The match was just as inspiring for Cagliari as it was disappointing for Milan. In fact, judging by the wave of attacks from Cagliari in the last quarter of an hour, Milan would consider themselves lucky to salvage a point from this away game.
Milan’s overall strength in attack was overshadowed by their failure to string passes together anywhere on the pitch but at the back. This was natural though, because starting with three forwards regularly leaves blank patches for Milan in the middle of the pitch, making them susceptible to counterattacks from Cagliari’s quick players, which Cagliari took full advantage of. Victor Ibarbo’s first goal in the 23rd minute was a perfect example of that.
Milan got back into the game not because of teamwork, but because of the individual brilliance of Giacomo Bonaventura, as the Italy midfielder put in a superbly time ball that everyone mistook for a high cross. The ball ended up at the back of the net, leaving the Cagliari keeper speechless. Milan tried to develop attacks with El Shaarawy and Torres latching on to long balls from the midfield, but for each attack, Milan suffered two counterattacks, which the defensive duo Alex and Rami found extremely difficult to handle. Had it not been for Bonaventura’s tackles and De Jong’s consistent cover, Milan would have conceded one or two more. The Milan central defenders left large gaps at the center of the defense, while also failing to cope with the quick forwards of Cagliari.
Cagliari’s Ibarbo looked like scoring more than one goal, while Danielle Conti dominated the midfield with through balls and lots of possession. He even sent in several long-range efforts, although they did not trouble Abbiati. Coach Inzaghi tried to stabilize the formation, taking Torres and Muntari off and inserting Menez and Poli into the game, but his plans did not work, as Milan kept on getting pressed back by the confident-looking Cagliari. For the last 15 minutes, Milan were virtually trapped in their own half, sending long balls just to clear the danger, and in the hopes of finding Pazzini or Menez, none of whom could find a decent opportunity to go near the Cagliari keeper.
Milan will need to rethink their team formation, while Cagliari will look forward to building on tonight’s great all-round performance.