ROMA DRAW AC MILAN IN SIX GOAL THRILLER
Last year's Scudetto champion AS Roma and last year's runners up AC Milan were drawn to meet in just the second round of Serie A football this year. Both teams had strengthened quite a lot in the summer, and their new look squads more than impressed the 50,000 fans at the San Siro yesterday evening.
Perhaps surprisingly for the Giallorossi, Francesco Totti decided to leave both Marco Verratti and Clement Grenier on the bench and instead started McDonald Mariga in midfield, obviously hoping the more defensive-minded assistance in the center of the park would help hold back the home side.
That particular move from Totti paid off just two minutes into this thrilling early barometer of potential title success. The Kenyan international strongly tackled the ball away from Keisuke Honda and burst around Andrea Poli to find himself in great space. He sprayed the ball out wide to Federico Balzaretti, whose cross was deftly volleyed home from close range by the mercurial Adem Ljajic
. 1-0 Roma.
The match had hardly started, and the San Siro was stunned.
AC Milan didn't take long to strike back, however. Just ten minutes later, inspirational captain Kaka's exquisite through pass found the Rossoneri's new €20M man Lacina Traore
in acres of space. The hulking striker hammered the ball past Asmir Begovic, and suddenly the scores were level with eighty minutes to go. 1-1.
Kaka and Traore weren't nearly done yet. In the 17th minute, the Brazilian midfielder found the head of Traore from a corner kick, and the 6'8" man's header ricocheted off of the post, bounced off of the back of the diving Asmir Begovic, and trickled into the net. The stadium erupted and Traore celebrated, though the goal was given as an own goal by Begovic
. A 5 minute turnaround, and things were now 2-1 Milan.
The rest of the half wore on with attack and counterattack, neither team really able to push their advantage. With two minutes left before the break, however, Roma found their all important equalizer. Miralem Pjanic was at the heart of the move, using his tricks to beat two Milan players and clip the ball into Mattia Destro
. The Italian striker made no mistake with his finish, powering in the strike off of the inside of the post to make it 2-2 at half time.
Critical: Destro's goal on the stroke of half time was imperative to Roma's result.
The second half started off much slower, but right after the hour mark, things picked up rapidly. Miralem Pjanic was causing havoc once again as his perfectly weighted reverse pass found Adem Ljajic
clean through on goal, and the Serb's chip over Christian Abbiati nestled into the net without a bounce. 3-2
to Roma, and Totti was ecstatic on the touchline.
The joy was cut very short by, yet again, Lacina Troare. Just two minutes after Ljajic's go-ahead stunner, Traore
thundered home a header from Andrea Poli's cross. For the third time, a stunned San Siro erupted back into life, cheering on their team. With 25 minutes to go, the score was 3-3
, and the momentum was firmly with the Rossoneri.
Totti's men held strong in defense, however, and substitute Maicon made a number of inch-perfect last ditch tackles to keep shots away from Begovic's goal. When the final whistle rang out, the fans let out rapturous applause to the players that had provided them with the best game of the season thus far, 3-3 the final score.
"It was an exciting game for the fans, but I'd hoped we would have played better defense," said Totti after the match. "I cannot fault the attack, which played very well, but at times we did not press Milan fast enough, and they punished us. Now we just have to move on to the next match against Torino and try to get three points there."