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BATE Borisov 1, Milan 1: Missing Cassano

Hopefully no one told Cassano that Milan were playing for him tonight, because the result shows just how much they missed him, and we wouldn’t want to make him sad. Hopefully they just happened to turn off the TV at the hospital at the end of the first half and he is dreaming peacefully right now of a team that played pretty well.


A hug for you, Cassano! Get better soon!
Despite a crowd that seemed near capacity at the 40,000 seat Dinamo Stadion in Minsk, Milan played pretty well in the first half. They eased into the game but within less than 10 minutes started taking shots. They also allowed some chances, but in the 22nd, Ibrahimovic made good on a shot with an assist by Robinho and opened the scoring. 0-1 Milan.

Kevin Prince Boateng celebrated Ibra’s goal by revealing the back of the jersey he was wearing underneath his game jersey, which was Cassano’s. I think I teared up when I saw this wonderful gesture.


But BATE were not just going to roll over. Just two minutes later, Skavysh answered with a great shot that was just tipped over in an amazing save by Abbiati. They got some dangerous looks and Abbiati was a very busy keeper on the night.

In the 39th, Robinho was lucky not to be sent off with a nasty elbow to the head of Simic. Not one minute later, as if Karma was a referee, he had a 1 on 1 chance on goal and hit the post instead. Have I mentioned before I don’t really care for Karma? One minute after that, he was called for offside. I guess the moral of the story is don’t elbow people in the head??

However,  it was the second half that changed everything. Goncharenko had told his team ahead of the match that he needed a better performance than they had when Barcelona trounced them 5-0 at home. They had certainly looked better in the first half than they did when they played at the San Siro two weeks ago, even if it was just for the 12th man (which was very, very loud, by the way!) But something happened in the locker room at the half. The team came out down a goal at home and played as if they were playing for Fantantonio.


For a while, we traded shots, with most of theirs being on goal, meaning Abbiati working extra hard. But it was in the 54th minute that cruel fate stepped in. Abate, who was having a stellar night, fouled Kontsevoy in the box. The referee whistled and pointed to the spot without hesitation. Bressan stepped up and took the penalty. Abbiati guessed the right way, but it was well taken and just out of his reach. 1-1.

Taiwo made an important interception in the 57th, Ibra took a number of shots, But BATE seemed even more energized by the equalizer. While everyone on Milan was getting tired and fouls were starting to accumulate, they seemed to get their second wind.

And speaking of second winds, the fresh legs parade started in the 63rd, when Olekhnovich came on for Likhtarovich. Goncherenko then subbed Pavlov on for Baga in the 76th, and finally, Gordejchuk on for Kontsevoy in the 84th. Allegri started in the 67th by putting Bonera on for Nesta, in the 69th Seedorf on for Aquilani, and finally bringing on the young Ganz in the 83rd for Robinho.

The cards were kept to one yellow apiece - Olekhnovich earned one in the 71st, then Ambrosini got one in the 84th. Beyond that, it was shot, save. Shot, wide. Shot, blocked. Shot, save. Shot over the bar, etc., etc. Taiwo tried his leg at a couple of shots, but sent them into the stands. And in stoppage time, Abbiati had another really big save on a one on one with Skavysh.

So Milan with about 60% possession, 23 shots with 10 on goal, were held to a draw by BATE, of tractorland, with 12 shots, 7 of which were on goal. We didn’t play particularly badly, we just played like the penalty knocked the wind out of us, and we couldn’t recover no matter how hard we tried. We did well to keep up with the nearly-possessed BATE squad, who have never won a Champions League Group Stage match, and certainly wanted to do so on this night.


Whomever says Ibra goes missing in the Champions League did not watch him this season. Specifically tonight, he was all over the place. In addition to the goal and probably half a dozen shots, he was trying to assist, definitely defending, and overall playing good TEAM ball.  He was, well... Ibratastic. Oh yeah, and did I mention he also scored the one goal for Milan?

So we are not automatically qualified for the Round of 16… yet. We will have to do better when we welcome Barcelona to the San Siro in 3 weeks, and if necessary, based on the results of the other teams, seal the deal when we go to Prague to play Plzen two weeks after that.

It is interesting to note that in the league, we fumble against the big teams, but played better against the minnows. But so far, this Champions League season, we’ve been doing the opposite. Hopefully, Allegri can manage to find a balance now that we will be without Cassano for an indefinite period of time. We can’t afford to be drawing against a team who can’t even play in their own stadium because it’s too small, and also plays a Musak version of Stevie Wonder”s “I Just Called to Say I Love You” as the fans leave the stadium. We are Milan, and we have 7 Champions League trophies. Let’s regroup and see if we can’t befuddle Barcelona in our own stadium in a few weeks. Then we can at least hear them play “Jump” by Van Halen when Ibra scores. And maybe by then, Cassano will be able to sit in the stands and truly inspire them with his amazing smile & personality…. We miss you, Cassano!


This post inspired by the music of Andrea Bocelli