UEFA Champions League Analysis: Real Madrid vs. AC Milan

| by World Soccer Reader

Real Madrid managed a 2-2 draw with AC Milan Wednesday thanks to a last minute equalizer from Pedro Leon that caused the capacity crowd at the San Siro to fall silent.  The Spanish side had taken the lead in the final minute of the first half courtesy of a close range effort from Gonzalo Higuain.  But Milan rallied in the second half and two goals in less than ten minutes from Pippo Inzaghi had the Italian side looking like the winners until Leon nutmegged Milan keeper Christian Abbiati in the 93rd minute to level the score.

The Spanish side looked the better team for much of the encounter and arguably should have scored two or three more goals in the first half alone.  A free kick from Xabi Alonso in the 9th minute found Pepe in the box however the Portuguese national headed the ball into the ground and it bounced over.  Three minutes later Alonso himself shot from distance putting his effort just wide of the far post.  Seconds after that Angel DiMaria broke inside, twisted away from the defense and got a shot off that also went wide.

Madrid were twice denied by Andrea Pirlo in the 20th minute who first headed away a header from Higuain and then cleared the rebound shot from DiMaria.  A moment later DiMaria got onto the end of a corner taken by Alonso but only succeeded in connecting with the post.

Despite the visiting side’s domination, AC Milan, the core of which consists of 2006 World Cup winners like Pirlo, Zambrotta, Nesta and Gattuso seemed amazingly on the verge of coming through the first half unscathed.  However Higuain struck a dagger blow in the 45th minute, scoring with relative ease from just outside the six yard line to make it 1-0 at the half.

Madrid nearly doubled their lead two minutes into the second half courtesy of Cristiano Ronaldo whose distance effort was curling towards the top corner when it knocked away by Abbiati.  DiMaria too could have added to Madrid’s tally in the 55th when he dusted the defense, cut inside and flashed the ball across the mouth of goal when he perhaps he ought to have shot himself.

AC Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri made what would prove to be an inspired substitution just on the hour mark sending in Pipo Inzaghi for the Brazilian Ronaldinho.  The 37 year old striker scored just eight minutes later, latching on to a rebound from a shot by Zlatan Ibrahimovic that Madrid keeper Iker Casillas had failed to control and heading it home to make it 1-1.  The goal marked Inzaghi’s 45th UEFA Champions League goal and was also the first Real Madrid had conceded in this year’s campaign.  Inzaghi scored again just under ten minutes later, almost casually sliding the ball through the legs of Casillas who had come well off his line.

With just over ten minutes remaining the Italian side mustered its defenses and began looking for opportunities to run the clock out.  Madrid for their part seemed to have lost all their compusure and while Mesut Oezil and substitute Karim Benzema both registered shots on goal they were ably dealt with by Abbiate.  However British referee Howard Webb added five minutes of injury time to the match and just when it seemed as if the experience and guile of AC Milan would triumph over the youth and pace of Mourinho’s Real Madrid, second half sub Pedro Leon broke inside and nutmegged Abbiate to draw the score level.

Real Madrid remain atop Group G with 12 points while Milan are currently neck and neck with Ajax Amsterdam for the second place spot.