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Milan 2, BATE Borisov 0: The Unbeautiful Game

The scoreline may seem convincing, but the way Milan played tonight was not so much so. Even the stats are a little misleading, as Milan had 60% possession and took 28 shots. The clue to the less than convincing part was that of those 28 shots, only 5 were on goal. And the truly unbeautiful part was the foul count. Milan had 21 fouls, BATE had 19. However in the end, the result is the most important part. So pretty or not, we’ll take it.

Ibra: "You can have a little bit of this action, too, Bonera, when you start scoring instead of conceding."


It is not fair to compare this match to Saturday’s brilliant performance against Palermo. We had a very different squad, and Palermo were a very different opponent. And the only fair comparison to last year’s squad was that we got the result, no matter what.

The most consistent part of tonight’s performance on both sides was the fouling. It was like watching someone play whack-a-mole at the arcade or something. For example, Baha and Taiwo met each other in the 3rd minute, boots a little high, and Taiwo took some cleats to the chest. Or like when Kevin Prince Boateng was mixing it up with Yurevich and gave his shoulder a little kick. He was lucky to not see a card. It wasn’t the horrible dirty kind of fouls that send people off on stretchers, it was the kind of lazy, cheap fouls that disrupt the match and makes for some less than beautiful football.

There were only 3 yellows given, all in the first half. The first was given to Nocerino in the 39th when he didn’t like the ref’s call, so held the ball away from the other team and then kicked it away like a child. Given his stellar performances of late, it is hard to begrudge him, and yet if he accumulates more cards, it could really come back to haunt us.

In the 42nd minute, Bordachev earned himself a yellow for a blatant pulling of Aquilani’s shirt. But if you were trying to keep up with Aquilani, wouldn’t you also resort to such shenanigans? Just 2 minutes later, his teammate, defender Simic, earned himself a yellow card for a foul on Ibra. Which is also ridiculous, because how many people can successfully take down Ibra? It’s always going to end in a card.

"Come on over here and give Ibra some sugar."

The shot attempts were also a little ugly, although if you look at them individually, many of them were very good or even brilliant. But I’m thinking that a lot of the fans at the San Siro have a new ball to take home tonight, especially those really high up. Our strikers seemed a little nervous for some reason, taking rash shots before they were settled or simply leaning back to offer them to the sky. And that is strange, because the BATE defense was not all that much to handle. Just the fact that we got 28 shots off tells you we could have done better.

Of course, in addition to the 2 that went in, there were some screamers and some beauties. Ibra took one on the volley from 35-40 yds. out early on in the 7th. If that had gone in, he would have been crowned kind of the San Siro, I think. Taiwo had several that might have been tracked as UFO’s if we had the equipment to track so quickly. Aquilani had a few clinical shots that would have gone in were it not for Gutor’s intervention. In the 66th, Robinho had some fancy footwork followed by a shot that would have made the goals of the week had it not gone wide. And even Emanuelson got a couple of shots off for the short time he was in.

Helpless BATE players watch as Aquaman slips through their fingers

Things that were beautiful: Abate. I know I am guilty of loving our Blonde Fury, but he was stellar tonight. Anyone who thinks he doesn’t have an offensive game is watching the match with the sound off and a blindfold on. I lost track of how many times he got forward, my abacus only goes up so high, you know? And he had some great crosses and even a shot or two. In fact it was his cross that set up the assist for the first goal. I remember around the 60th, he made this incredible run nearly the whole length of the pitch, and I literally stood up and nearly screamed watching him streak down the field. In fact, he ran so fast that when he got there, there was no one for him to cross to, so he chipped the ball in anyways, and it ended up in the keeper’s arms. Well done.

Abbiati made a game-changing save in the 32nd on a shot from Bressan, and a great fingertip save in the 2nd half on a shot that would have just curled in otherwise. And Bonera. How does he get in the beautiful section? Well, it’s his second game in a row without conceding a goal for us or creating any other terrible blunder. So while he probably singularly had the most Milan fouls, I am judging his success by his lack of failure. Special consideration, you know? Cassano gets points for taking on 5 BATE players around the 53rd and still trying to get a shot off. God bless you, boy.

Aquilani and Nocerino continue to impress. Nocerino apparently ran the furthest of any of our players, and Aquilani was always exactly where he needed to be when he needed to be there. I would also like to include Mexes in this section. Even though he didn’t even play 10 minutes, he made his debut in the red and black tonight and managed to play like the Mexes we expect. He came on for Nesta, who was playing in his 95th Champions League match tonight. Congratulations to a Milan great on such an amazing achievement.


Now then, the best for last: the goals. The first goal was in the 33rd and as mentioned, came from a cross from Abate to Aquilani, whose shot was rebounded off of a defender and before you could blink, Ibra had sent that rebound straight into the back of the net. Which I believe was his 25th goal in 79 Champions League appearances. He is like a god.

The second goal came from Kevin Prince Boateng in the 70th. He took a lightning fast touch to settle the ball from the distance pass and slammed that ball towards the net, hitting the crossbar and sending it down. I think that goal is still shaking from the force. Both goals were more than beautiful, they were exquisite.

So in the end, there was good and bad, plus we got the result. This game will never be replayed as an example of beautiful football. But our 2-0 win was matched by Barca, and puts us both nearly qualified for the next round on 7 points, as expected. In the end, it won’t be how they played tonight but rather the result that is remembered. And speaking of remembering, I seem to remember a certain champion team from last year that had some pretty ugly performances. Besides, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and UEFA only sees the 2 goals and 3 points. That sounds perfectly lovely to me.


This post inspired by the music of The Clash