Plzeň 2, Milan 2: Heart

In a match that only mattered to one side, the game was definitely one sided. Plzeň came out hungry, and despite lacking the quality of even Milan’s B-team, their heart made up the difference. In a birthday gift to their coach on this day, they scored two last minute goals to take 2  meaningless points from Milan and book their place in the last 32 of the Europa League in style.

Milan’s start was painful to watch. Poor passing, a makeshift backline, and the inability to do anything with the possession they had left them vulnerable to Plzeň’s counterattacks. Thank goodness that Plzeň strikers are inexperienced and got called for at least 5 offsides on the night. In the 11th minute, Ambrosini was given a yellow card, which looked like it was as much for the dissent as it was for the foul.

Meanwhile, Seedorf seemed to have retired but not notified Allegri. He had at least 4 very poor passes in the first 20 minutes, but tried to make up for it by bossing everyone around in the back on set pieces. Not his finest of his 122 Champions League matches. Taiwo did not play as well as we would have liked. He connected a few times with some nice crosses in to Seedorf, but again was very limited defensively, it’s really a shame he hasn’t been able to fit in at Milan.

In the 26th, Jiráček was injured and had to be stretchered off, I hope it is not too serious. So in the 28th, Darida came on for him. DeSciglio, in his most significant offensive contribution to the game, had a shot in the 30th that went over the bar. But it was his positioning, his turn, and power on that shot that impressed. Other than that, I wasn’t as impressed with the 19 year-old. We missed Abate’s pace, his tackles were a bit late, and he was beaten a number of times by Plzeň attackers. He had a foul in the 42nd that he was lucky not to get carded for, but not a bad Champions League debut for the kid overall. In the 40th, Allegri subbed Nocerino off and brought in Thiago Silva, the former having received a knock and being subbed as a precaution.

O Monstro being monstrous as soon as he got onto the pitch

The second half started much stronger for Milan, maybe Allegri put something in their water. Pato scored a goal in the 47th minute, assisted by Robinho. 1-0 Milan. Then Robinho scored a goal in the 48th, assisted by Pato. 2-0 Milan. A double from the Brazilian attackers instilled a lot more confidence in the squad and passing and defense were suddenly better, too. We created more chances and sent more balls into orbit, or at least to the post.

In the 67th, Kolář went off and Duriš took his place. Around the 78th, Mexes, who was easily the best defender on the night, was fouled from behind and looked like maybe he was in some back pain. Why would someone break him in his first 90 minutes back? But he seemed fine, he’s tough. In the 81st, 16 year-old Bryan Cristante came on for Robinho to make a 12 minute splash in a Champions League match. Then in the 84th, Pilař, who had an amazing performance on the night, was replaced by Hořa.

Mexes finally beaten in stoppage time

In the 86th, Duriš earned himself a yellow card, but pressure was building on Milan. With a 2-0 lead, they conceded a goal in the 89th with center back Bystroň tapping it in on a beautiful and unselfish cross from striker Bakoš. Okay, Plzeň 1, Milan 2. Stoppage time. We can do this, right? Just to be sure, Allegri pulls Taiwo off for Zambrotta to come on. A minute later, Bakoš was shown a yellow for dissent, having argued with the AR to give a penalty for Amelia supposedly pulling Darida down in the box. No penalty, none given. But what happened next was unthinkable. After Plzeň leaving it all out on the pitch, and even keeper Čech coming forward, Duriš scored the equalizer in the last few seconds of stoppage time to stun Milan (and probably all of Czechoslovakia) and take a point. 2-2. They were all heart.

Speaking of heart, I would say that Mexes is my MOTM for Milan, he did very well in the back, but I have a MOTM for Plzeň, too. He is their “swashbuckling” right back, Rajtoral, as dubbed by my commentators, and he was simply amazing offensively and defensively. I think it was in about the 35th that he made this incredible run in for a shot… all the way on the far left, with his weak foot. He was all over the place, very talented indeed. Speaking of left feet, Emanuelson wasn’t particularly impressive tonight, it’s a shame, because I like that guy. On the flip side, Amelia did very well with the chances taken, I don’t think he was at fault for the goals. But some important players got some important rest, and some other players got some important playing time, too.

The draw that felt like a loss for Milan felt like a win for Plzeň

Milan may have quality, even with our B-team, but it was Plzeň’s heart that earned them the draw. They took 19 shots, with 5 on goal, to our 13 shots with 7 on goal. Despite Milan having 56% possession, they came up big when it mattered and took what seemed to be an easy win out of our hands in the space of 3 minutes. And though it really didn’t matter for us, what does this say about them? They punched their ticket to the Europa League, causing a big team to blush a little bit in the process, and if they continue to play like they did in both of our meetings with them, their heart will take them a long way. Whereas we'll head into the Champions League Round of 16 a little more humble and hopefully with a little more heart ourselves.

This post inspired by the music of Siouxsie and the Banshees

Plzeň 2, Milan 2: Heart Plzeň 2, Milan 2: Heart Reviewed by Elaine on 2:57 PM Rating: 5
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