Milan return from Rome in ruins

Posted by Sumeet Paul

Well, it wasn't quite the ideal way to end 2012 was it? A first-half capitulation which saw Roma score three times in the opening half-hour ended what had been a promising four-game winning streak for Milan, who lost 4-2. Forget Didier Drogba and Mario Balotelli, there are defensive frailties to correct before bringing in new faces up front.

Widely regarded as one of if not the most entertaining sides in Serie A, the Romans put on a dazzling show at the Stadio Olimpico Saturday night. Aside from their customary 'Zeman wobble' at the end which saw Milan grab two consolation goals, the Rossoneri were frustratingly outclassed, outpassed and outfought the majority of the game.

Aside from two early chances for Stephan El Shaarawy, it rapidly became a case of how many would the capital club score before the full-time whistle as they broke through at will. The centre of the problem? The centre-back pairing of Philippe Mexes and Mario Yepes.

Already handicapped by their inability to deal with set pieces, Milan conceded three headed goals Saturday despite aerial ability supposedly being the duo’s biggest strength.

Was there a real need to drop Cristian Zapata back to the bench? Regardless, having been tormented by Pablo Osvaldo and Co. the majority of the game, this display should act as a clear indication to Massimiliano Allegri that that should no longer be his first-choice pairing come 2013.

It was a below-par performance from the entire starting lineup, but the absence of a solid foundation at the back leaves Milan vulnerable to such heavy defeats. Despite his late red card, Marquinhos at the opposite end produced a complete contrast in performance and illustrated what Milan clearly lack.

Admittedly, my attention wavered during the closing stages as I partook in a game of ‘Where’s Montolivo?’ Perhaps not fully fit or suffering from fatigue, Riccardo Montolivo looked a shadow of the player who displayed such great leadership in the win against Juventus last month. With Massimo Ambrosini appearing more involved than his creatively superior teammate, Montolivo has the ability to make Milan tick, but tick they did not.

It was a bitterly disappointing end to the year for the Rossoneri, who had looked on the path to recovery as they stormed up to seventh place in the league table. However, this defeat now leaves them seven points adrift of fifth and a further point off a Champions League spot.

Was this just ‘one of those games’, or has it re-established the fears from the early part of the season? Either way, Milan have just over a fortnight to dwell on these past few months, as the season resumes Jan. 6 with Siena visiting San Siro.

The blog will continue to be updated throughout the winter break, starting with Milan mid-season awards next week, which will give you a chance to vote and share your opinions on what has transpired so far this season.

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

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