Real Madrid managed another clean sheet in a convincing 2-0 home victory over AC Milan on Tuesday. Two early goals in the space of one minute left the Rossoneri chasing the match for more than an hour to no avail.
Milan’s older, experienced creative midfielders proved no match for the likes of Real Madrid’s young squad. Andrea Pirlo, Clarence Seedorf, Gennaro Gatuso and Ronaldinho were continually outpaced by the likes of Xabi Alonso, Angel Di Maria and Mesut Ozil. Even Milan’s most dangerous duo, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Alexander Pato did little to truly perturb Los Blanco’s defense.
Milan’s only real threat on goal in the first half came right on the half hour mark in the form of a spot-on, top-corner freekick taken from distance by Pirlo that Iker Casillas just managed to push over.
Real Madrid’s first goal came just inside of 15 minutes when they were awarded a free kick from just outside the 18 after Pato made a bad tackle on Alonso. Cristiano Ronaldo, who doesn’t miss from that distance, stepped up and fired the ball through a chink in the wall into the far corner of the net making it 1-0 Madrid.
Just over a minute later it was Ronaldo who laid the ball in for Ozil whose shot took a deflection off Daniele Bonera on its way into the back of the Milan net making it 2-0.
In an effort to claw their way back into the match, the Italians threw numbers forward, continually launching spectacular forays in the attractive, attacking manner they are famous for. But these attacks left acres of space open in the back and midfield. Every time Milan lost possession this space was all too easily occupied by Madrid’s fast moving frontline trio of Ronaldo, Higuain and Di Maria.
Working together the three caused Milan problems all night. Ronaldo in addition to his goal, was continually drawing defenders to him allowing others to find space to move into. Di Maria in particular made several penestrating runs, such as in the 42nd minute when he broke from midfield all the way inside the six yard line until he was dispossessed by Milan keeper Marco Amelia. Di Maria also continually provided service for Higuain who was unlucky not to have scored two or three times.
Amelia, for his part, had a fantastic game, maintaining the same kind of damage control that Ajax keeper Martin Stekelenberg had managed against Madrid in their Champions League defeat at Madrid’s hand last month.
As the match rolled past the one hour mark Milan looked incapable of mounting a serious threat against Real Madrid. Ronaldinho had almost no visible impact on the game and seems to be losing the battle against the encroaching mediocrity he has struggled with since leaving Barcelona.
But with Robinho coming on for Ronaldinho in the 72nd minute and Pipo Inzaghi coming on for Pato in the 78th, Milan managed to engineer a couple dangerous moments in the last ten minutes of the match. Once in the 80th when Ibra received a short ball from Inzaghi and nearly got a shot off from close range and again in the 83rd when Robinho broke inside the 18 and fired off a cracker of a shot that forced Casillas into making a save.
Ever the gamesman, Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho also made a series of substitutions in the final ten minutes introducing Lass Diarra in for Ozil, Esteban Granero for Di Maria and Karim Benzema for Higuain. It was all a dog and pony show at that point however and as the match went into three minutes of injury time Clarence Seedorf wore the expression of a man who knew he’d been bested. The final whistle blew with the score remaining at 2-0 in Real Madrid’s favor.
Madrid have now convincingly defeated two traditional European powerhouses in group play and are currently sitting on top of Group G and the Spanish La Liga.
Milan, who are second in the Serie A table behind Lazio, now find themselves in a struggle with Ajax for second place in the group. To keep hope alive they will need to play for a win when they face Real Madrid again at the San Siro on November 3rd.