Straight from the dark heart of Italy
It was fitting that Filippo Inzaghi’s record-setting goal would come from his favourite position – offside – even if SuperPippo was pipped at the post in his moment of glory by the Special One.
AC Milan looked home and dry against Real Madrid thanks to Pip’s two-goal burst, only for that old Jose Mourinho jinx to strike again when Pedro Leon made it 2-2 with just about the last kick of the game.
Grabbing the record as the top goalscorer in European club competitions overall, the veteran striker had already whipped out two commemorative shirts emblazoned with the number 69 and 70 – but it was the Portuguese who was whipping down the touchline in final celebration.
Still, Inzaghi has now moved ahead of Gerd Muller and Raul in European goals scored – and in front of Marco van Basten’s 184 goals in the Rossoneri goalscoring charts, an amazing achievement for the 37-year-old whose career looked to be over five years ago.
It was one of those rip-roaring evenings at the San Siro and Mourinho was primed to play the pantomime villain when greeted by a wall of whistling and jeers, responding with a three-fingered salute reminding the red and black half of the city of his personal achievements last season.
At least Mou’s presence had encouraged Massimiliano Allegri to smarten himself up, instead of looking like some small-town council official who had allowed his mother to cut his hair and pick out his clothes from the local Upim (cheap and not so cheerful clobber outlet for the sartorially challenged).
However, he has not yet stamped his authority on the side. Otherwise he wouldn't have given in to the obvious pressure coming from Silvio Berlusconi - not the first time someone has had to bow to the little cavalier – to play Ronaldinho in place of the in-form Robinho, who had kept his compatriot out of the side recently.
Forget the "diplomatic" injury, the club have been kidding no one – Allegri doesn’t want the boss’s favourite party guy in his side, but it's the coach who is hamstrung at the moment.
At least when the No.80 had proven that he is only in shape to hang around Milanese watering-holes, there was the oldest swinger at a loose ball ready and more than willing to seize his moment.
The first goal was a typical Inzaghi reaction to a goalkeeper making a complete hash of a routine ball played into the six-yard area. And the second, well, it made up for all the other times he hadn't been offside in his career.
Milan’s display may have lacked the slickness of the big city but there was plenty of provincial endeavour on show – although that will not serve in progressing a long way in the competition.
This is where Allegri needs to overcome his awe at coaching a club with such a rich tradition in Europe and shed the inferiority complex which makes him concentrate on nullifying the opposition rather than believing in the instincts of his own team.
Milan never used to worry about going a goal down but now their play is hampered by what-ifs. It took to some shoddy Madrid defending and a myopic referee’s assistant to get their noses ahead last night, but ultimately they lacked belief in victory.
The Rossoneri may have suffered a late sucker-punch, but AS Roma came off the ropes to produce some deft counter-attacking to down Basel and put the Giallorossi back in the box seat for the runners-up spot in their group.
It was a positive evening for another old hand, Francesco Totti, who got on the scoresheet for the first time this season in the 3-2 win – and can now put his feet up and watch the Rome derby at home, where in true Roman scaramanzia [good luck] he expects Lazio to win with a Sergio Floccari penalty.
There may be life in both old dogs yet but there is still much work to be done for all three of Italy’s Champions League representatives – and finishing second in their respective groups will only cause concern for Inter, Milan and Roma further down the line.
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