Football: Milan teach a salutary lesson

Arsenal will have learnt much from their defeat in Italy, says Glenn Mo ore
Click to follow
While Arsenal attempt to come to terms with the way Milan exposed their limitations in the San Siro on Wednesday night, the rest of Europe have been reassessing their opinion of their victorious opponents.

The European Super Cup figured low in Milan's priorities this season, but the manner in which the European champions won it will have given the pretenders to their crown much to ponder.

Benfica, who meet Milan next month in the quarter-finals of this season's Champions' Cup, will be more concerned than most. Two months ago, Milan scrambled their way out of the Champions' League and looked jaded and vulnerable. Now they are moving towards the form which won them the trophy last May.

Dejan Savicevic stood out with his cushioned touch and crisp, intuitive passing, but his was one of many excellent performances from a Milan side replete with still-hungry internationals.

Milan's millionaires, for all their artistry and flair, are prepared to work like lower-division labourers. Daniele Massaro epitomised the creed when, soon after scoring the decisive second goal on 64 minutes, he chased back 30 yards to close down and tackle Ray Parlour, a fresh substitute already pressured by two Milan players.

It was Milan's eighth trophy under Fabio Capello, eclipsing the record of his predecessor, Arrigo Sacchi. "The mentality of this great club is passed on from the older players to the younger players, so they learn self-sacrifice and how to fight for every trophy they go for," said the Milan coach.

However, he was not getting carried away by brushing aside a team so short of form and fluency as Arsenal, and added: "We are still two months behind where we should be."

George Graham, his Arsenal counterpart, could only purr in admiration. He said his team will have learned much from competing with world-class players and, though he did not say it, so will he.

Graham's tactics have been a significant factor in Arsenal's European success but, although his 4-1-4-1 formation originally foxed Milan, neither he nor his team had an answer when Capello pulled Savicevic deep and pushed Zvonimir Boban forward.

On the plus side, Arsenal's travelling support were well-behaved. This is important because there was a sub-text to the game even before the night's events at home, as Italian football is still reeling from the murder of a Genoa fan 12 days ago.

The rescheduled game between Genoa and Milan will take place next Wednesday, but Milan's "ultras" said they will not travel with the team to away games for the rest of the season as a mark of respect.

Capello blamed Wednesday's low turn-out on the murder, but paid tribute to the behaviour of both the Arsenal and Milan fans. even two-thirds empty, the stadium would have left a lasting impression on the London club and their supporters.

On the flight home, Tony Adams pledged to retain the European Cup-Winners Cup, but if Arsenal are to meet teams like Milan on level terms, a lot of hard work, hard thinking and hard cash will be required.