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AC Milan 1-1 Malaga
Malaga slipped up at the San Siro in Champions League Matchday Four, but they’ve qualified for the round of sixteen thanks to a 1-1 draw against hosts AC Milan. With 11 points and just one goal conceded (tonight being the first time they’ve done so), the Spanish club have defied the odds with their financial troubles. Milan on the other hand showed some signs of life despite dropping points yet again, but with Zenit St. Petersburg’s 1-0 loss in Brussels to Anderlecht, there’s still hope for the Italian outfit.
In the early stages of the match, Malaga dictated the action, much like the reverse fixture. Eventually, Milan woke up and had a flurry of chances, but Willy Caballero was world class in goal, keeping the game at 0-0. Malaga then controlled the last seventeen minutes of the first half, but still only mustered three shots and still had more dangerous attacks than their counterparts. The difference was how each side executed at the back. Malaga’s defending was basic, just block the crosses and shots, but with Milan, they had to be on total alert with the pace up front for Los Boquerones. Finally a breakthrough came. Isco drew three defenders, including Kevin Constant, who let Eliseu sneak past him on a darting run. Isco found the Portuguese winger, who made no mistake and slotted the ball past a helpless Christian Abbiati. It was the fifth goal scored by either Eliseu (2) or Joaquin (3) in the Champions League group stage for Malaga this season. The tally came just five minutes before the end of the interval, setting up an intriguing thought in everyone’s mind: “How will Milan cope with this?”
They actually did well. The Rossoneri had a majority of possession with 52%, but the difference was the shots they recorded. Nineteen in total, of which thirteen were on target. In truth, the chances were wasteful. Urby Emanuelson had a wide open shooting lane, but hoofed it right at Caballero. Stephan El Shaarawy had two or three attempts, but they were blocked. The former Champions League holders finally found the equalizer, though. Kevin Constant, the scapegoat on the opener, delivered a beautiful cross to Alexandre Pato, who headed it past Caballero to make it 1-1. After that, it was all AC Milan. Malaga had just one shot in the second half, so the home side performed admirably on all fronts. It was a shame that they couldn’t find the winner, but the attack looked lifeless after the leveler. Just over 30,000 spectators thought the same way as they all headed for the exits just as added time was announced.
In all, it was a good match for Milan. A progressive result for them considering how poorly they performed in the previous games. One of the only worries was not challenging Caballero enough. Apart from three chances (including the goal), he didn’t have a whole lot of work to do. If they can build on this and Pato can stay healthy, though, who knows. Another problem was one of Massimiliano Allegri’s substitutions. In the 62nd minute, he took of Stephan El Shaarawy, a man in form with eight goals in his last 11 games. The replacement was Kevin Prince Boateng, who has fallen out of favour with supporters this season as he appears to have become complacent. While El Shaarawy wasn’t as influential tonight, Boateng didn’t improve anything. If El Shaarawy had stayed on the pitch after Pato’s goal, he might’ve been able to add some dynamic movement and therefore could’ve assisted or scored later on. Apart from the negatives, Milan did much better than the last matchday with players like Bojan, Urby Emanuelson, and Riccardo Montolivo impressing.
For Malaga, the result will be somewhat pleasing considering they had a major drop off from a couple of weeks ago. Defensively they did their job despite conceding in the group stage for the first time this year, but they were challenged significantly more tonight than in Matchday three. As for the attack, it once again struggled to break down Milan’s defense. They did score in both games, but they came when Malaga decided to attack with pace and lethal runs into the box. When they did this, Milan looked like statues, but Malaga didn’t attempt this playing style a lot. Apart from that, the Spaniards accomplished their task of qualifying for the first knockout round. Better yet, they could realistically win the group. Massive for a team who many thought would struggle considering the ownership issues.
Matchday five begins November 20th. Tonight could be pivotal as to who the second team will be to progress from Group C. AC Milan may have made a leap forward into doing that.
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