Wimbledon last night suffered their first pre-season loss with defeat at the hands of AC Monza Brianza 1912.
Just over 37 years since Wimbledon were beaten by Monza in the final of the Anglo-Italian Cup, the Italians proved too strong once again with two second-half goals earning a 3-0 win.
The background to this game was highlighted at half-time when the players from that previous encounter in 1976 were presented to the crowd, who gave them a very warm welcome.
Wimbledon’s starting line-up had to be changed when Sammy Moore suffered a foot injury in the warm up and Harry Pell stepped up to take his place. With temperatures still in the high 30s, the teams will have been pleased to see the shadow of the main stand covering most of the pitch by the time the game kicked off at 6.30 pm local time.
From the start, Monza focused most of their attacks through their number 11, Mattia Finotto, who alternated between a central striking position and wide left, but he was kept in check by the Dons centre back pairing of Andy Frampton and Alan Bennett, while Barry Fuller stayed close to him when he pulled out wide. Although they were holding their own defensively, Wimbledon struggled to make an impact at the opposite end of the pitch, where their main threats came from George Porter running at defenders and getting in early crosses, but without finding a fellow Don to take advantage of his good work.
Monza’s first clear chance came from a poor clearance. Riccardo Ravasi should have scored when clear in the penalty area, but Peter Sweeney was able to nudge the ball away from him with the Monza players and their fans appealing for a penalty as Ravasi went down.
Wimbledon had a couple of narrow escapes before Monza took the lead from a left wing corner. The ball was headed clear, but it fell nicely for right back Gabriele Franchino, who hit his shot on the half volley and through a crowd of players to make it 1-0. The Dons struggled to get back into the game and half-time came with Monza looking good value for their lead.
Wimbledon started the second-half with more purpose, Porter again showing his promise by getting behind the Monza defence, though no one was able to get on the end of his deliveries.
Monza made it 2-0 on the hour, when Finotto finally got his reward for his attacking play. He cut in from the right, made a yard of space, and struck a fine left foot shot that went in via the near post with Ross Worner helpless to prevent it. By this time, both teams were making substitutions with the good news being that Sammy Moore was able to play following a speedy recovery from his pre-match injury. Wimbledon were making more chances now and Charlie Sheringham’s long-range shot dipped just over the bar with the ‘keeper stranded. But any hopes of getting back into the game ended when Peter Sweeney was dismissed for what appeared to be a remark to the referee shortly after he had been pulled up for holding a Monza player.
Despite being a player short, Wimbledon’s best chance came soon afterwards when a mazy, determined run by Kevin Sainte-Luce (pictured) gave Charlie Strutton a clear chance six yards out but the forward was foiled by a fine save from Paolo Castelli. All that remained was for Monza to get their third goal following a tired-looking mistake by the Dons and for the referee to blow up for full time.
AC Monza Brianza: Paolo Castelli; Gabriele Franchino; Marco Anghileri, Jacopo Galimberti, Claudio Grauso (c), Walter Zullo, Nicolo Bianchi, Paolo Valagussa, Riccardo Ravasi, Alessio Vita, Mattia Finotto.
AFC Wimbledon: Ross Worner, Barry Fuller, Callum Kennedy , Peter Sweeney, Andy Frampton, Alan Bennett (c), George Francomb, Harry Pell, Charlie Sheringham, George Porter, Luke Moore.
Subs used: Seb Brown, Sammy Moore, Jack Midson, Jim Fenlon, Kevin Sainte-Luce, Charlie Strutton, Chris Arthur, Rhys Weston.
Neal Ardley’s thoughts on both the game and the tour will follow shortly after the team returns to training on Tuesday.