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Home English Soccer: Milan boss Allegri stops Messi, disproves doubters

Soccer: Milan boss Allegri stops Messi, disproves doubters


Rome, February 21 - AC Milan coach Massimiliano
Allegri frequently sees his tactics come under fire in public,
sometimes even from his own boss, club owner Silvio Berlusconi.
Allegri looked to be in danger of losing his job for much
of the first half of the season when his side struggled for form
after Sweden forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Brazil defender
Thiago Silva were sold to Paris Saint Germain in the close
And Berlusconi recently had to clarify that he was only
joking when he was heard saying that Allegri did not understand
a "f**k" about soccer.
But if the ex-premier really had doubts about Allegri's
ability, the coach may have dispelled them after his side caged
in the world's best soccer player, Lionel Messi, as part of a
tactical masterpiece that led to Wednesday's 2-0 win over the
mighty Barcelona.
Allegri ignored Berlusconi's advice to put a man marker on
the Argentina forward in the Champions League last 16 first leg
at the San Siro, but still managed to make sure he was always
closed down whenever he received the ball.
The Catalan side dominated possession, hogging it over 70%
of the time, but Milan's organised defending rendered it
toothless and the home side ended up having more shots on goal.
Second-half goals by Ghanaians Kevin-Prince Boateng and
Sulley Muntari mean that Milan can afford to lose by one goal in
the return leg, or two if they manage to score, and still reach
the quarterfinals.
"He didn't have man marking but he did create a cage," read
Thursday's La Gazzetta dello Sport, giving the coach eight of 10
for the match.
"Allegri fenced Messi in. There was always a Milan player
on the passing lines for Leo.
"That was the tip of the iceberg of a tactical masterpiece.
The mortification of the god of ball possession".
Milan Chief Executive Adriano Galliani also gave Allegri a
slap on the back.
"The cage on Messi worked," Galliani said Thursday.
"Allegri got the match right and the players interpreted his
instructions with extraordinary character.
"We'll see what happens in the return. Now we have to go to
the Camp Nou and it'll be very difficult".
Wednesday's victory was all the more impressive given that
Allegri was without several injured players, such as midfielders
Mathieu Flamini and Antonio Nocerino, and Brazilian forward
He was also unable to field Italy striker Mario Balotelli,
who was cup-tied having played in the Champions League for
Manchester City before joining Milan last month.
Balotelli has scored four goals in three games since
arriving and helped Milan climb up to third place in Serie A.
"They (my players) were patient and they found the right
moment to strike," said Allegri.
"The players understood what I asked of them and when you
play with that kind of willingness and intensity, you can beat
Allegri now has to try to focus his side's energies on next
weekend's big derby match against Inter.

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