In case you’ve missed every comment I’ve made since the new uniforms were leaked and also my gamepost for this match, I hate the collars on the new kits. Collars are for dress shirts, not football. That’s my quote. And even predicting the Collar of Doom™ to help us win tonight, I did not realize the irony of a white collar win. We didn’t really get our hands dirty, we used our skills and our football intelligence to pull off a win where others might not have been able to. Because we are professional champions, and that’s just what we do. It may not always look pretty, but in the history books, it’s not how you win, only the win itself.
|2 goals = white collar win|
Of course, our boys started the match like a bunch of mercenaries. Boateng had a shot wide, and he and Ibra each had a great shot saved by Consigli before the 4th minute was up. Consigli was a bit of a curse word tonight, he had some crazy notion that he was meant to stop our every shot. And he did, well almost.
At the other end, we had the wonderboy De Sciglio playing right back. This kid is good. It’s a shame he’s got the Blonde Fury in front of him, because with a little game time, he could be the next big thing. Too bad he’s not left-footed.
Anyway, fans did not have to wait long for their professional champions to score. In the 9th minute, Muntari scored on an great cross from Boateng. 1-0 Milan. It was funny to listen to the pundits talking about the “surprising omissions” in the lineup and the bench from Allegri. People, the only thing surprising is that Allegri finally has healthy players to omit. Plus, I think he did a decent job resting players up for the derby on Sunday, which will be a crucial match, not just for bragging rights, but to keep the pressure on Juventus.
|Another Muntari goal allowed!!|
For some reason, after the Muntari goal, our boys took a lunch break or something. Atalanta stepped it up, requiring Nesta to make great clearances like the one in the 13th, when Cigarini’s shot was stopped by Abbiati, but Denis was there to try to take the rebound. Nesta was huge on this night, Allegri had reportedly wanted to rest him for the derby, but a last minute injury to Bonera forced his hand, and thank goodness. I’m not sure anyone besides Nesta could have made those big saves tonight.
In the 28th, Boateng earned himself another Ibra Lecture™, and not the only one on the night. It was clear early on that Ibra was frustrated, and although he had some excellent chances and was whistled offside more than once, his role was seriously diminished in this match. Atalanta kept up the pressure on our boys - well, Raimondi took a little breather after he stopped Cassano’s point blank cross with his stomach in the 31st, but they kept capitalizing on Milan’s mistakes and shooting any chance they got.
|We still love you Nesta, please stay!!|
In addition to Consigli, Atalanta players who really made life hard for our boys included Peluso (Nocerino’s new BFF); Denis and Cigarini, who made Nesta’s and Abbiati’s night more of a blue collar job, and also Schelotto when he came on in the 54th.
Our second half started with a strong attack from our boys again, with even my boy De Sciglio slipping a cross in that Cassano was unable to convert in the 53rd. But then it went back and forth again, with Atalanta taking the ball every chance they got, like the unshakable adversaries that they are. Boateng bodychecked Cazzola in the 62nd, Tiribocchi looked sure to score on a diving header in the 67th, but was called for offside.
Allegri’s subs weren’t as ideal as they had been in the last few matches. Especially considering that amidst the subs, Nocerino picked up yet another knock on the night, it’s amazing that man was still standing at the end. But here’s how the subs worked out: Robinho came on for Cassano in the 68th. Fair enough. Rest the heart patient a little for Sunday. Flamini, who has been all over the media making sure that everyone knows he’s been fit to play for a while now, was finally thrown a bone in the 73rd, replacing Boateng, who also needed to be ready for Sunday. Then Gattuso came on for Ambrosini. I mean it all makes sense if you’re only thinking toward Sunday. But for this match, it was strange. We clearly needed another goal to guarantee the win, and he brings on Flamini and Gattuso, a pair of pit bulls more likely to break someone’s legs than score a goal.
|Nocerino is unstoppable|
In fact, with my amazing X-ray vision lip reading skills (translate: my imagination,) I could swear Allegri told Gattuso “This ref left his cards at home. Do your worst” as he stepped onto the pitch. Which is really true. There were multiple occasions yellows should have been shown, and possibly a loose argument for a red. But maybe he didn’t want to be embroiled in the controversy of this season as it comes to a close. And since no one left the pitch with compound fractures or gaping wounds, it would be hard to argue too much with his hands off approach to the match. I actually like a ref that keeps the game going, I just don’t like endangering our players. I guess you could say I have injury PTSD.
As the game clock was winding down, our white-collared boys began to realize how important it was to seal the deal. Ibra with a rocket in the 80th that Consigli saved, potentially at the cost of his life. Then in the 83rd, Ibra Robinhoed™ it on his best chance of the night. Then, in the 83rd, a roar erupted in the crowd: Lecce had scored against Juve in the 85th, and the score was tied. Hope springs eternal, or so they say, and the electric energy of this news caused our boys to spring in to action, too. 85th: Nocerino shot wide. 88th: Robinho hits the crossbar. 88th: Ibra whistled for offside. 90th: Robinho shot saved. And finally, in the 3rd minute of stoppage time, Ibra’s free kick was punched out by Consigli, only to be headed in by Robinho. (Remember he always scores when he uses his head.) 2-0 Milan in the waning minutes of the match. At the end of the match, we had taken 21 shots, 9 on goal. Not our best effort, but we are certainly persistent.
|We hear you, Bartolacci. Grazie mille!|
This is the part where my evil feminine side kicks in, but if we still don’t manage to wrestle the Scudetto out of Juve’s hands in these next 2 games, this moment would be almost as sweet: Oh, to be a fly on the goalpost of the Juventus stadium when the fans were already dejected about the Lecce draw and leaving to go home when the news of the 2nd Milan goal in stoppage time hit. Like the knife twisting in the back. Yes, it’s schadenfreude, I know, but I have lost dear Juventino friends whom I once respected this season, and I am now numb to Juve’s pain. There are so many ways to think about how much sweeter it will be if we pull this title off, but they are still one point ahead, no reason to get too excited, and certainly no reason to get cocky. We are still in 2nd place and need them to slip up again. Our fate is still in their hands.
|Nope, not even cute on Christopher Cassano.|
So we saw the new kits, but we also saw vintage Milan: amazing attacking football, dumb mistakes, foggy play, but still pulling off the win. It’s not pretty, just like those heinous white collars, but it’s a 2-0 win and 3 more points toward the glimmer of hope that is our Scudetto dream this season. Special thanks to Lecce and Andrea Bertolacci for carrying on down to 10 men and a little mention to my dear Buffon, who made a crucial error in exactly the right time and place for me. Who knew that Conte's hometwon club would help us? He must have burned some bridges there. And if these white collars help us win, I will have a hard time begrudging them. White collars for the win.
Our next match is Il Derby della Madonnina
Inter vs. Milan
Sunday, May 6 • 20:45 CEST (2:45 EDT)
This post inspired by the music of the English Beat