ROME - Champions AC Milan and Lazio shared
four first half goals in an exciting 2-2 draw as the delayed
Serie A season finally kicked off in the San Siro on Friday.
Lazio were first to get off the blocks as new strike force
Miroslav Klose and Djibril Cisse wasted little time in opening
their Serie A accounts with a left-foot strike and header,
respectively, to put the visitors 2-0 up inside 21 minutes.
But the Rossoneri's own forwards clicked soon after as
Zlatan Ibrahimovic tapped in and Antonio Cassano scored with a
rare header to bring the scores level before half-time.
After a players' strike had postponed the scheduled start to
the season, Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri felt his side had
taken a while to get up to speed.
"It was a difficult first half hour," he told Italian Sky
TV. "We couldn't handle their counter attacks, gifted them too
much space and we paid for it. We had no rhythm maybe because we
hadn't played for a long time or perhaps because of the
international games in midweek."
Allegri, whose side play Barcelona in the Champions League
in midweek, felt the introduction of Mark van Bommel in the
first half was key to the turnaround.
"His presence definitely allows us to play our football," he
said. "The same thing happened last season. We upped our tempo
and carved out enough chances to have won it. In the end I was
pleased but we can definitely do better."
Lazio coach Edy Reja said the performance augured well for
"I can't ask for more coming to Milan for the first game,"
he told Sky. "We slowed in the second half and we need to get
fitter, but I'm proud of my players. We played with character."
After the first fixtures were postponed for a week because
of the strike, Lazio dominated the early stages and were almost
rewarded after four minutes when Cristian Ledesma saw his
30-yard screamer fly inches over the bar.
Four minutes later and the packed San Siro gasped as an
audacious backheel from Ibrahimovic sent Alberto Aquilani clear
on goal but the much-travelled midfielder failed to lift his
effort and Albano Bizzarri was able to block the shot.
Another four minutes on though and the crowd were silenced
as German striker Klose expertly brought down a Stefano Mauri
pass with his right foot and in one movement thrashed the ball
past Abbiati with his left.
A far more attack-minded Lazio than last season were causing
problems in the Milan defence with every attack and Abbiati was
forced to parry a vicious Cisse shot on 18 minutes after
Alessandro Nesta and Gennaro Gattuso had collided going for the
same ball in the box.
Mauri, playing on the right, was again the architect as
Lazio went two ahead after 21 minutes. The Italian's intelligent
cross was met 10 yards out by Cisse, stealing a march on Nesta
and placing a perfect header into the corner.
An early surprise appeared to be on the cards but with Van Bommel on for the injured Gattuso, the home side began to
dominate the midfield and were level within 12 minutes.
First, on 29 minutes, Cassano played a superb one-two with
Aquilani before squaring for Ibrahimovic to side-foot into an
Then after a fierce Kevin-Prince Boateng shot had been
turned around the post, Cassano somehow wrestled free of his
marker to head into an unguarded far corner for 2-2.
Brazilian midfielder Hernanes wasted a golden chance to
restore Lazio's lead nine minutes before the break, side-footing
wide from eight yards but it was the home side who thereafter
looked the more likely.
The elusive Cassano shot inches wide on 47 minutes after
showing off his quick feet on the left side of the box before
striking the post just after the hour mark from a similar spot.
Lazio, who finished just above rivals Roma in fifth position
last season, gave notice of their own threat on the break when
Cisse burned through the heart of the Milan defence only for
Nesta to recover with the goal at the Frenchman's mercy.
Ibrahimovic almost won it for Milan with six minutes to go
but the big Swede's powerful shot was well blocked by Bizzarri.
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