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AC Milan 1, Real Madrid 5: The Sky is Falling

I’ll be the first to admit that I have played the part of Chicken Little, of “The sky is falling” fame, since the end of the season. To be fair, losing 12 of your highest quality players all at once is a bit of a natural disaster of comparable proportions. But I wasn’t as concerned with having a Scudetto-winning or Champions League contending team this season, my concerns are for the future of the club in general. People criticize those sounding the alarm, but the alarm finally got through to some people watching the match tonight. Nothing gets through to people like a 5-1 loss.

Cristiano Ronaldo: "I'll see your goal and raise you one."


Unfortunately, with an alarm like this, people miss the other half of what was good about tonight. Like Allegri going with the new formation, for example. Or the news today of signing Cristian Zapata, who couldn’t come a minute too soon. There were a few bright spots tonight, but if you sit back and think about it, this was really to be expected. I don’t have the figures in front of me, but think of the transfer values of the Real Madrid players vs. the Milan players, and there are probably plenty of them that are worth at least 5-10 times as much. Money doesn’t buy a team, but you also get what you pay for. Tonight wasn’t a disaster, it was Allegri’s chance to try everyone out, give everyone some minutes, and show the world what a Budget Milan™ looks like.

We started out getting absolutely dominated by Real Madrid. They controlled the game, they took all of the shots. Seeing Abbiati back between the sticks again for the first time since the derby was very nice, and he had some great saves, like in the 8th minute and again in the 37thm, to shut down Cristiano Ronaldo. Speaking of Cristiano Ronaldo, at one point, my commentator said “Good strong and in your face defending from Daniele Bonera” when he was defending him. If I learned one thing tonight, it’s that Bonera IS a world class defender. He can only defend against the best two strikers in the world.

Defender of Ballon d'or candidates only

The other one who could defend was Abate. He singlehandedly took Coentrao out of the game. His counterpart, on the other hand, inspired this thought provoking comment from the commentators: “It’s almost as if Antonini wasn’t there.” So a typical night for him. And to quote someone on Twitter (sorry, I can’t find who it was!) “Seeing Acerbi chasing Di Maria almost gave me cancer.” Considering their comparable values, wages, and experience levels, I’d say we should all be on chemotherapy already. We lost 2 of the best center backs in the world, and started Bonera and a Serie B player with 17 Serie A games under his belt. We had to know the sky would be falling.

And yet, we kept Real Madrid scoreless, at least until the 24th. Abbiati’s glove just brushed an exquisitely beautiful kick from Di Maria. 1-0 Real Madrid. But we didn’t take that one lying down. Despite Nocerino’s yellow in the 27th, we managed to counterattack a few times, including a shot by none other than Flamini. Then in the 33rd, we saw the quality and hope for our squad: Nocerino’s immense one-touch assist to Robinho, who also one-touched it right into goal. 1-1 to the half. Casillas was probably left with his mouth wide open on that one, and here I give you the other part of that alarm: we may be a shell of the team we were, but we still have quality. And quality = hope. That goal was every bit as beautiful and brilliant as Di Maria’s strike, and think of how cheap we got Nocerino for! Plus, I didn’t see any Real Madrid scorers go over to a young girl and kiss her hand like Robinho. Milan has certainly not lost our class.

Abate was in "not on my watch"mode, much to Coentrao's dismay

Okay, so Allegri, who NEVER subs, not even when a player is actually dead on the pitch, made FIVE substitutions at the half: Mesbah on for Antonini, El Shaarawy on for Cassano, Amelia on for Abbiati, De Sciglio on for Abate, and Yepes on for Acerbi. While each individually can be praised or criticized (or for most of them both,) it showed the disparity between our first team and our bench, and we were no longer able to hold off the Real Madrid attack. But to be fair, Higuain also came on at the half, and was monstrous for them, taking their attack up a notch.

And so it was, that in the 49th minute, Cristiano Ronaldo scored. 2-1 Real Madrid. While my commentators were sharing facts about Kaka & Ronaldo’s Twitter accounts, Boateng earned himself a yellow. In the 56th, Özil’s free kick rebounded off of the wall, but stayed in the area for a couple of dangerous chances. But Amelia had the lucky posts to help him out on this one.

His contributions are often overlooked,
a serious injury certainly would not be.

The rest of the substitutions, if I caught them all, were as follows: 59th Constant on for Flamini and Urby on for Boateng. In the 69th, Ambrosini came off injured (take a deep breath, he’s still alive) and Traoré came on for him. And in the 78th, Valoti came on for Nocerino. Constant was perhaps the most impressive of these subs, as he came on and was fearlessly attacking, had some nice chances, too.  One has to think, though, with Urby’s earlier preseason performances, that Allegri was looking to find other gems to solidify his first team, and I am going to make an unpopular statement here and say that Urby should start ahead of Boateng, at least until the latter finds his form in this Budget Milan™ squad.

Kaká was promised if he came to Milan, he wouldn't have to face Abate tonight.

Kaká came on in the 62nd, and made a huge difference. To the tune of assisting on all 3 goals that came after that. One could see how much of a difference a solitary quality player like that could make for us. First from Higuain to him to Cristiano Ronaldo in the 66th, that is how you do it, boys. 3-1 Real Madrid. Then, despite a huge save in the 80th by Amelia, just one minute later, he sent the ball to Sergio Ramos for the 4th Madrid goal on the night, 4-1 Real Madrid. Finally, in the 89th, an assist to the young Callejon to make it 5-1 Real Madrid. Ouch.

But take a deep breath. Mourinho fielded a team to win. He put on his starters and made very few changes until late in the game. Allegri intentionally utilized the match to get a look at what everyone could do. Pair up any two players that faced off against each other, and 9.5 times out of 10 Milan players were outclassed, often by a lot. But the first half team kept things level. That defense we all have ulcers about only conceded one goal. Against a team that is way ahead of us in quality. Are you sure the sky is falling, or did tonight actually demonstrate that we’re better than we thought? Don’t look at the scoreline, look between the goals. We’re better than I thought, that’s for sure. And with Galliani’s ninja move for Zapata today, it shows things are likely to get better rather than worse before August 31st.

Galliani showing he's serious about youth,
finding affordable replacements for the senators.

While I will still lose sleep over the long-term management issues we have, this friendly taught me even more than the others where we won that we have the foundations of a successful team, even if some of the pieces are missing or need to finish being formed. This new Budget Milan™ that Allegri said could play “efficient” football just might make those goals of top 3 in the league and getting out of the group stage of the Champions League. If the sky is falling, our boys are not going to let it touch the earth, even if it will rest a little lower than we’re used to. Besides, it was just a friendly. On a baseball field, in a country where Little League baseball preempted two European football powers facing off in front of a record-smashing 50,000 people in that Stadium. With all of that stacked against us, who could take anything seriously?

This post inspired by the music of Ludo’s “Love Me Dead”