Palermo has raised a few eyebrows after Sunday night’s score line.
Going into the San Siro and dominating the Rossoneri is no easy task, but it is just what Palermo accomplished with a 2-0 victory. The Rosanero played a perfect team game and have seem to find their true identity, which Maurizio Zamparini had recently called them out for lacking. The more promising fact is that Palermo managed to play a FULL game. Iachini’s men ended the first half strong by not sitting back and conceding and also continued aggressive play into the second half. Palermo kept the killer mentality that in the past they’ve lacked and have been punished for (see: Sampdoria).
The match took a big change early on with Milan defender Cristian Zapata being called upon to replace the injured Alex just three minutes in. The move would prove to be very costly as Zapata would go on to put in a poor performance, worthy of flop of the match.
The opening minutes saw some back and forth possession waiting for one side to take hold of the game. After feeling out Milan’s movements, Achraf Lazaar, doing his best Cristano Ronaldo impersonation (hair, step over and all), took a long-range shot that forced Milan keeper Diego Lopez to dive to his left to just get a fingertip to it, resulting in a corner. The ball was played in from the corner to see Ezequiel Munoz nod it past Diego Lopez (apparently via Zapata and credited as an own goal) to give the Sicilians a shock lead.
Just two minutes later, some wonderful one-touch, Barcelona-esque passing led Franco Vasquez slipping it past the defense to Paulo Dybala, who should have doubled the score, but was unfortunately stone walled by the ex-Real Madrid keeper. Dybala would make up for his mistake in a big way just one minute later. Cristian Zapata’s night would go from bad to worse in a matter of seconds. Dybala ran down a beautiful played ball up from the midfield and out-muscled the much larger Zapata to blast it past Lopez into the top right corner of the net. And just like that, the rout was on! The San Siro was utterly shell-shocked as Pippo Inzaghi’s side found themselves down 2-0 (and it could’ve been worse) at halftime.
The second half saw Palermo sit back and absorb pressure. Yet, the difference between this time and so many occasions beforehand was that Iachini’s side soaked up everything thrown at them with a calm and coolness that stifled anything going forward for the Rossoneri. The back line of Munoz, Pipo Gonzalez and Sinisa Andelkovic was excellent, limiting every opportunity Milan attempted. In fact, the home side didn’t register an actual shot on target until the 65th minute of the match.
Pippo Inzaghi made some poor choices in his starting XI. Fernando Torres and Jeremy Menez failed to link up and did not live up to their names. Menez was poor from the get go, playing errants passes left and right and Torres suffered from the lack of help up top. The ex-Chelsea striker was often left hanging when making an attempt at the Rosanero goal.
On the flip side, Beppe Iachini started the match with ten of the starting XI being from their record breaking Serie B championship campaign last year, the only exception – albeit a big one – was Pipo Gonzalez. Enzo Maresca, getting his first start of the season was simply masterful. His introduction to the side allowed for some wonderful distribution and link-up play. The captain Edgar Barreto had a stand-out performance as well, making up for his poor performance from the previous match. Barreto’s tenacity was visible for all 90 minutes, terrorizing the Milan midfield and then pushing forward during the Palermo counter-attacks. Francesco Bolzoni, who replaced the suspended Luca Rigoni, was also superb in a quiet way. He helped solidify the trio in the Rosanero midfield, limiting and breaking up Milan’s attacks all night long.
It was the first away win of the season for Palermo. The fact that the Rosanero were able to prove they can win tough away matches with the same squad that dominated Serie B is nothing but a good sign going forward. It just goes to show that a team that is in-sync with immense chemistry is always better than one with individual skill that never equals the sum of its parts. Some acquisitions may be made to solidify the safety of the Rosanero in January, but this team has found its identity and is well on its way to salvation!