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Milan 2, Barca 3: Showtime

I so wanted to win this one. To show the world that Barca are not invincible. To back up Ibra’s smack talk. And to take first place in Group H. But outside of the obvious scoreline, I was proud of our boys today. They fought a good fight and they put on a good show. Of course the stars of the show were those Barca boys and that fabulous ref, but not necessarily for their footballing skills. But what a show it was, cards, goals, and just about everything a fan could want outside of a win.


The always entertaining and incredibly talented Kevin Prince Boateng

So lets start with the cards. Eight of them, four a piece. And there could have been more. From the very beginning, it was obvious it was going to be a very physical game. And while Milan started out the card parade, Barcelona were frustrated enough to end it strong. First was Aquilani in the 24th for kicking Fabregas. It was not his first or even second foul, and it was absolutely a yellow card offense. Five minutes later, he took down Xavi in the box, but luckily, Herr Wolfgang Stark, of very questionable refereeing pedigree, gave the card to Nesta instead, who, being very wise, did not protest, as it would have been a sending off for the Aquaman.

Next up was a card for Messi, he stopped on his run-up to the ensuing penalty kick, which is a yellow card offense. So even if Herr Stark would have preferred to have Messi’s jersey, he was forced to give him the card.

In the 34th, van Bommel got a yellow for a scissors challenge, definite yellow. In the 43rd, Puyol earned a yellow for a nasty challenge on Boateng. And in stoppage time of the half, Abidal got one for pulling down Robinho. In the 86th, Mascherano saw yellow for pulling down Pato, and our own Zambrotta got a deserved yellow for a tackle on Messi in the 86th.

Sadly, these cautions were all deserved (well, Aquilani deserved Nesta’s, but…) Sadly, there could have easily been more. Milan were whistled for 25 fouls, Barcelona were whistled for 15. Herr Stark wins a worst supporting actor award for not being consistent, not being able to tell the difference between Aquilani and Nesta (though I’m glad he couldn’t) and for not controlling the game better to prevent more fouls.

The official is still acting, he's acting like Zlatan isn't in his face. Dangerous.

In the best dives category, there was so much competition, including a couple of entries from our own squad. But for me the best supporting actor for diving absolutely goes to Keita. In the 52nd, he sold the ref on a dive with absolutely no contact whatsoever from Aquilani. Plus, he dove the most, in fact I think he spent more of the match on the ground than standing up. I had a hard time not grinning when Ibra finally gave him something to go down for with a boot to the head during a free kick in the 71st, and sadly, his real foul was less convincing than his fake ones.

Honorable mentions go out to Alexis Sanchez, who after coming from Udinese over the summer, has not only converted to Barca ways by putting his first name on the back of his jersey instead of his last, but in the 74th actually earned a free kick for diving. He has not forgotten his Italian, either, as I noticed some choice words coming from his mouth. In fact, if we had scored as many times as I saw those words tonight, we would have been like Valencia, with a score of 7-0 or more. But back to the mentions, it would not have been a game without a Busquets special, and in the 75th, we were not disappointed. My commentators said that it was reported that Busquets was a street fighter, to which he replied that “it must have been a very quiet street.”

Every show must have its ups and downs, and the big downer was in the 65th when we lost Nesta. He pulled up, it will likely be a hamstring injury, but hats off to the fallen soldier, may you hurry back to health, Nesta! One “up” was the 12th man. The Milan crowd at the San Siro was the envy of any crowd, supporting our boys and keeping us in the game.

Let's hope this one has a happy ending.

For me, Allegri was a bit of a downer. His lineups made me ill at ease immediately. I should have liked to see Taiwo, even if I know why he trusted Zambrotta. But at least Zambrotta had an okay game despite his pace and some mistakes. Seedorf over Nocerino will always be a question mark for me. Yes, the man has seen a lot of big matches. But he is now to the point where he needs to watch them from the stands, or at least the bench. The pace and opportunities that Nocerino brought to the match when he was finally subbed on for van Bommel in the 72nd was amazing, something we lacked the whole match, even if Seeodorf did get the assist on the first goal.

I also questioned the Robinho start, and he was frustrating with his missed chances yet again, but with Pato coming on at the half, it was clear he probably wasn’t ready for 90 minutes, just has Allegri had said. And to be fair, Allegri subbed very well, even if Bonera for Nesta in the 66th was a forced sub.

"This is how you do it, pixies!"

But enough about the side shows, the main attraction was the football. After the first 4 minutes coming out on attack, we kind of dropped off for a bit, I was worried we were just going to park the bus. But signs of life in the 11th and 12th minutes got my hopes up again until Barca’s goal in the 14th. Which turned out to be a van Bommel own goal, with 2-3 players on the face of goal, you’d think they could score their own opener. (yawn)

Then in the 20th, Zlatan showed them how it was done on a beautiful goal from the run of play assisted by Seedorf. Not even 5 minutes later, the big man was in the back defending, as he often did tonight. I didn’t even think I could love a footballer like I do that man. Barcelona took the easy way out on the next one with the penalty debacle  in the 31st by Messi. (yawn) So in the 54th, our own Kevin Prince Boateng showed them how it was done. Controlling a wacky ball in the face of a defender, he beat his man to thread the ball into the 2 foot wide space between Valdes and the post. Brilliant goal. If we were being judged on the beauty of our goals, we would have had this game wrapped up on a scale of 1-10, that was at least an 11. And he had a lot of shots on the evening, too. I’m sorry you have to share my heart, Boateng, but I really do love you.

Hats off to Barcelona for stepping up and finally scoring a goal themselves from the run of play in the 63rd, a beautiful fluid goal from Xavi. Still not as nice as our goals, especially combined. And you’re welcome for the own goal, too. Milan did score 3 goals and Barca only 2, we just have to work on scoring them all in the right goal to be the first place team. But Boateng gets the award for best goal and best celebration, he really is a showstopper.

"I'm not afraid of  you or your nasty hair!"

Best Actor in a leading role (also known as MOTM) was Abbiati. Cool and calm, he had some jawdropping saves, including in the 33rd and 69th minutes, as the commentator put it, he “really kept Milan in the match tonight.” Too bad the score sheet shows the 3 conceded goals, particularly considering one was an own goal and one a penalty. But whatever doubts he may have raised earlier in the season and despite the scoreline tonight, I think it’s safe the Abbiati we knew and loved all last season is back.

The commentators after the match were saying that Barcelona was definitely the better team. I was not so convinced. This time, we didn’t simply park the bus, we met them in the middle of the pitch and forced open play. We definitely got under their skin, and scoring two brilliant goals against a team like that is no laughing matter. In fact, I’m surprised they got on the scoreboard 3 times. We were by no means perfect, and maybe they were the better team, but only by a small margin. Certainly if we battle our way through the Round of 16 and beyond to face them again, I do think we can beat them with the determination and skills we showed tonight. So thanks for a great match, boys! I know I enjoyed the show.


Happy Thanksgiving!


As a side note, we are celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow here in the USA, and as I spend it with family and eat too much food and count my blessings, I would just like to say thanks to all of you who share my little corner of Milan with me - those who read, those who comment, those who have written guest posts. You are my extended Milan family all over the world, and my dream of celebrating Milan with others only comes true with your participation, so thank you. And for those celebrating, please have a happy and safe Thanksgiving. Oh, and don’t bother getting on the scale on Friday. That’s why it’s called Black Friday, right?


This post inspired by the music of Norah Jones