Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Cup Winners Cup proved to be the antithesis of total football and more – the antithesis of football itself. Leeds United and AC Milan reached the final. The early stages of the tournament went smoothly… stronger clubs advanced and rightly so. The division of quality was so great that there was no need to try some kind of advanced game. AC Milan eliminated whatever opponents minimally – by one goal difference (save for 1/16 finals, where they ‘thrashed’ Red Boys, Differdange, Luxembourg, 4-1 and 3-0). At the end, the real question is about catenacchio: Helenio Herrera is still vilified for inventing and practicing the ultra-defensive style. Must be Nereo Rocco, though – the Milan’s coach was the most accomplished and consistent practitioner of the deadlock.
Nereo Rocco, the archpriest of catenacchio.
In the ¼ finals Milan met Spartak (Moscow) and I still remember the first leg, played in Sochi (Soviet clubs played their spring international games in the South – Northern stadiums were frozen). It was not much fun: the Italians clearly controlled the match. They were economical – just preventing the opposition from developing attacks. Spartak players never saw an opening. There was no free space. There were no free players to pass the ball. And that was all… Milan looked supreme without doing much. The Soviet players were clearly inferior – they had no imagination, no tactics, and no skills to change the game in their favour. Milan scored one goal and won.
Anquiletti (left) simply blocks Spartak’s left winger Redin. Even on static photo Redin looks hopeless.
Milan in defense, their favourite game. Always having more players than the opposition, though. Looks easy…
And why breaking a sweat when 1-0 is enough? The second leg in Milano ended 1-1. Milan went to the ½ finals; Spartak went home. It all depend on perspective: judging by the results, Spartak may have been even happy – not bad against mighty Italians. As for subscribers to Rocco’s philosophy – a win is a win, and nothing else matters. And as long as ‘we’ win, why changing anything? Don’t you see how hopeless and clueless other teams are against ‘us’? Milan crawled to the final.