Straight from the dark heart of Italy
Ballyhoo follows bathos follows hyperbole at regular intervals throughout the world of Italian football, so it was no surprise that Zlatan Ibrahimovic would shine on a stage where he usually falls flat on his face.
The big Swede was brought to AC Milan primarily to turn the Italian government’s in-house team into an eye-catching outfit on those glittering Champions League nights despite the fact that you don’t see a lot of Zlat when it comes to European games.
Of course having rightfully laid low after last weekend’s forgettable debut at Cesena where he missed a penalty - which had Inter owner Massimo Moratti chortling as if he had stroke comic gold - it was Ibra who got up his former president’s nose last night with no one, but two goals for the team 'across town'.
Okay, it wasn’t one of those evenings where bottling it would have been fatal – but with nearly 50,000 season-tickets already sold for the Champions League group stage the San Siro public were expecting plenty of entertainment against the supporting act, Auxerre.
However, for long periods Milan looked like what many observers had been forecasting – a talented bunch of individuals that would never gel into a cohesive unit.
So Andrea Pirlo tried to find Clarence Seedorf who only had eyes for Ronaldinho who couldn’t pick out the immobile bean-pole in the centre while Pato waved frantically out on the left wing only to be ignored by all and sundry – strange really as the young Brazilian was the main threat on the rare occasions he was given the ball.
Then in a moment, it all clicked together and each of those giant egos remembered that they possessed the razzle and dazzle to banish any thoughts of vulnerability.
A shimmy from Dinho, a step-over from Clarence and a mazy run from Pato ended with a back-heel from Ibra – unfortunately to no one in particular - but the lights were suddenly going on and the opposition was caught in the glare of pure skill.
Another rapid move enable Ronaldinho to drift inside to deliver an angled cross into the area where Kevin-Prince Boateng flicked the ball on for Ibra to stab home.
The was merriment to follow with Ronaldinho in particular, irresistible and forthright in taking the ball forward – shaking off a challenge and accelerating (yes, he seems to have found some of that long-lost pace) to the edge of the area before releasing the big man for his second goal.
The self-same fans who would have derided Ibra a few weeks before were in delirium but that’s show-business – and the signs are that the Ron-Zlat duo is set to replace the Clarence and Dinho double-act as the must-see performance.
There will be more severe tests down the line against Europe’s elite but there were other positive performances to banish the negatives: Boateng or - Prince as likes to be known - was a pleasant surprise to many.
Little or nothing was known about the midfielder when he first arrived but possessing work-rate aligned to a sure touch he looks a more suitable starter than the ailing Massimo Ambrosini whom he replaced early on or the now redundant Rino Gattuso.
Robinho came on for Pato who does not seem to completely free of his injury problems and showed glimpses of his deft touch and quick passing but certainly lacked match fitness.
Of course, doubts still abound in defence and especially in both full-back positions.
Age is against Gianluca Zambrotta whose leg are beginning to go while Luca Antonini has not been converted from a second-string midfielder to anything like a consistent left-back.
In fact he is not even left-footed – while Ignazio Abate cannot even be considered as adequate cover which demonstrates how bad things are in that department.
The majestic Alessandro Nesta papers over the fragility along the backline but he is another veteran whose body could give in at any moment.
Then again it is just this sort of swashbuckling approach that the San Siro faithful have become accustomed to so it is no wonder they have already taken Ibra to their hearts.
More from Serie Aaaaargh!
I'd love to read what you have to say about the post match bust -up between Ibra and Sacchi! I just saw a clip, but could only understand bits of it. What does the Milan faithful think about Zlatan's petulance towards one of their best ever managers?
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