Just days before the first Milan derby of the season, A.C. Milan took advantage of Lazio’s defeat to Cesena to move top of the Serie A table. The Rossoneri powered to a 3-1 victory over Palermo while Lazio went down to their second league defeat in a week, away to the team that started the round of league fixtures in 19th place.
The big news before the game was that Clarence Seedorf had been included in the starting line-up at the expense of former World Footballer of the Year Ronaldinho, and it proved to be a tactical masterstroke for Massimilano Allegri as the Dutchman bossed the game for Milan. Throughout the 90 minutes, he pulled the strings in the midfield and it was unsurprising that he laid on the first goal. His great pass found Alexandre Pato and the striker nodded the home side in front.
Despite going in front, Milan made the victory more work than it should have been. For all of their dominance with the ball at their feet, they really struggled to create gilt-edge opportunities in front of goal and it allowed Palermo to equalise. Slovenian Armin Bacinovic equalised eight minutes after the break but the goal only caused Milan to wake up. Filippo Inzaghi was introduced and while he did go off with a season-ending injury later in the game he proved a headache for the visiting backline. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, fresh off the back of his fine performance at the weekend, stroked Milan into the lead again from the penalty spot and it was his pass that allowed Robinho to round out the win just seven minutes from time.
After the game, the attention of Allegri was already on Sunday’s game against their bitter rivals. He told Sky:
The win gives Milan the out-right lead in Serie A for the first time since November 2008 and comes at the just the right time for the red half of the city. Following the departure of Jose Mourinho to Real Madrid and a lack of significant purchases in the most recent transfer window, pundits across Italy have been lining up to predict the end of Inter’s five year stranglehold on the Serie A title. A strong and confident victory against the out-of-sorts league champions could be just the result to cement the new Italian calcio leaders as proper title contenders.
Arguably not as strong as previous seasons, Milan have made sure to stand up to those that are also looking to pick holes in their championship aspirations. Milan chief executive Adriano Galliani said: “We are not title favourites but we are a side worthy of the Scudetto.” Three points in front of the screaming 80 000 capacity crowd at the San Siro could prove to be the spark that propels Milan through the cold months of the season and to their first league title since 2004.