A stupefying dull first half at the Stadio Olimpico ended with the departure of Riccardo Montolivo. The only genuine source of inspiration in a midfield ruled by rough-and-tumble types such as Nigel de Jong and Sulley Muntari, Montolivo limped off with a thigh problem.
Two minutes after the break the illustrious visitors then fell behind, Danilo D'Ambrosio turning Cristian Zaccardo inside and out before rifling in a low shot at the near post. Zaccardo was making his first start since signing for Milan in January, and only doing so because of injuries to first and second choice right-backs Ignazio Abate and Mattia De Sciglio. It showed. How he fares against Georgios Samaras, Derk Boerrigter or whoever Lennon decides to deploy on the left wing could be one of the most interesting aspects of Wednesday's Champions League opener.
Things got considerably worse 20 minutes later, Alessio Cerci darting in behind the lumbering Milan defence and clipping a finish over 'Christian Abbiati. The goal came just seconds after the number 22 had flashed up on the fourth official's board, signalling the end of Ricky Kaka's second debut. The deadline-day arrival from Real Madrid had spent the evening chasing lost causes and looking precisely like what many in Italy believe him to be: a shadow of his former self.
With two minutes remaining, Massimiliano Allegri's side were on course for a second defeat in their first three Serie A games, despite the fixture list pairing them with two middling outfits and one newly-promoted one. Somehow, though, they found a way. Muntari's shot deflected off his standing foot and trickled into the bottom corner to make it 2-1. Then, in the 94th minute, Andrea Poli tumbled over the foot of Giovanni Pasquale. Mario Balotelli did what he always does from the penalty spot to earn a draw.
"I am pig-headed," Allegri said recently. Club president Silvio Berlusconi - a frequent critic of the coach during his tumultuous three-year stint - might not agree, but it us not the worst quality for an Italian coach to have, especially if you can pass it on to your team. In Turin, Milan simply refused to accept a defeat they richly deserved.
The biggest dilemma facing Allegri now is a tactical one. The exodus of star players, lead by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, last summer forced Milan to rediscover two things they had long forgotten: youth and width. The impressive late charge that culminated in Champions League qualification was underpinned by a 4-3-3 shape featuring youngsters Stephan El Shaarawy and M'Baye Niang on the flanks. However, Kaka's return has necessitated the introduction of a narrow 4-3-1-2, which would make the aforementioned duo's appearance unlikely on Wednesday, even if they were not injured.
"Until a week ago we had players with different characteristics, whereas tonight we had Kaka, Balotelli and Robinho in attack, so that changes things in the shape of the side," said Allegri. "We need to find our balance quickly, but haven't much time because on Wednesday night we have an important game against Celtic. The performance didn't shock me, and the team needs to be changed. Unfortunately, we are missing international players."
Striker Alessandro Matri - who scored for Juventus in both of their Champions League last 16 meetings with Celtic last season - came off the bench at the Olimpico to make his second appearance since re-joining the Rossoneri for a fee of €11m, and looked clever and classy in equal measure. Other members of the team fleetingly impressed, too. Indeed, while they might not compare favourably to the great Milan sides of the 90s, or even the one that Carlo Ancelotti brought to Parkhead three times between 2004 and 2007, Allegri's men certainly are gritty, and have enough talent in the attacking third to dig them out of the holes erratic centre-back pairing Philippe Mexes and Cristian Zapata often land them in. They also have a handy habit of raising their game on European nights, as demonstrated by their 4-1 aggregate thumping of PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League play-off round.