Lights! Camera! Action! The second half had it all. Saves, goals, a melee, and a win for beleaguered AC Milan.
Clarence Seedorf showed an exquisite touch chipping the ball to Alexandre Pato who volleyed home the match winner past Iker Casillas. Seedorf was peripatetic, playing with a vigour that put some of the younger players to shame.
Both Casillas and Dida made two extremely forgettable mistakes, with Raul pouncing on Dida’s fumble and putting Madrid ahead in the first half. Dida started the match as Marco Storare injured himself in the Roma game. The match in the first half with the exception of that moment devolved into a humdrum affair with little inkling of a classic encounter.
Pirlo’s equalizer came out of nowhere. Just when one despaired of a Pirlo sighting, he pops up at midfield and flicks the ball casually goalward. The ball squeezes past Casillas at the near post as the rest of the players move no muscle. It took a few seconds or so to realize it was a goal. A reminder of how dangerous Pirlo could be, the languid grace and a silky killer touch. The goal energized Milan out of its somnolence and the second goal came from an Ambrosini flick which found Casillas rushing out and the ball skipping past him on a rain slick surface as Pato took possession and smashed the ball into an empty net. Milan 2 Madrid 1.
Manuel Pellegrini brought out Royston Drenthe, another Dutchman who spends an inordinate time on the bench. It turned out to be an important substitution as Drenthe with his bouncing dreads brought an alacrity and sharpness down the left flank and with Marcelo pushed the Milan defense back. Dida was forced into making some sharp saves. A Raul corner isolated Drenthe whose low grounder eluded Dida at full stretch, the ball lodging itself in the right hand corner. Milan 2 Madrid 2.
Nesta and Zambrotta managed to blunt the Madrid attack as Milan took possession in the last 10 minutes. It seemed Thiago Silva had scored the matchwinner from a corner which was controversially disallowed and resulted in a melee that saw Raul and Nesta receive yellow cards. But Milan would not be denied minutes later when Pato scored the matchwinner.
Seedorf, Pirlo and Pato were the pick of the Milanistas. Ronaldinho had a magical moment but his delectable footwork and flick found Seedorf wanting in his finish. For the Mernegues Granero, Marcelo and Drenthe played extremely well and Raul as usual was a goal threat. But Kaka, the biggest name had a pretty disappointing evening.
Group C is very evenly poised. AC Milan and Madrid are both tied with 6 points and Marseille and Zurich are at 3 points each.
November 3rd, Milan plays Madrid at home at the Giuseppe Meazza. That will be some game.