Home > Soccer, Sports > The Taming of the San Siro

The Taming of the San Siro

So here I am back again for the follow up post to the previous one. Tell me you weren’t expecting this and I’d say you’re lying through your teeth! I mean, for crying out loud, the Reds won!!! So why wouldn’t I be back?

Well, what a match! It was more than what even the most ardent fan of the Red Devils could have hoped for – a 3 away goal cushion which makes it a tall task for AC Milan to qualify for the next stage of this edition of the UEFA Champions League. But the match is not yet over and it is a given that AC Milan would come out all guns blazing when they travel to the Theatre of Dreams in another 3 weeks. Now before I launch into the actual blow-by-blow here’s a tiny tidbit for the trivia hungry: the nicknames of AC Milan are Rossoneri (the Red-Blacks) and il Diavolo (the Devil). Ironic, considering that Manchester United go by the nickname of the Red Devils!

Anyway, so what exactly happened? The mind games began much before the actual game with David Beckham saying that he would probably be the first Man Utd fan to wish for their defeat and van der Sar warning his own team to be vary of his national team mate Huntelaar. Touted as the match of the evening, barely had referee Benquerenca blown the whistle to begin play that there was action on the pitch. Two minutes into the game Evra fouled Pato conceding a free kick to AC Milan. Beckham stepped up to take the set piece against his former club. What followed was pure drama and good fortune on the part of AC Milan. Beckham’s fierce curler forced Evra to take evasive action and he ended up hooking the ball in front of Ronaldinho. As the Brazilian let rip, Carrick made a last ditch attempt to protect the goal, in turn deflecting the ball and wrong-footing his Dutch keeper as the ball nestled into the back of Manchester United’s net. AC Milan were off already and I am sure most ManU fans (who remember) would have relived memories of that unfortunate encounter at the San Siro about two years ago when ManU were hammered 3-0 in the semi-finals of the championship. It had been two quick goals then, and the irony was not lost on AC Milan as they pushed forward with three strikers – Ronaldinho, Huntelaar and Pato – to put in a decisive second one past van der Sar. Huntelaar even came close when he was freed by Ambrosini clear on goal but fired wide of the solitary van der Sar.

As half time approached ManU uncharacteristically lost possession in almost every position and AC Milan pummeled the defence of the visiting side breaking it down repeatedly. With barely 10 minutes to go in the half and against the run of play, Ji-Sung Park made a run down the right flank and crossed to Michael Carrick in the box, who missed it only for veteran Paul Scholes to collect the ball and then look like a schoolboy as he swung and missed with his right foot. Fortune however favoured him as the ball rebounded of his left shin, spun wickedly past a helpless Dida, rolled off the upright and across the line. The home crowd was suddenly death silent. The unexpected had happened – the visitors had gotten past Dida. By far and large AC Milan dominated the first half with the goals for both teams coming in off fortuitous touches. Wayne Rooney was the lone ranger from the visitors to even loiter into the Rossoneri’s half and he was frustrated once by the Portuguese referee, who gave him an undeserved booking  and repeatedly by his own teammates, who failed to get the ball upfront to their lone striker. I for one would not have wanted to be in ManU’s dressing room at half time.

However, the ManU that walked out of the tunnel for the second half was a changed ManU. From the kickoff itself they took control of the match and kept asking questions off the home team’s defence time and again. Wayne Rooney made incisive runs but was thwarted every time by the failure of his teammates to deliver the ball into a dangerous position yet again.  Twenty minutes into the second half and there was no breaking the deadlock when Sir Alex Ferguson made his first change – Valencia on for Nani. Valencia showed just how much he has improved over the season with ManU when 24 seconds after getting onto the field he ran down the right wing outflanking two defenders and delivered an aerial cross to the far post. Rooney had been waiting for just this and promptly leapt clear of the defence to nod the ball into the goal across a stranded Dida and into the far corner. In the process, Rooney vindicated his statement that he had been working on his headers all summer and ManU got their noses ahead away from home. The Reds tried pushing the advantage to double their lead and it bore fruit eight minutes later when Darren Fletcher’s curling cross into the penalty area came by an unmarked Rooney who nodded in a straight forward one this time to increase the score line to 3-1. The entire crowd was silent – the home crowd in shock and the away crowd in glee!

Rossoneri coach Leonardo made quick substitutions bringing on veterans Seedorf and Inzaghi. With minutes remaining in the match, Ronaldinho pushed a low cross into ManU’s penalty area where in a whole lot of mess he managed to pick out Seedorf who with an audacious back-heel flummoxed the Dutchman to reduce the margin for the hosts. The very next minute a realistic chance went begging when Inzaghi in a one-on-one with van der Sar fired a shot way over the crossbar. When the inevitable whistle blew, Manchester United stood victors in a contest where they exploited every slip up of their faultering opponents’ mediocre performance. In Milan mid-fielder Beckham’s own words: “What happened? We were just up against a team called Manchester United and they know how to play football.”

Manchester United have previously never won at San Siro and they definitely got that monkey off their backs – in style. Wayne Rooney can’t seem to do anything wrong these past few months. Sir Alex’s substitutions are turning out to be spot on. And ManU now go home with 3 away goals in the kitty.

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  1. Abhinav
    17 February 2010 at 14:48 IST

    nice analysis of a great game 🙂

  2. 17 February 2010 at 15:00 IST

    a great game indeed… and considering that man utd have never scored at San Siro and then come away with not just a win but 3 goals is just awesome….

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