Straight from the dark heart of Italy
Wednesday turned into a double evening of delight for AC Milan – a demolition of Arsenal in the Champions League on the back of Juventus failing to regain top spot in the league following their goalless draw at Parma.
No Italian team had won by such a wide margin against an English club since Milan recorded the same 4-0 scoreline against Manchester United back in 1958.
The Rossoneri have always felt that they are the true representatives of all that is good about Italian football and they certainly proved that against what the local press en masse felt was a “timid” Arsenal. But in a country where few youngsters get the chance to shine in Europe – Stephan El Shaarawy was left on the bench throughout the 90 minutes – they did applaud Arsene Wenger for fielding such a youthful side, although they questioned why weren’t there more English players in the team.
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Maybe he had little other choice and despite Arsenal lacking that renowned English spirit of never giving up, it was a Milan performance of another era and the victory ranks up there with the 3-0 mauling of Manchester United in 2007, although nowhere near the 5-0 humiliation of Real Madrid in 1989.
These memorable results all came in the European Cup/Champions League and for one player in particular letting go of what he described as his “obsession” in lifting the trophy may well lead to getting closer to actually getting his hands on it after all.
We're talking of course about Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who produced his best-ever European display taking into account the supposed quality of the opposition.
The Swede hasn't been in the best of moods in a domestic league where opponents like Napoli and Juventus know how to get under his skin. However, against what could be termed more “sporting” opposition, who were less inclined to indulge in shirt-pulling and verbal abuse, he was left free to get on with the top of terrorising them at every turn.
Virtually impossible to mark as he dropped deep or drifted out wide, Ibra set up two and deservedly bagged one after winning a penalty for the fourth and final goal. It could have been six if Alexandre Pato had not been wasteful on two occasions late on.
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The Brazilian was introduced as a late substitute but the damage had already been done – and a clear message sent out to Massimiliano Allegri: you'll get even more from Ibra if he is paired alongside Robinho and Kevin Prince Boateng.
The two Premier League rejects showed England that their careers had moved on seamlessly since leaving Manchester City and Portsmouth. In fact, Robinho surprised even the home support by scoring twice and generally toying with the Gunners’ defence.
However, it was the sharp interplay between the three that really provided the launching pad for this impressive display, with Boateng’s stunning volley getting proceedings off with a bang.
From there Robinho was wriggling his way all over the frontline, but always looking out for the towering figure of Ibra – who returned the favour by setting up the Brazilian twice.
The plaudits in the Italian press were mainly for those two stars, but at the back Thiago Silva must have finally won over everyone that he is the best defender in Europe, if not the world. Milan must do everything now to ensure that Barcelona’s reported interest does not start to gather momentum.
If the seven-time continental champions want to continue holding their own among Europe’s elite then they need to retain such start quality. Certainly that's what they did on Wednesday, banishing the memories of last year's Tottenham defeat and sending out a warning to their rivals that the old Devil is on the prowl again.
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