Leonardo’s side are now eight points off the pace…..
Italian giants and Scudetto hopefuls Milan were held to a disappointing 1-1 draw by struggling Livorno at the Stadio Meazza on Sunday afternoon, but that was enough to trim the gap between them and leaders Inter to eight points. Massimo Ambrosini broke the deadlock one minute before halftime, but Cristiano Lucarelli restored parity six minutes into the second half. Ronaldinho hit the woodwork for the hosts in the first half.
Milan started in a 4-2-1-3 formation with Clarence Seedorf playing in the ‘hole’ behind a trident attack comprising of David Beckham on the right, Marco Borriello in the middle and Ronaldinho on the left. Livorno commenced in a 3-5-2 system with Cristiano Lucarelli and Claudio Bellucci as the two main strikers.
The opening minutes of the fixture were slow-paced and cagey as neither side went close. In fact, the first chance of the game came in the 11th minute when Beckham floated in a trademark cross from the right towards Seedorf inside the six-yard box. But the Dutchman’s header, which was supposedly meant for Borriello, was weak and easily caught by Livorno custodian Francesco Benussi.
A couple of minutes later, though, it was the visitors who went close as Bellucci crafted a lovely through ball for Mirko Pieri but the latter’s attempt was blocked by Beckham.
Two minutes later Beckham’s cross into the Livorno penalty area appeared to put their defence in a fix and then in the 16th minute Ronaldinho tested Benussi with a long-range freekick.
By this time the Rossoneri were firmly in control of the proceedings and had the terriorial advantage. In the 24th minute they earned a freekick just outside the penalty box when Nelson Rivas pulled down Mathieu Flamini. But Beckham’s set-piece went just inches wide of the far post.
Two minutes after the half hour mark, the England international midfielder had another attempt on goal but it was smartly saved by Benussi.
Milan almost took the lead in the 36th minute when Ronaldinho found himself with the ball on the edge of the visitors’ penalty area, but his shot struck the post. A minute later Thiago Silva tested Benussi from distance but couldn’t find a way through. Just moments later Milan could have conceded when Romano Perticone had a good chance, but he couldn’t keep his strike on target.
But the Rossoneri eventually took the lead and the goal came a minute before half time. Ronaldinho released Beckham down the right and the former Manchester United and Real Madrid superstar carved in a cross towards Seedorf. Benussi came out and punched the ball away but only as far as Massimo Ambrosini, who made no mistake to score his first goal of the season.
The second half started with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar replacing Borriello, who had suffered a head injury in the first period and appeared to be struggling towards the end. Milan looked the better and more agile side in the opening exchanges in the second 45 minutes and could have scored just two minutes into the session. Ronaldinho crafted in a well-measured pass towards Beckham but the latter’s audacious flick didn’t come to fruition.
Huntelaar then had two chances in a minute. First, he tried a long ranger that wasn’t on target and then found himself at the end of a good Luca Antonini cross, but his header went over the Livorno crossbar.
Suddenly Livorno forced their way back into the game and against the run of play equalised in the 53rd minute. Milan centre-back Giuseppe Favalli could only marginally clear the ball away and it fell to Bellucci just outside the penalty box. The striker’s shot was picked up by Lucarelli from just yards out of the goal, and as the Milan backline were rooted to the spot, he scored with ease.
From then it became an end-to-end affair as both sides went in search of a winner. Milan came close in the 65th minute when Ignazio Abate sent in a cross from the right towards Huntelaar but Benussi punched the ball away from virtually the Dutch striker’s feet.
A minute later Benussi made a great save as he dived towards his left to parry away an Ambrosini header. Two minutes later in the 68th minute Ronaldinho released Ambrosini on the left with a brilliant flick and the Milan captain whipped in cross, but Huntelaar’s shot went wide.
The hosts continued to press on as Filippo Inzaghi came on for Flamini in the 77 th minute. The veteran striker could have scored five minutes later when he was sent through by Beckham but he couldn’t stake off his marker.
The final minutes were desperate for the hosts as they threw everything out in attack to score the winner and bag maximum points. But the Rossoneri lacked coherence and edge in attack and had to settle for a 1-1 draw in the end.