This competition always leaves me in a quandary, and this year more than ever. With so many injuries, do we risk more injuries and wearing out our players with the Champions League and the Scudetto still within our grasp? It seemed after drawing Barcelona, Allegri had the same kind of thinking. I didn’t know what to make of it with Ibra sick and the suggestion of resting Silva, so I decided I just wanted to see a good game, free of controversy. And both teams delivered. It was epic. Unfortunately, Juve went through to the finals 4-3 on aggregate.
|Vucinic, Del Piero (w/Seedorf's Jersey) and teammates celebrate advancing|
I don’t really know where to begin and can’t possibly cover the entire 120 minute battle, but I’ll try. Milan owned Juve for the first 28 minutes. Even with Chiellini coming in on Ibra with a nasty foul in the 13th that might have been a yellow any later in the match, our boys kept it together and dominated possession. Well, Muntari earned himself the first yellow of the game in the 16th, but he was probably thinking he still had some leeway after Chiellini didn’t get carded. Anyway, with multiple shots from Ibra, Silva, and Seedorf, it’s a shame we weren’t able to get one early.
|It had to be him.|
It was in the 28th that the first goal came, and it’s hard to begrudge one like that by the legendary Del Piero. With teamwork from Pirlo and Lichtsteiner to get it there, this one instantly deflated Milan’s momentum, and Juve took charge for a while after that. 1-0 Juve. Aquilani had a late foul on Vucinic in the 35th that was an obvious yellow, even if it looked worse since Vucinic slid into the advertising boards. But he and other Juventus players apparently got worked up about who got the ball. It wasn’t a throw in since he kept it in play just before the foul, so the ref gave it to Milan. They got so worked up about it, but in a classy move, Seedorf gave the ball right back to them. However, Vucinic was still worked up and got himself a yellow for dissent.
The second half saw Ibrahimovic get subbed off for Maxi Lopez. Having suffered from a cold for several days now, including a reported fever in the last 24 hours, Ibra should have been in bed, and definitely gave it his all to play that 45 minutes. But it was in the 51st that came the equalizer, from the most unlikely of sources: a beautiful header from Mesbah. 1-1. I believe the assist was from Mexes, who was brilliant tonight offensively and defensively, and even more to his credit, resisted the urge to punch Borriello again, even if Borriello tried very hard to push his buttons.
|The great flying Mesbah|
Seedorf felled Vucinic like a lumberjack, and got a yellow for it in the 57th. While Seedorf provided some great technical play as usual, his pace and inability to keep possession did impact our play. The 64th saw Pepe leave the pitch for Marchisio, which was good because then Pepe wasn’t lying down every 2 minutes as if he’d been shot, but poor for Milan because Marchisio is a better player and far more dangerous for us. Muntari had some shots, and offered some brawn in midfield, but he also risked getting sent off, especially after the early yellow.
|Vucinic, say hello to our little friend Antonini. Didn't see him coming from the right, eh?|
This part may shock you, but Antonini was great tonight. Other than almost scoring an own goal, he was great on both offense and defense, the beastly talented Vucinic was very frustrated by him. I lost track of how many times he stopped the Juve forward and he had some last minute clearances, too. I have criticized him for being just enough and not really contributing, but tonight, I am eating humble pie in large amounts. But then again, I do like him better on the right, where he is obviously more comfortable. The midfield was buoyed up by the entrance of Nocerino in the 68th for Aquilani, who is probably still gaining match fitness after injury, but unfortunately hasn’t lost his lack of defensive edge.
In the 74th, that deafening sound was 40,000 people applauding Del Piero as he was subbed off for… Borriello? Maybe Conte just wanted to antagonize Mexes again, but that is no swap, that’s like trading your BMW for a tricycle. And, always late to the game and quick to spoil the emotional party, Allegri brings on Super Pippo after Del Piero to replace El Shaarawy in the 78th. El Shaarawy worked very hard and got a couple of shots off, but he was outmuscled by the big boys and their experience. Unfortunately, Pippo probably only had 12 minutes in him, and had to play 42. It’s hard to watch the legends lose their step.
|Yes, Maxi, you DID just do that. Bravo.|
Borriello finally got a yellow in the 80th, and then Maxi Lopez scored in the 81st. He had been seemingly outclassed, but kept working, and it finally paid off for Milan to take the lead. 2-1 Milan. Now it was tied on aggregate, and everyone, though tired, were fighting to close it out in regular time. Storari got a card apparently for dissent (although to his credit, he did not injure his own players when Del Piero scored.) After that, it was attack after attack on both ends, with Borriello missing multiple 1 v. 1 situations, Amelia coming up very, very big again and again, and Milan putting shots in orbit or not connecting on crosses in the box. An incredible game for Amelia. We are so lucky to have such an amazing backup keeper. A result was not to be, and we were headed to extra time.
|Mexes redeemed himself with mad skills and incredible self control.|
It is of note that when Maxi Lopez scored, Gattuso did some kind of an attempted chest-bump/body check on Allegri, he was so fired up. Not long after that, he was screaming at his teammates on the pitch, crouched near Allegri, and the commentator pointed out that he looked like a pit bull chained to the bench. I have to agree, and would like to examine the video footage to rule out that there was actually not a chain.
It was in the 96th minute in added extra time, Vucinic scored a beautiful goal that sealed our collective fates. 2-2. It is hard to begrudge such a nice goal, even if it was the dagger in Milan’s Coppa hopes and dreams. The rest of extra time was frustrations, fouls, and yellows, including Silva’s in the 102nd, Mexes’ in the 111th, and Vidal’s in the 112th. I couldn’t help at laugh at poor Mesbah, always so docile in previous matches, but he was angry and frustrated now. In the 117th, he shoved Giaccherini down… twice… right in front of the linesman, and did not care what happened. Good thing most matches are only 90 minutes. For Silva, too, he took so many knocks, I lost count, and looked injured again at the end. I know he needed the rest, but we couldn’t have done this well without him.
|Joking and smiling is how it should be.|
So adding the 2-2 draw to the 2-1 lead Juve had, it was 4-3 on aggregate. But I have to commend Juventus for coming out and playing a fantastic game. Watching Del Piero and Seedorf exchanging jerseys at the end of the game reminded me of what a beautiful game this is. Even though our Coppa hopes are dashed for this season, the better team went through on this night, and I wish them the best in the final. Seeing their silver star, should they earn it, will be hard, but we did not do enough tonight or last month to prevent it, and so we should make it our goal to be the next one to earn a silver star, too.
I did get one wish, that the game be a fantastic one and no controversies. The other wish, my bet with my husband, was a wash since the match was a draw. So I guess I should be grateful to my boys for getting me off the hook on that one. Certainly, I was very proud of my team tonight. We fought hard, we gave it everything we had left in the tank, and can hold our heads high and look to our next match. This is how these games should be: EPIC.
Our next match is Milan vs. Roma
Saturday, March 24th • 18:00 CET (1pm EDT)
This post inspired by the music of The Damned