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Champions League Round of 16 • Milan 4, Arsenal 0: We’re Back!

After a virtual plague of injuries, Milan is back. After being eliminated from the Round of 16 in our last 4 attempts by English sides, Milan are back. After a poor run of form by Robinho, he proved exquisitely tonight that he’s back. After enduring “unbiased” English commentators match in and match out, fans could laugh and say, “We’re back!” But most importantly, to our tattered and torn battle weary soldiers, a convincing home victory brought to hearts a resounding, “We’re back!”

Exactly how we feel, too, ragazzi. Grazie!!

In the dreams I didn’t allow myself to have, I thought what if? What if we won 2-0? Maybe even 3-1? And then I promptly went back to being nervous and praying and such. Tonight, those dreamers and optimists who put money on their optimism are probably quite a bit wealthier, because who else could even dream it?

But from the first whistle to the last, there was never really any question as to who would win this one, the 90 minutes had to play out to determine the specifics, but Arsene Wenger’s boys were schooled like a bunch of, well… children. What is it about the Champions League that rewards experience?

Speaking of experience, Allegri chose to start experience over pace. And how did that work out? It forced a sub for Seedorf in the 12th, who looked like he got a hamstring injury. So Emanuelson came on for him, who probably should have started in the first place. See, Allegri? If you don't learn how to sub, you will be taught. And we really don't need any more injuries, okay?

He's back!!

Seedorf leaves the field and the magic begins. In the 15th, Nocerino sends a beautiful cross up to Boateng, who managed to get it to bounce off the underside of the crossbar for the goal. 1-0 Milan.  A special thanks, too, to Melissa Satta, who clearly sacrificed her Valentine’s day to leave Boateng in one piece for us.

The back and forth continued, a couple of shots here and there, but really just more of the same. Until the 38th, when Ibra, often accused of going missing in big matches, had an amazing run and crossed it perfectly in for Robinho. Normally, I start groaning before the ball reaches him, as this would be a classic sitter, but you must remember that he often scores with his head where he would miss with his feet. And so it was, a beautiful header past Szczesny for the goal. 2-0 Milan.

In the 41st, Ibra was pulled down in the box, but no call. I only mention this for those who believe that Milan gets every call. We don't. In the 44th, Wenger was forced to make a sub of his own due to injury, Djourou on for Koscielny. A couple of minutes later, Boateng had a great shot that went just over. And in the 2nd minute of stoppage time, Szczesny collided with Antonini dangerously as Antonini was trying to take a shot. And guess who got the yellow card? Antonini. Normally, I would be livid, but I can hardly blame the ref, Antonini is pretty clumsy and makes a lot of errors. If you couldn’t tell exactly what happened, then pick the clumsy one, I guess. A shame, really, because Antonini got this one right for a change.

Respecting the legend that is Henry

At the half, Wenger did something that would give Allegri hives: He subbed. He pulled off Walcott, moved Song back, and brought in the big guns: Thierry Henry. To understand the importance of this, think of Maldini coming on at the half? Actually, Henry has a statue in his likeness at Emirates, and Maldini can’t even get a job at Milan, so that might not be the best correlation. Anyway, not even the great Henry could manage to make a difference. Too bad, this was his last game on loan with the club until he heads back to purgatory…er, I mean the MLS.

What happened next is a thing of such beauty, words do not do it justice. On another assist by Ibra, Robinho one touched it into the back of the net in a moment of sublime artistry that is now etched in my heart. 3-0 Milan. For as poor as Arsenal were playing, Milan were playing even better on the opposite end of the spectrum.

Purveyor of the beautiful game tonight

Virtually everyone was playing at the next level. My commentators, being English and therefore uninformed, spoke of van Bommel,”More of a destructive player than a constructive player… Tonight, he’s looking like a playmaker.” Which tells me two things: one, they’ve never seen van Bommel play, and two, they haven’t even bothered to look at their press kits to see his amazing pass completion rate, etc.  Well guess what, English commentators? Your English team just got bangers and mashed! (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.)

Okay, so where was I… Mexes yellow card in the 62nd for a foul on Rosicky. Abbiati went to work in the 66th with a brilliant save on a van Persie shot. There were 4 shots on goal from Arsenal compared to 5 on goal from Milan, even if Milan took 18 shots in all to Arsenal’s 8. Abbiati had another great save in the 76th, as well. In the 66th, Wenger finally brought in Oxlaide-Chamberlain, who has been in  great form lately, but again, he was not enough.

A goal and 2 assists. Hell yeah.

In the 70th minute, being 3-0 up, apparently Allegri felt it was finally safe to make a sub, Ambrosini on for Boateng. Shortly thereafter, Song earned himself a yellow, after which Djourou earned himself a yellow by pulling Ibra down in the box in the 78th. Penalty for Milan. So in the 79th, Ibra stepped up, took the PK as calm as you like, and despite Szczesny getting a glove to it, it was 4-0 Milan.

The 81st saw Ambrosini earn a yellow card, which unfortunately means he will be suspended for the next leg. And Pato came on for Robinho in the 84th and had a nice short or two saved as well as being called for offside, which wasn’t too bad for 6 minutes’ time.

The stats show that Arsenal maintained 57% possession, but the game showed 100% Milan domination. For having not won any of our last 7 games versus English sides, we put that monkey to rest by handing Arsenal their biggest defeat in the Champions League ever. And a virtually insurmountable mountain to climb when we visit the Emirates  on March 6th.

We're back!

Juve's draw with Parma earlier had put a smile on my face, 2 points dropped with one more game in hand was a nice break for us. But after being so nervous about this match, it was almost as if our boys were mocking me with the confident, easygoing way that they played this one. And with a result like that, let me tell you, I don’t mind being mocked. It’s good to see the confidence and the result again, enough to make you want to scream to all the world, “We’re back!!”


Our next match is Cesena vs. Milan
Sunday, February 19 • 15:00 CET (9:00am EST)


This post inspired by the music of Elaine’s Milan Mix, including Inno Milan, Forza Milan,
We Will Rock You, Devil Inside, We Are the Champions, etc.