With all apologies to Dua Lipa, it takes multiple kiss (I really feel like if I met Dua Lipa I’d have an amazing urge to apologize for lots of issues, BUT THAT’S NOT WHY YOU CALLED).
Italian soccer nonetheless has a status — one which’s probably not true anymore — of being overly tactical and defensive. It’s maybe one it must work more durable to shake off if it needs to even get in the identical stratosphere of worldwide reputation that the Premier League has, and it’s a league stuffed with vibrant attacking groups. Catenaccio will not be the order of the day in Italy anymore, however a long time of its use are laborious to erase from the reminiscence banks.
That doesn’t imply that it isn’t a part of the e-book when wanted, and AC Milan definitely referenced their and Italian soccer’s historical past when upsetting Napoli within the Champions League quarterfinals yesterday. And it was an upset, on condition that there are 22 factors between these two groups within the league, with Napoli operating away to assert the Scudetto and Milan battling simply to stay within the prime 4. What’s much more superb is that this was the third time within the span of 16 days that Milan had nullified Napoli’s smothering and suave assault. Napoli have scored 66 targets in 30 league video games, for fuck’s sake. However they solely managed one over 270 minutes in opposition to Milan, two legs of the quarterfinal, and a league defeat at dwelling.
Apart from some spritely opening 10 minutes in each legs, Milan snuffed out just about each risk by having their two holding midfielders, Sandro Tonali and Rade Krunić, sit proper on prime of their backline, opening no area between these strains, which is the place Napoli’s Piotr Zieliński or Stanislav Lobotka would run wild. This compelled Napoli out to the wings to search out any area.
Usually, Napoli can be OK with this, as a result of Matteo Politano or Hirving Lozano on the suitable and particularly Khvicha Kvaratskhelia on the left can create probabilities at will. However within the first leg, Napoli have been with out an injured Victor Osimhen and solely had the freshly returning one within the second leg, and with out him they actually lacked a risk to get on the tip of crosses.
Which could not have mattered as a lot, as a result of each of Milan’s fullbacks have been exemplary, particularly Davide Calabria on the suitable facet, who saved Kvaratskhelia in his pocket in a style that may have had Milan legend Paolo Maldini purring within the govt field, so long as we’re persevering with the theme of harkening again to the great ol’ days (additionally it’s at all times a pleasant pick-me-up to consider Maldini and these eyes you would rediscover your childhood inside).
Calabria performs lockdown protection
Kvaratskhelia has been possibly the revelation of the European season at Napoli, an inverted winger who has turned just about each protection he’s come up in opposition to into confetti. He was given nothing by Calabria, which blunted Napoli’s assault into not rather more than a kitten’s paw.
And even when Napoli did handle to get crosses into the field, nearly all of them discovered the defiant dome of both Fikayo Tomori or Simon Kjær. Napoli tried 45 crosses yesterday, and solely 10 of them discovered a teammate, such was the obstreperous nature of Tomori and Kjær (my principal as soon as referred to as me that in grade faculty and I’ve coopted the adjective for my very own gadgets, in case you have been questioning. Revenge is good).
The targets the Rossoneri wanted
In fact, you continue to want to attain, and Milan solely required two marvelous items of individualism on the counter to get the targets they wanted. We went over Brahim Díaz’s flip within the first leg that led to Ismaël Bennacer’s winner, however no purpose we are able to’t take pleasure in it once more:
Yesterday, it was Rafael Leão’s flip, as he picked up a free ball some 85 yards from purpose and thought he’d have a pleasant jog by way of half the Napoli crew earlier than organising Olivier Giroud:
And that was that. Napoli pulled a purpose again late, however it was at all times only a comfort. The wonder, so we’re instructed, of catenaccio is that it’s easy. You defend properly, you are taking your probability while you inevitably get it on the counter, you win. A reference to the simplicity of Italian delicacies or life, actually. Generally soccer is simply that straightforward. When you’ve gotten defenders taking part in this properly, and gamers like Diaz and Leão able to turning the sector into their very own private F1 monitor, what extra do you want?
Comply with Sam on Twitter @Felsgate as he talks himself into Xabi Alonso taking up for Jurgen Klopp within the close to future.