Il Tridente – Wednesday was a great night for AC Milan. Not only did the Rossoneri move clear at the top of the Serie A table ahead of Sunday’s Milan derby, but they proved once more that the attacking tridente of Pato-Ibrahimovic-Robinho is as potent a unit as can be found in Europe.
Alexandre Pato opened the scoring for Milan against Palermo at the San Siro in a rather simple fashion. Clarence Seedorf, a target of so much criticism this season, delivered a swirling corner into the penalty area where The Duck leapt to meet it with a firm header. The goal came on the twenty minute mark; the home side controlled proceedings until midway through the second half.
Slovenian international, Armin Bacinovic, equalised for the travelling Sicilians shortly after the hour mark and it looked as though they might hold on for a tolerable draw. They were undone, however, by the brilliance of Ibrahimovic.
The Swede put Il Diavolo back in front from the penalty spot in the 77th minute. Five minutes later he demonstrated just how effective Milan can be on the counter-attack.
The supposed “Barcelona flop” galloped down the left flank from just inside the Palermo half. Ibrahimovic showed fantastic strength and control to reach the penalty area before expertly rolling a cheeky dummy pass towards Robinho, whose powerful shot found the net via the body of goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu. Milan saw the game out to secure a 3-1 win.
Milan stand alone at the league’s summit while pressure mounts on Internazionale manager Rafael Benitez ahead of the derby. Inter struggled away to Lecce but took the lead in the 76th minute after typically wonderful build-up play from Samuel Eto’o set up Diego Milito. Milito dedicated the goal to his compatriot Walter Samuel, whose season was recently ended through injury.
The goal gave Benitez the briefest of respites. Lecce equalised almost instantly through Olivera. The draw sees Inter lose ground on AC Milan, who have recovered from the set back of the defeat to Juventus tremendously.
While Inter have fallen from grace, a team on a startlingly sharp rise is Roma. Their 3-2 win over Fiorentina at the Olimpico was perfect follow-up to Sunday’s win in the Derby della Capitale. Claudio Ranieri may be one of the most consistently hounded managers in football (besides Rafa of course) but his side have now won four in a row and find themselves just two points behind Inter.
There is now a feeling that Roma might just be in the midst of a second improbable revival in as many seasons. The form of striker Marco Borriello, who scored for the Romans against Fiorentina, has benefited his new employers. While Totti may look a shadow of his former self, Roma have replaced his guile in attack with the gifted duo of Menez and Vucinic.
How the pair are dealt with by Juventus at the weekend might shape the ambitions of both clubs come the end of the season. Juve were frustrated by Brescia on Wednesday and may need a win against Roma to refine their title push.
Elsewhere, Lazio were brought to ground by Cesena and may no longer entertain the novelty of a Scudetto challenge. Napoli, my smug tip for Champions League football next season have quietly risen to third in the table after beating Cagliari in Sardinia. Ezequiel Lavezzi was once again the hero for the Partenopei.
Lazio and Napoli are apparently moving in opposite directions, which makes their showdown this weekend all the more crucial. That match is just one of the irresistible fixtures awaiting the top six on Sunday.
The results at the business end of the Serie A table have set up a pivotal round of fixtures on Sunday. Here’s what we have to look forward to: Lazio v Napoli, a seemingly resurgent Roma against a directionless Juventus and, of course, Derby della Madonnina.
AC Milan and their remarkable trio against the Treble winning Inter? Sometimes we have it lucky in Serie A.
AC Milan 3-1 Palermo
AS Roma 3-2 Fiorentina
Brescia 1-1 Juventus
Cagliari 0-1 Napoli
Catania 1-0 Udinese
Cesena 1-0 Lazio
Chievo 0-0 Bari
Genoa 1-0 Bologna
Lecce 1-1 Inter