Mediocre Milan seal vital win

Posted by Sumeet Paul

Claudio Villa/Getty ImagesValter Birsa's goal earned Milan a big three points at the San Siro.

With an attacking trident consisting of Alessandro Matri, Robinho and Valter Birsa, little was expected again of Milan as they hosted Sampdoria at the San Siro on Saturday night. Yet despite another uninspiring performance, the left foot of Birsa helped deliver three vital points.

- Report: Milan 1-0 Sampdoria

For all their endeavour and determination, the lack of genuine attacking quality was frustrating for the Rossoneri, who toiled for large parts of the game in the absence of their more creative threats.

In addition, with an empty Curva Sud, it would have been slightly surreal for the players to not have the usual vocal support roaring them on in difficult circumstances.

Nevertheless, while Mario Balotelli will return for the Champions League clash with Ajax on Tuesday, both Stephan El Shaarawy and Riccardo Montolivo are also expected to make their comebacks in Amsterdam.

That will undoubtedly come as a welcome boost for Massimiliano Allegri, who is clearly missing their inventiveness and movement as there was a definite absence of composure and fluidity with the Rossoneri again on Saturday night.

With Ignazio Abate also missing from the starting line-up, much of Milan's movement was often slow and predictable, which in turn made it difficult to break down a stubborn Sampdoria side that grew in confidence and had opportunities of their own.

However, while there are numerous areas of concern and room for improvement, in the general context the victory was arguably more important as opposed to the performance which earned it.

The criticism of this Milan side will remain that they are perhaps too reliant on individual brilliance as opposed to having a productive system of play. There have been glimpses of it, and while it may eventually be enough to break down the provincial sides, it will inevitably be more of a struggle against direct rivals.

Meanwhile, Allegri emphasised the importance of his side keeping a clean sheet on Saturday and also praised their efforts in winning a "difficult and important game" as Milan could not afford to surrender further ground on the early front-runners in Serie A.

It is clear that despite the early pressure on both the coach and the squad, they are collectively still fighting the same battle and are determined to put things right.

When combining that attitude and mentality with the quality that the injured stars possess, then things will undoubtedly continue to improve for Milan despite their tough schedule in the coming weeks.

While attention will now switch to the Champions League, it will be equally as important to now build on this win and take the confidence from it into the meeting with Juventus next weekend.

The defending champions will provide a real test of character for Milan, and similarly to last season, a win over the Bianconeri could hopefully act as a catalyst for an improved run of form which Milan enjoyed prior to the winter break and thereafter.

Predictably, Allegri was pleased with the result as it was required when considering the start that they have had to the new season. However, he will also know that much more will be expected as he continues to welcome back his injured troops.

Do Milan generally lack a sense of fluidity in their game? Or can it be directly attributed to the absence of key players?

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

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