This was a match easy to overlook. And for that reason, this was always going to be a trap game for Milan. The Stadio Luigi Farraris hadn’t typically been a stronghold this season. Genoa had only won once at him against Cagliari in the second week of the season but in recent times had won 3 of their previous 4 (against Bologna, Lazio and Udinese – no pushovers) at home.
Genoa were also managed by Davide Ballardini, who coached the youth for Milan for a few years around the turn of the millennium. They brought out a 3-5-1-1 formation missing linchpin Juraj Kucka, who has the most appearances of anyone of any outfield player. Marco Borriello was left to lead the line alone however he had much support from Bertolacci with Bovo and Vargas coming to receive his hold up play.
Borriello struggled in this match. He was out muscled by Zapata on almost every occasion, or at the very least, he was led to the corner, and deferred from charging directly on goal. This allowed the wide men in support, Mattia Cassani and Luca Antonelli to provide a 2 v 1 in wide areas (Flamini and Muntari stayed narrow, as Milan’s midfield have done as long as memory serves and the responsibility for extra wing support came from the young wingers, SeS and Niang, who have both shown excellent defensive play in coming back (albeit with the caveat that Niang is a bulldozer in the box and should have conceded a penalty kick today as well as in other occasions).
This brings us to the tone of the match, one of frustration for Genoa. Sure they can blame their own shooting prowess, and the types of chances they squandered, but it’s easier to not do that. Instead, as defender Daniele Portanova adopted, complaining about the referees and then threatening the Milan bench was the way to go (since, didn’t you know, even during Calciopoli payoffs, the players themselves were directly responsible for everything). There is some validity in his claims for a penalty, however, I do not agree with Ballardini who claimed post match that Genoa deserved 2 penalties (embellishment and or feeling of aggrievances to be expected).
Here are GIFs of four of the proposed penalty incidents. For me, the only one that should have been called is the M’Baye Niang penalty shout. Zapata could have been called for one simply because of multiple offenses (although to be fair no one shout was particularly heinous, combined it seems he had gotten the luck by not having a single one called).
But again, my issue with this line of reasoning (that Genoa should have had one to multiple spot kicks that would have changed the game) is that Genoa did little outside of claiming PK that showed that they deserved a result. Genoa had 5 set piece opportunities against the side that is the worst in the league at defending set pieces. They didn’t score. They had 14 shots from open play, and only two or three looked viable chances, despite the fact they were often turning and shooting from near the penalty spot. Penetration was alright, but further execution was poor for Genoa, and their frustration grew. As it grew, the desire to see a penalty grew, to the point a large portion of the Genoa strategy revolved around appealing for the foul in the box as opposed to make intelligent movement to break down the Milan banks of defenders. I’m not saying Genoa players don’t have a right to be incensed, they do, it’s just that they probably should save that frustration till after the match (or not at all best situation) however, they left the field feeling hard done.
Genoa could have taken better shots, they fired from outside the box on too many occasions (wouldn’t normally be an issue as Milan are weak to this, however, when they were down to 10 men, Milan sat back and defended their lead while Genoa tried to break them with a long shot as opposed to a cross. Look no further than Cristian Zapata, who only had one interception and two tackles during the match, yet cleared the ball 15 times (Genoa as a whole cleared the ball 19 times).
The referee was very poor, in fact Antonio Damato got a 3/10 rating from Gazzetta dello Sport. He did a very poor job managing the match (inconsistent yellow card application as well as an inability to control the frustration that was building the whole match and being expressed in every hard challenge and penalty appeal. At the end of the day though, Genoa were to blame for the goals they conceded, with Daniele Portanova misclearing the ball right to Pazzini – who’s limping finish was excellent, and with Ciro Immobile failing to defend Zapata at all on the corner which led to Balotelli’s one on one with Frey’s poor angle recognition and Genoa were down 2-0 to wounds they could have prevented. This is the reason Genoa lost, not because they didn’t get calls. Their chances were tame, and even if on target, were not quality chances and furthermore were not taken with the same ruthlessness that Pazzini and Balotelli showed with their opportunities.
Milan’s least balanced approach of the season, mostly due to the defending that they had to do on the right flank forced most of their buildup play to come from the same area. Flamini, Niang, De Sciglio and Zapata were all in the same area:
Their spacing was poor, and they were unable to neutralize both wide players for Genoa, Antonelli and Vargas, although this just redirected the cross location (Toszer and Jankovic had the most crosses for Genoa, and Janokovic was introduced in the 77th minute!) to a different area of the pitch (more centrally and deeper). Genoa pinned Milan in their own half for most of the match, and after the red, this difference was exaggerated even more.
- Abbiati man of the match. Has these world-class days every now and again, and today was one of them.
- I actually prefer De Sciglio on the left flank to the right flank. He finds the space better on the left side than Constant does (and De Sciglio also doesn’t seem to have the same positioning on the right flank). His defensive works needs work still. He is mediocre defending in the air, and when he gets pushed deep and is forced to cover the far post or the last man back he’s a liability. Best hope he doesn’t have to be the one to clear the deep ball.
- Daniel Tozser was Genoa’s best player, acting as their midfield hub and amassing 105 touches of the ball. Located centrally in their formation, he was a serviceable replacement for Juraj Kucka.
Statistics provided by WhoScored.com
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