AC Milan hit a new low Sunday, as the Italian giants were crushed by Manchester City 5-1 at Pittsburgh in the 2014 International Champions Cup. Rookie manager Filippo Inzaghi is now 0-2, and has watched his Milan side allow eight goals in their American tour.
While City’s rampaging attack haven’t missed a beat from last year’s Premier League-winning form — they once again scored easily and often — Milan continue to look fragile and feckless. They had been lackluster in their 3-0 tournament opener loss against Olympiakos on Thursday and were worse yet at Heinz Field.
Wedged around a tornado warning, a rainstorm and thunder and lighting that delayed the second half of the game by 30 minutes, the game was lively and entertaining for neutrals. For Milan fans, it was nightmarish: the Italian club, which had once prided itself on its impregnable defense, continues to give away goals while creating precious few chances at the other end.
It took just 11 minutes for Stevan Jovetic, the Montenegrin forward who hadn’t made much of an impression in his first season with City last year, to get on the board and commence stealing the show. On a well-worked goal, a long ball found Jesus Navas out wide; the Spanish winger hit Jovetic on the run, and he then smacked it past goalkeeper Michael Agazzi at the near post.
Two minutes later, City doubled the score and effectively ended the game. Gael Clichy, unusually playing at right back, made a strong run up the near flank. Scott Sinclair ran across goal to meet his cross, settled the ball through the traffic surrounding him, then spun and blasted his shot into the roof of the goal.
It would get worse. Not a half hour had been played, and yet the score was 4-0. Off a corner, Jovetic sent a cross-field ball to Navas at the other edge of the penalty area. His ambitious scissor kick was deflected and slipped past Agazzi as well. And then 17-year-old Nigerian Kelechi Iheanacho, something of a sensation so far in City’s preseason, picked up the ball at the edge of Milan’s box, after the English Champions’ attack seemed to have been defused. With two defenders in front of him, he snapped off a quick and daring shot that sailed into the top corner, blowing through Agazzi.
It took 32 minutes for Milan to get a shot on goal — after Alex handled in his own box and City were denied a penalty, mind – when Stephan El Shaarawy beat his defender to a cross. But Willy Cabellero, the new backup to Joe Hart, saved his header. Milan got their consolation goal in the 42nd minute. Sulley Muntari tapped the ball into the net off a corner headed back by Alex – although replays suggest he was slightly offside.
Milan looked more composed at the start of the second half. And the tide looked like it could finally turn when Mario Balotelli, making his first appearance of the year, tapped in an M’Baye Niang cross in the 54th minute. But he was rightly flagged off, and with that, Milan’s brief offensive flurry was over.
Jovetic reclaimed the spotlight a few minutes later, when he artfully set up and finished an attack to make it 5-1, the final score.
Balotelli showed off his skill every now and again, and combined well with Niang. But Milan’s late forays forward felt half-hearted and lacked real sting and precision.
It’s still only the preseason, but Milan, who suffered a disastrous season last year, have to be worried about the upcoming campaign. They looked callow and miserable, with backup keeper Agazzi looking woefully out of his depth at this level. They are nowhere near the very best, and on the evidence, are fighting just to be average.