and the substitutions below par. Lulic had two good interceptions in defense, but other than that he made a mistake on every touch on the ball. Gonzalez wanted a lot, but managed to do very little. With Mauri and Klose being substituted for the two, it was obvious Reja was happy enough with the one point and aimed at closing the game. He probably wanted to get out of the game with a reasonable result, and to be given some time to contemplate how he is to steer up the defense. Konko might grow into it with some games under his belt, but for the left Lazio desperately needs to get Radu back soon. What was the strongest department last season today looked like the major weakness.
In all honesty, when the final whistle sounded I for one felt relieved. I would have taken a draw before the game, especially considering the state of our defense, so there is much to be happy about despite a discouraging last 70 minutes.