Milan 3, Sampdoria 0: The Twelfth Man

As Jovan so aptly noted in his preview, Sampdoria’s demise at the hands of their evil stepfather, Garrone, has been swift and, as a fan of Serie A, painful to watch. That could also easily describe their visit to the San Siro today. Such a shame. On a girlie note, I have always loved their “blucerchiati” (blue "ringed" - referring to the ring of stripes that goes horizontally around their chests ) uniforms, and it would be a shame to have a Serie A next year without them.

However, Cavasin’s 3-5-2 formation offered virtually no resistance to Milan’s winning 4-3-1-2. For a 5 man midfield, they were unable to maintain possession more than 23% of the time throughout the game. Milan’s domination of possession made it look more like 5 monkeys in the middle.

So opposite of the preview, where there was much to say about the opposition, I can find little to nothing redeeming to say about Sampdoria. Their play was sluggish and disorganized, I don’t remember seeing a team that was so defeated before they even stepped onto the pitch this season. Truly a tragedy and I would have to point the finger straight to the top and question Garrone’s competency to run such a club.

So obviously, the scoreline was Milan 3, Sampdoria 0. But the storyline was who scored those goals, as well as who couldn’t. The first one came in the 20th minute. Seedorf took a free kick that had a wicked curve, first inward, then outward, fooling the defenders and the keeper and slipping just inside the far side of the net. Brilliant, amazing, and an early dagger to the Blucerchiati, I’m thinking he saw the results of our poll the other day and decided to step up his game to renew that contract.

Pato was a couldn’t. He was not terribly visible in the first half, and then incurred an apparent hamstring injury and had to be subbed off just before the half. His replacement, luckily, was able to score. This brings further concerns, though as to who will play on Wednesday in our Coppa Italia match vs. Palermo, as well as our upcoming league matches. Let’s hope it was not serious.

Cassano, new father of less than 72 hours and sleep deprived on top of it, came on in the 40th minute for Pato. After the half, he really seemed to want to prove something to his former team. So when Volta handled the ball in the box and the ref awarded a penalty, Cassano stepped up for the PK and took a decisive one to bring Milan up to 2-0. I normally don’t like the thumbsucking or cradlerocking celebrations, but I almost teared up watching how excited he was to finally be able to do them both. What an emotional week for the former Sampdoria striker.

The third goal was like the chain of the previous goals all combined to give Robinho, the very enthusiastic and yet reluctant finisher his 11th ion the season. Seedorf  sent a beautiful pass forward to Cassano, who tapped an exquisite little touch up and over to Robinho, who headed it into an open net for the goal.

Pato wasn’t the only injury, though. Abbiati came off in the 19th minute with an apparent knee injury, although I never saw what happened to cause it. Amelia did fine deputizing today. After all, what better game for your number one keeper to go out than a game that saw only 4 shot attempts by Sampdoria the whole game, with only 1 on goal? Whether Amelia is up for the task to deputize the rest of the season if Abbiati’s injury is serious remains to be seen. He is a good keeper, but you always want your best when you are playing for silverware.

In addition to the ups and downs of goals and injuries this day, I can think of plenty of positive things to say about our Milan. The defense was very solid, despite the absence of Nesta, our rock. Yepes did a great job deputizing, he is not going to take Nesta’s spot anytime soon, but he is my first choice as a backup. Silva, honored earlier this week with a Defender of the Year Award, showed exactly why. Sure and steady, he is a quiet yet crucial part of our team. And Zambrotta, what can I say? What he lacks in pace anymore he makes up for in wisdom and experience. We are lucky to have so many World Cup winners on our squad, even if they are aging quickly.

There are not enough words to say how much I love Abate. He had several great crosses today, one or two that even surprised the front line, but he was on his game. In the 8th minute, he had another of those last defender moments where he spotted trouble, ran across to the other side behind Silva and Yepes and cleared the ball. He does it all with such ease and vision, it is truly exciting to watch one of the next great defenders evolve before our very eyes.

Our diamond shaped midfield is always a gem, but today our 77% possession was evidence of this more than ever before. Captain Gattuso was on fire, clean tackles that knocked the opponents off of their feet, solid passing and of course running until the final whistle. Seedorf was king from even before the first goal, he was crucial in passing and connecting the ball up front, where we had 13 shots, 5 on goal.

Van Bommel just impresses me more and more. For such a loathed player, his passing is pinpoint perfect. He also had a nice header clearance at the back in the first half and his positioning was spot on. Not surprising then, that he gave way to the debut of the long-injured Pirlo, who also gives pin point passes and perfect positioning and reading of the game. He put in a solid 20 minutes, and though largely unremarkable, looked prepared to play even more time in the near future.

Boateng proved his worth playing up in the hole again today. He can be a little reckless or clumsy, but plays with heart and determination that still surprise me. Sure, he lobbed one up into the stands in the first 2 minutes, but he more than made up for it with a solid, if largely unremarkable game today.

But my man of the match today was not in uniform, nor on the pitch. My man of the match was the Twelfth Man - the fabulous crowd, rumored to be near 70,000. They were singing the whole time like it was a derby or a final. They cheered our Rossoneri through injuries and goals alike. And they cheered when Parma’s Giovinco and Amauri scored to take 3 points from rivals Inter. Earlier this week, Pato called for crowds of 60,000 to help support them through to the title, and these fans answered that call in force. You never would have known we were playing a number 17 ranked relegation-threatened team in a pretty boring match that saw us absolutely dominate, even if it wasn’t spectacular. This “Twelfth Man” made the match an exciting, Scudetto-chasing one. They are to be applauded, and when we lift that Scudetto, I hope that each and every one of them know that they played a part in earning it.

Three points closer to the title, the one we’ve been without for 7 years. With an increasingly impressive coach in Allegri, a team that plays through all injury and suspension odds, and a stadium full of fans who are every bit as passionate as our team, this Milan is stirring memories of past Milans, the champions of yesterday. And let’s hope that come end of May, the new champions of today.
Milan 3, Sampdoria 0: The Twelfth Man Milan 3, Sampdoria 0: The Twelfth Man Reviewed by Elaine on 3:21 PM Rating: 5
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