COMMENT: The Rossoneri turned in a calamitous performance at San Siro, with indecision from the start leading to their second defeat of the season
Beppe Iachini insisted in the build-up to his side’s trip to Milan on Sunday that it would take a “perfect Palermo” to take something from San Siro.
But it was the raft of imperfections on show in Filippo Inzaghi’s outfit which stole the show, with the Rossoneri making it far too easy for the visitors to record a memorable 2-0 victory
It was the undoubted low point of the former Italy striker’s short coaching career so far as his own shortcomings were amplified by those of his team, and more particularly those of captain Ignazio Abate and early substitute Cristian Zapata.
The decision to start with Alex at the heart of defence would normally be a no-brainer, but the Brazilian’s withdrawal after just two minutes spoke volumes about the risk Inzaghi had taken by pushing his first-choice into action.
If a defender is removed so early in a fixture, there can be no other explanation than that he was carrying a worry from before the match. Once Alex was replaced by Zapata, the substitute’s performance underlined why his coach was so keen not to give him the start, yet Inzaghi would have been better advised to make that decision before kick-off rather than allowing himself to be forced into it two minutes in.
The former Udinese and Villarreal man turned in as poor a performance as his largely underwhelming Milan career has ever witnessed thus far, but he was not the only one to fall short of the mark.
Skipper for the night Abate could hardly find a team-mate with a pass and was caught out of position constantly at the back, while the midfield trio of Andrea Poli, Nigel de Jong and Riccardo Saponara went missing against their modest Palermo opposition.
Franco Vazquez should have put the Sicilians in front in the opening two minutes, but failed to finish after being played in by a slack pass by Abate. But the damage would be well and truly done following the introduction of Zapata.
An innocuous-looking corner was swung in from the right and the Colombian somehow got himself completely tangled up as he attempted to clear the danger, succeeding only in turning the ball past the returning Diego Lopez.
Paulo Dybala should have doubled the lead within seconds, dancing right through the middle of Zapata and Adil Rami to go one-on-one with Diego Lopez, but the Spaniard was able to pull off a smart save thanks to the Argentine’s weak finish.
Moments later, though, Dybala made up for it. He burst beyond the flailing challenge of Zapata, leaving the defender face down on the floor before coolly finding the far corner with a wonderful left-foot finish.
It was everything the visitors had deserved, and Milan could have been further punished for their mediocrity had Diego Lopez not pulled off another crucial save from Edgar Barreto’s attempt from distance.
In response, Milan didn’t manage a single shot on target in the first half and barely registered much more after the interval. There was far too little urgency coming either on the pitch or from the technical area at a time when there were still plenty of reasons to believe that the Rossoneri could rescue at least a point from a side whose last winning clean sheet away from home in Serie A came in February 2010.
Inzaghi learned a key lesson on Sunday night. He has already found out that top-flight coaching is not a breeze, but he also now knows that indecision can lead to failure. He saw it in his midfield, he saw it in Abate, he saw it in Zapata, and he saw a little bit of it in himself too.
If Milan are to challenge for a Champions League spot, Pippo must ensure nights like this one are the exception rather than the rule.