Milan 3, Palermo 0: The Awakening

After struggling against both injury and a tough schedule so far this season, this match was highly anticipated as a litmus test for the reigning Serie A champions. A litmus test that was passed with flying colors. Not even putting Bonera on the pitch for nearly 60 minutes could stop Milan’s big comeback. No, tonight would be the Awakening, a remembrance of our winning ways.

Winning makes Allegri happy. Very, very happy.

The first half started off well enough. Milan were building up pressure offensively, and Cassano had a great opportunity one on one with the keeper that went just wide. But immediately after that, Silva was injured by a boot to the hip from a Palermo player. He would play for another 20 minutes until he asked to be subbed off, unable to continue.

Meanwhile Nesta collected a yellow card by hugging Miccoli, who was streaking straight toward goal. Then Cassano missed another great shot that had been built up by great plays from Antonini and Nocerino, but blocked by Tsorvas, who was kept quite very busy tonight. After trading a couple of shots wide, Robinho earned himself a yellow in the 29th for a nasty tackle on Hernandez, and was quite lucky not to see red. I would say this definitely balanced the lack of calls that Milan should have had, including the elbow to Abate’s head during a free kick in the 32nd minute.

I feared the worst as Bonera came on for Silva in the 34th. But this seemed to only inspire our boys to maintain possession and keep the ball away from Bonera. So much so that Robinho had a shot and a rebound back to back in the 37th that would have definitely gone in if it weren’t for Tsorvas’ heroics. And it paid off in the 39th minute when Nocerino scored against his former club. It was a great cross from Ibra to Aquilani who selflessly headed it to a wide open Nocerino. 1-0 Milan. Barreto closed out the action in the first half with a yellow card earned by a foul on Cassano.

Nocerino refuses to celebrate against his old team. Class act.

The second half started with Miccoli being subbed off for Alvarez, the former recovering from injury and not fully fit. And I must point this out, since I am so hard on him, but in the 52nd minute the commentators clearly said that a ball was “blocked by Bonera.” I do give him a very hard time, but it must be said that tonight he a) did not have any blunders and b) played pretty well. Of course, he wasn’t called upon much, but let’s ignore that and praise the poor guy for a good game. Even more praise is deserved for our fabulous offense tonight. The commentator on my stream said at one point when our offense was playing particularly well that “Suddenly they remembered that they’re champions.” So very true.

It was Robinho who seems to have left his history of poor finishing on the treatment table, as he scored a brilliant goal straight over the keeper on a great assist from Ibra. 2-0 Milan. Cassano nearly scored, Ibra had a shot blocked, and then in the 63rd Cassano did score on an assist by boy wonder Abate. 3-0 Milan. This nail in the coffin was nearly marred by the white boys attempting to dance in celebration, but when your team goes up 3-0 in an important game, who cares how they celebrate? I was personally swinging from the rafters, and I’m sure I didn’t look that impressive with my face all red and such.

I score, you score, we all score!!

The substitution parade then ensued to try to put fresh legs on both sides of the pitch. In the 65th, it was Hernandez giving way for Pinilla, who was unable to make an impact. Emanuelson came on for Robinho in the 66th, and Acqua came on for Bertolo in the 74th. And in the 79th, it was El Shaarawy who came on for Cassano, who has played every match for club on the season as well as two brilliant games for Italy this last week and definitely earned a break.

The last 10 minutes saw Milan press as if they were down. A great shot came from Aquilani in the 80th and was saved by Tsorva. El Shaarawy let a screamer fly in the 83rd, forcing another great save. Ibra nearly got another one in the 88th and again in the 90th, both saved by Palermo’s saving grace on the night, Tsorvas. Were it not for him, this match could have been a true humiliation, as Milan had 20 shots, with 10 on goal. Our defense stepped it up, too, with Palermo only getting 6 shots off, but none on goal. Milan also managed 69% possession.

Ibra: "Hey guys, winning is much better than losing, don't you think?"

Ibra was great, even if he didn’t get on the board, though it certainly wasn’t for not trying. He also had a hand in 2 of the 3 goals and worked hard the whole match. All 3 goalscorers were brilliant, and their support system, too. Antonini had another solid game. As much as I so desperately want Taiwo to take that spot and make it unquestionably his, Antonini was great offensively and defensively tonight. Abate… there are not enough words. Do you think Prandelli thinks he’s not Italian for some reason? He puts Cassani’s recent Azzurri performances to shame. Aquilani is brilliant, it seems he can play anywhere and make a difference. And of course, Nesta and Silva are still the best center back pairing in Italy, no questions asked. Milan were firing on all cylinders tonight. It was brilliant.

So how did this transformation take place? Was the International break that crucial? We had a number of players that played for country. Or maybe it was the black armbands they wore, in honor of Gianni Nardi, former Milan Vice President, who passed away last week. Maybe someone told them that Palermo manager Mangia was a lifelong Inter fan, and that was the inspiration for the trouncing. Or Abbiati shaking off a couple of blunders to proudly wear the captain’s armband? Or maybe it was a personnel thing - Robinho back, Seedorf getting some rest due to injury? Or maybe it was a combination of all of them.

Or maybe, it was like the commentator said: they suddenly remembered they were champions. Certainly they played like champions tonight. The three points well earned will put us in a much better position on the table after all of the matches have been played this weekend, and make it even sweeter that Inter dropped 3 more points today against Catania. Yes, it was truly a pleasure to watch our team as they experienced the Awakening.

This post inspired by Elaine’s groovy old dance mix, including Deee-Lite, Urban Dance Squad, Sunscreem, EMF, and Soup Dragons.
Milan 3, Palermo 0: The Awakening Milan 3, Palermo 0: The Awakening Reviewed by Elaine on 3:16 PM Rating: 5
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