World Club Cup: Urawa Reds v MilanBy: Martha | December 13th, 2007
It turns out Milan in Japan are a lot like Milan in Italy: Lots and lots (and lots) of possession, but not a lot of scoring. The Italians were the better side this morning by about 200 miles and absolutely dominated the match, but it took them ages — not to mention boatloads of missed chances — to break through and grab the goal they needed to move into the final.
The match opened frantically, with Urawa flying all over the pitch, pressuring the crap out of every ball and generally just playing the sort of high-risk football that almost always ends in disaster. After 10 minutes, though, they pulled nine men behind the ball, which is how they would stay for the rest of the match. (I’m guessing the idea was something like “Milan haven’t played in ages, and are jet-lagged and not really bothered. Lets give it a go for 10 minutes and see what happens.”)
Milan then camped out in the Urawa half, and showed impressive patience in trying to break them down. And, in reality, the breaking them down part wasn’t that hard: Nene was good in the center of the back for the Japanese side and there were a few good tackles, but for the most part Milan found a lot of space in which to play, and Kaka, Seedorf and Amborsini went by people pretty much at will. The problem was the last bit — the scoring. Seedorf had two fantastic early chances that he squandered, and Gilardino was guilty as well, making a hash of a cross that snuck up on him. Additionally, Massimo Oddo was doing his usual thing of putting crosses wherever his teammates aren’t, so despite being under massive pressure, Urawa managed to hold up fairly well throughout the first half.
When the second half started, though, they could hardly breathe — I’d conservatively guess that the possession stats for the first 15 minutes were 95% to 5%, and that’s being kind to the Red Diamonds. Milan were everywhere, and Urawa were really struggling, running out of gas and just doing awful things with the ball when they won it because of the pressure. Literally every pass by the Japanese side either went out of bounds or to Andrea Pirlo, who was absolutely controlling the match from his place in the midfield. And, still: No goals.
Gradually, the pressure started to ebb and Urawa began to pass to one another again, attacking for the first time since the 10 minute mark. It actually looked like they might make a game of it but the moment they broke the pressure, Seedorf scored from of some great work by Kaka and everyone at Milan, who had clearly been having Empoli flashbacks, breathed a sign of relief. Urawa didn’t let down, though, and pushed forward for their best sequence of the match. Unfortunately for them, they had a hard time really getting anything on goal (apart from a nice Washington strike that Dida dove to control) and a miracle didn’t occur, so they’re off to the third place game.
Milan looked only half-interested for most of the match which, I gather, is how Boca looked yesterday. Hopefully they’ll both have woken up a little by Sunday and will make the final worth watching, even without Riquelme.