‘Il Pazzo’, Giampaolo Pazzini, struck twice today at the San Siro to give AC Milan a 3-0 win over visiting Lazio. Pazzini started ahead of Balotelli in this fixture as the latter was sidelined with a bruised knee. Antonio Candreva’s 16th minute red card effectively changed the tide of the contest and greatly benefited Milan as they went on to dominate the match. This match was predicted to be a great tactical battle between the two sides but turned into a straightforward win for the Rossoneri. Milan now has taken hold of third place ahead of Lazio and remains unbeaten in 2013.
Both squads early on targeted their attacks down the left hand flank.
Cristian Ledesma sat above the defense and swung balls out wide left to Lulic who would involve Hernanes in the attack. The pair worked down the left side of the pitch and Candreva expressed his attacking potential on the right. Lazio’s attacks were foiled by Milan’s stingy defense. Even with the absence of Mexes in the back, Milan remained tightly organized.
Montolivo was instrumental in composing the Milan attack by sending long balls to De Sciglio and El Shaarawy in the channels. De Sciglio made terrific overlapping runs throughout the entire match beating defenders and looking to cross the ball. El Shaarawy zipped past Lazio’s right back Pereirinha on many occasions and appeared threatening on each attack. The Italian international displayed his true pace in the 16th minute as he surged past a defender and was fouled by Candreva on the very line of the box. This resulted in Candreva’s expulsion.
Lazio then relied on absorbing pressure and playing off the counterattack. Their efforts were made in vain as Milan closed down attacks well. Milan was able to control long stretches of the first half playing a man up. Milan also calmed their play down a bit and was patient with their passing. For instance when El Shaarawy attacked down the left side, at times he would often square the ball to Montolivo just above the box who would then look to have another switch to the right side or sneak a ball in behind the Lazio defense. Montolivo then incorporated the speedy Abate in the action as he made numerous runs and was involved with Milan’s first goal.
The first half ended with Lazio sending hopeful long balls up to Floccari. Milan continued to work down both wings and fully stretched Lazio’s defense. Their defense could not keep with Milan’s pace. To close out the half a Pazzini header off a corner kick and produced a great save by Marchetti, but the rebound kindly fell to Boateng who doubled the lead.
The second half saw more of the same as Milan continued to dominate possession and control the match.
Lazio’s hopes for a comeback finally ended as a terribly failed clearance by Radu nicely set up Pazzini, who took a touch before firing a low range attempt into the bottom corner of the net. Pazzini brimmed with confidence tonight after playing well against Barcelona. His performance demonstrated this confidence as he continued to hustle for balls even when Milan was up by 3. Radu’s failed clearance pretty much summed up Lazio’s night. They were simply not skillfully competent to Milan and short of luck (in terms of Candreva’s red card).
Milan was full of energy and hungry for more goals. What has to be noted is the great chemistry displayed by Milan’s front three attackers: El Shaarawy, Boateng and Pazzini. There were times when Pazzini shifted slightly right and Boateng moved centrally to receive the ball from El Shaarawy, who would then set up an attack. This movement proved to be more than the Lazio defense could handle and they appeared confused at times.
Pazzini was cut short of hat trick glory as M’Baye Niang substituted him in the 67th minute. Niang moved to a more central play making role and Boateng shifted to the right. It was great to see the two young Milan youngsters, Niang and El Shaarawy, link up Milan’s attack. El Shaarawy almost became provider for Niang, but his shot rocketed off the cross bar in the 86th minute.
Max Allegri has transformed this Milan side this year into an organized machine with a great attack. Milan will surely land a Champions League spot, maybe even snagging Napoli’s.