Mario super, but two missteps cost average Milan

Posted by Sumeet Paul

Claudio Villa/Getty ImagesMario Balotelli misfires on a penalty kick against Napoli. Balotelli scored a late consolation goal, but a post-game red card will make him miss Wednesday's game at Bologna.

On another night, the result could have been entirely different considering the number of chances that Milan created against Napoli on Sunday. However, it wasn’t another night, and the Rossoneri suffered their second defeat of the season in a 2-1 loss at San Siro.

Despite missing the first penalty of his career, Mario Balotelli was as impressive as ever in his personal bid to inspire this Milan side to produce inventive football. For all Milan's endeavour going forward, the 23-year-old was ultimately at the heart of most of the action, but soured the night by being dismissed after the full-time whistle.

His absence will inevitably be felt in Wednesday's game at Bologna, but it doesn’t quite overshadow his performance, which was eventually capped off with a wonderful curling effort to grab a late consolation goal.

Nevertheless, it didn’t mask Milan’s deficiencies entirely. Despite their possession and the whole host of scoring opportunities they were able to create, there are a number of cracks in this squad that at any given time can be exposed.

Injuries continue to play a part, as Massimiliano Allegri’s starting line-up would undoubtedly be improved by the return of Mattia De Sciglio, Riccardo Montolivo, Riccardo Saponara and Stephan El Shaarawy, to name but a few. However, there are genuine worries about the quality of the depth in this squad, who have collected a solitary victory in four attempts.

Granted, Milan have been slow starters in recent years, but if the Rossoneri are to be regarded as genuine Scudetto contenders, then the 12-point gap between themselves and both Roma and Napoli would suggest otherwise.

So where did the weaknesses lie Sund? Christian Abbiaati will have been disappointed with his effort in keeping out what was ultimately a Gonzalo Higuain winner, while the defensive line once more failed to cover themselves in glory.

The central pairing of Cristian Zapata and Philippe Mexes undoubtedly rode off the back of having the third-best record in Serie A last season, and the management in turn neglected improving an area that was in desperate need of it this past summer.

In contrast, Andrea Poli appears to be a fantastic signing as he continues to demonstrate all the attributes required of a box-to-box midfielder. The 23-year-old is combative, assured on the ball and inventive depending on what the situation dictates, and he must now be a first-team regular.

While Nigel De Jong was similarly impressive, there is still confusion over the need for Sulley Muntari in that midfield trio. Bryan Cristante continues to be ignored, while Antonio Nocerino arguably represents a better option, too.

Moving forward, as harsh as it perhaps sounds the less said about Valter Birsa the better, while Alessandro Matri was bitterly disappointing in certain scoring situations.

Balotelli will perhaps be the happiest of all when Milan’s missing players begin to return, but there is still nervousness over whether or not that crop of Italian stars will all walk straight back into the side. It is clear that they are sorely missed and their presence would undoubtedly have made a significant difference.

Were Milan just unlucky against Napoli? Or were there too many average performances around Balotelli?

For all the latest Milan and Serie A news, you can follow me on Twitter @italiafooty

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