The Chalkboard: Roma 4-2 Milan
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Zdenek Zeman worked his magic late on Saturday night as his side ran off as comfortable winners against Allegri’s Milan. This was Roma’s 5th win in 6 games as they put an end to AC Milan’s winning streak. The win sees AS Roma extend their gap over Milan to 5 points as both clubs chase European football.
The match was over at half time with the home side going in with a 3-0 lead, with goals from Burdisso, Osvaldo and Lamela. The young Erik Lamela got another in the second half. Marquinhos was sent off after a deliberate hand ball which allowed Milan back into the game with 2 goals in 3 minutes; Pazzini from the spot and substitute Krkic with the other. It wasn’t enough though as Roma saw out a comfortable victory.
High Line and Pressing favoured Roma
Both teams began with a high line and were pressing high up the pitch. This strategy suited Roma as they were used to it. Milan on the other hand, had trouble applying this tactic due to the slow nature of their defenders. This led to Roma winning the ball off them high up the pitch a number of times.
The aggressive pressing tactics Roma employed yielded rich dividends, with the hard work of De Rossi, Pjanic and Bradley paying off. The AC Milan midfielders like Nocerino and Ambrosini barely touched ball and couldn’t influence proceedings.
While both sides played with 4 at the back and 3 in midfield, they greatly deferred in attack. Roma preferred to go for a lone striker atop, with attacking midfielders on either side. Osvaldo stayed up top and stuck to the shoulders of the last defender, allowing the midfield to do the ‘dirty work’. It meant that AS Roma always had a man in attack.
With both midfields dropping deep when facing an attack, countering the play was important. Osvaldo’s presence high up the pitch forced the AC Milan defenders to make that extra effort, and with them being busy sticking to the former Espanyol man, it invited the Roma midfielders forward with no one available to close them down. He held the ball up when he received it, inviting Lamela and Totti forward. Osvaldo did his job effectively.
Milan defenders fell deep. However, they did so to a very large extent, allowing Roma to pass the ball in front of their defence. They accepted the invitation and took full advantage. Osvaldo scored a simple header after good build up, from an accurate cross into the box by captain Totti.
Disjointed Milan front three.
Milan’s attack looked disjointed. All 3 of their forwards kept switching positions, meaning they didn’t have any focal point like Osvaldo. Also, all their attacks originated down their right, where the young Di Sciglio impressed. Top scorer El Shaarawy didn’t get enough of the ball in key areas to have an impact.
All 3 Milan attackers dropped deep constantly and often they didn’t have any resources in the final third and no one to pass to. The ball hence had to be taken into the attacking third and Roma didn’t have any trouble in dealing with this.
You wouldn’t expect there to be much of an aerial battle between these two Italian giants. But there was bound to be attempted long balls from the back for Roma with Osvaldo alone upfront.
Milan lost the aerial duels, and it proved to be costly for the Rossoneri as 3 of Roma’s 4 goals all came from headers with the Milan defence failing to deal with the ‘hanging’ balls. They lost all the headers inside their own box and Roma didn’t have trouble dealing with any aerial balls that came their way.
Milan’s weakness from set pieces was exposed and their poor application of the zonal system was punished. The rationale behind the zonal system is to allow defenders a running jump, but the Milan players didn’t charge out, which meant Burdisso had a free run and a height advantage, making it a simple goal.
Hardworking Roma midfield
Often both sides had plenty of space in the middle of the pitch. Both were cautious in their play and chose to have all 3 midfielders back, AS Roma however counter-attacked more effectively, quickly taking full use of the gaps. Bradley and De Rossi especially, not only closed the AC Milan players down but took every opportunity to join in attack as well.
This is what the Milan players failed to do. They had numbers back in defence, but the midfielders failed to get back into attack and move forward, while at the same time they didn’t get back in time either when Roma countered.
The above is an illustration of Roma’s successful tackles, plenty of which were won in the midfield area and allowed goal scoring opportunities.
Basically, in midfield, Roma worked harder, put in that extra effort and ran the extra mile. Milan midfielders didn’t turn up. The Roma midfielders helped the team have numbers in attack and defence, they were back defending to make it 8-9 in defence and when they countered, there were 5-6 in attack.
Bradley goes under the radar
Michael Bradley once again put in a terrific shift for the home side. His contribution often goes unnoticed but he is a sort of ‘silent hero’. He does his job effectively in the defensive areas of the field, breaking up the oppositions play and helping the team counter, making moves forward as well. He won 100% of the tackles he attempted in the game and had a 90% pass completion rate.
Plenty of crosses, no end result
AC Milan constantly attempted crosses from either flank but the attackers lacked aerial ability. Neither one of the front 3 of Robinho, El Shaarawy, and Boateng are particularly known for their aerial ability. They failed to win headers. What was the particular point of these crosses, we may never know.
Milan absorbed the pressure but failed to counter
As discussed, both sides decided to defend deep as the game wore on. The defences absorbed the pressure, in a bid to counter the numbers flooding forward. In Milan’s case, there was no one to play the ball forward to, neither did the midfielders take the ball forward. AS Roma did both these thing effectively and ultimately was the big difference between the two sides.
The third Roma goal came from good pressing and defending from the front. Milan failed to clear their lines and Roma got the ball. In the end, a simple through ball meant that Lamela was through on goal and completed a simple finish.
Take nothing away from the De Rossi’s through ball. The Italian took the ball and burst forward, playing a lovely through ball. It went right through the Milan defence with no able to make a challenge while also failing to track Lamela’s run.
Lamela’s second goal was as easy as his first. He made a run, rather a stroll into the Milan box. No Milan player tracked his movement and once again, there was a free header to be won.
Neither side made effective use of the wings
A lot of the play was restricted to the narrow areas of the field. With the disjointed Milan attack, it was hard to tell who played where. Nothing much came off the wings. Milan had certain problems in the full-backs area, Di Sciglio is inexperienced but put in a decent shift, with occasional runs up the field. Constant however had trouble in defence and failed to get forward either.
Besides rare runs down the flanks from Balzaretti, Roma too failed to use the wings. In the end it wasn’t needed. Totti and Lamela were the two most ‘widest’ Roma players, but both preferred to move more central. It was an effective strategy. Both of Lamela’s goals came with him moving into a central position, while Totti’s assist came with him picking up the ball in a wide area, it was a rarity.
Graphical illustrations from Squawka.com with their prior permission, featured image from arabia.msn, tactical illustraions from footballtactics.net.