AS Roma welcomed AC Milan in a highly anticipated derby match of the Serie A round 19 at Stadio Olimpico on Saturday night.
Goals from Rudiger after a blistering start from the hosts who opened the scorings after only four minutes, and from Kucka who equalized the game with five minutes into the second half hide the true story behind the scoreline.
The audience was treated with a truly competitive encounter and an openly contested affair, with plenty of goal chances at both ends.
The visitors showed they are no pushovers as Sinisa Mihajlovic had a point to prove to his bosses, while Rudi Garcia will ultimately be disappointed with the lack of flair in the second half.
All in all a fine game, and here are the five things we learned from the 1-1 draw:
Two faces of AS Roma
Giallorossi’s performance tonight was the perfect picture of their entire season.
Compact in the middle of the park in the first 45 minutes, but without their recognizable fluency and attractive play that had earned their manager Rudi Garcia great praise at the start of the season, AS Roma relied mostly on the individual quality.
Miralem Pjanic was once again commanding in the centre area, with his pinpoint passes as the most outstanding performer until the interval. In addition, we saw the occasional shines from Rudiger with his opener and from the 18-year-old Nigeria forward Sadiq Umar, who showed great promise during his time on the pitch.
Completely different scenes were seen in the second half.
Completely outplayed and outrun by AC Milan, AS Roma players failed to put the young Donnarumma to serious tests and were fortunate to avoid conceding mote goals in the game.
The introduction of Salah brought some fresh air into the team’s play, insufficiently to get others to follow and make an impression to the scoreline.
Mihajlovic right to shift to 4-4-2
AC Milan coach started the season with three forward players in the front line, which yielded attack-oriented football with plenty of goals. At the same time, it left the back line vulnerable and exposed to concede a lot of goals as well.
Sinisa Mihajlovic tried to accommodate all of his strikers, but he had realised that desired results could not be recorded with Mario Balotelli, Luiz Adriano and Carlos Bacca all out at the same time.
The Serbian tactician opted for a change of formation, switching to 4-4-2, which allowed Bonaventura, Bertolacci and Kucka to shine in the midfield and on the flanks, cutting in and running lines to create a lot of problems for the opposing players and help the back line at the same with the defending.
Boateng can be of great help to AC Milan
AC Milan have resigned their former midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng on a six-month contract until the end of the season in January.
Ghana international was released by Schalke and he has been training with AC Milan since September during which time he convinced Sinisa Mihajlovic to offer him the short-term deal.
Saturday’s derby game was his debut and it is fair to say that the experienced midfielder made good impression in his first game since returning to Milano.
Boateng was introduced at the hour-mark coming on for Luiz Adriano and the Ghanian did make an instant impression. Not short of pace, Boateng created a lot of problems on the right-hand side of Szczesny’s goal proving he could be a proper utility player for his team.
Roma’s winter miseries continue
Roma’s winter problems are coming up to the surface once again.
Similarly to the last season, Giallorossi are once again fighting against the same ghosts. In 2014/15 AS Roma started stuttering in December, going on to record 10 draws and only three wins in their 13 matches until early March.
It was the decisive pint in the season, which saw them ultimately lose the crown to champions Juventus.
Considering they are currently on a similar run of six draws, two losses and only one win in their last nine games, it is fair to say that Garcia’s men are suffering from the same virus.
Still only five points from the top, they will need to shake it off and start producing results in order to keep up with the leading pack.
Rossoneri need time
The ongoing season is unlikely to bring the expected results to highly demanding Milan’s hierarchy.
AC Milan have struggled to break into the top-four for some time now, but Sinisa Mihajlovic did make significant progress with his new side. Similarly to many of his current players, the Serbian coach only came last summer and needs to be given enough time and freedom to put things right.
Patience is one thing AC Milan seniors are not renowned of and derby match against AS Roma could have been Mihajlovic’s last in charge.
Hard-fought draw has most certainly bought him some more time on the bench and the tempered tactician is sure to use it the best way he can.
AS ROMA: Szczesny 6.5 – Florenzi 6.5, Manolas 6.5 (Leandro 6), Rudiger 7.5, Digne 6.5 – Pjanic 7.5, De Rossi 6.5, Nainggolan 6.5 – Gervinho 7, Umar 6.5 (Totti 6), Falque 6 (Salah 6.5).
Unused subs: De Sanctis, Gyomber, Lobont, Pepin, Emerson, Maicon, Torosidis, Tumminello, Vainqueur.
AC MILAN: Donnarumma 6.5 – Abate 6.5 (Antonelli 6.5), Zapata 6, Romagnoli 7, De Sciglio 6.5 – Honda 7.5, Kucka 7.5, Bertolacci 6, Bonaventura 7 (Niang 6) – Adriano 6.5 (Boateng 6.5), Bacca 6.5.
Unused subs: Abbiati, Calabria, De Jong, Ely, Liveri, Mauri, Mexes, Montolivo, Poli.
Referee: Daniele Orsato
Other results this evening:
Carpi 2-1 Udinese
Fiorentina 1-3 Lazio
AS Roma 1-1 AC Milan