Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Coppa Italia Quarterfinals – Juve 2, Milan 1: OUR SEASON IS OVER

The Coppa Italia was supposed to be Milan’s objective this season. And today, we were eliminated by Juve. Therefore, our season is over, right? If you think so,  then you may not want to keep reading. First of all, it may have been our best chance of a trophy this season, but it also may be a blessing to not have to bother with one more competition. Secondly, we are only halfway through the league and we still have Champions League, too. But the most important thing about this game is that it showed us that when push comes to shove, and everything is on the line, our boys will fight. Well done, boys. I think our season might actually just be starting.

Only 6 minutes to make a difference. That's our little Pharaoh.

The match was exciting from the beginning, with Ambrosini forcing a save from Storari in the 3rd minute. But it was the 6th minute that El Shaarawy scored, from an awkward Boateng assist. 1-0 Milan. But only 6 minutes later, a clumsy Acerbi foul led to the Giovinco free kick that was perfectly taken, sent over the Milan wall, and into the back of the net past a stunned Amelia. 1-1. And yes, we conceded on yet another set piece. But to be fair, it was a beautiful one.

From there, it was all shots and yellow cards. The yellow cards went to Mexes in the 17th for a bad foul on Giovinco, and to Boateng in the 30th for a foul on wee little Giaccherini. The shots came from both sides, and more specifically highlighted a certain Amelia. He tipped over at least a couple, like the one from Giovinco in the 31st, and had other great saves, too. Though there were a number of outstanding performances, I would give Amelia my man of the match nod, as he really kept us in the game. At the other end, in the 41st, Mexes nearly earned a second yellow as he impeded Storari’s distribution, but luckily, Mazzoleni showed some mercy by only calling the foul despite being surrounded by Juve players, and we stayed on 11 men for the rest of the game.

The speedy little Atomic Ant terrorized our weak defense

I was really impressed with the urgency and hard work of every Milan player in the first half, we’ve been playing some terrible football, but not tonight. And they came out in the second half just as strong. It seemed they might yield to Juve’s pressure, which was intensified after the half, but at the end of 90 minutes, they were still fighting.

Giovinco had been incredibly dangerous, but Conte subbed him out for Vucinic in the 65th, how do managers seem to know who will put the nail in the coffin? Vidal was a red card waiting to happen, only it never happened. He did earn a yellow in the 65th, but after giving El Shaarawy and others a beating the rest of the match, in the 75th, he actually swept Mexes’ legs while Mexes was in the air, yet we were lucky to get a foul called.

Meanwhile, Allegri, clearly having lost track of time yet again, realized in the 70th minute that he should probably uses some subs, especially since this train was heading for extra time. So he brought Bojan on for Urby and Niang on for Pazzini, which were absolutely perfect subs for this match. Meanwhile, Conte fought back by bringing on the bearded one for Marrone in the 77th. Check. Allegri, your move.

Vidal, you break our il Faraone, I break you. Have I made myself I clear?

But actually, Allegri’s moves were already paying dividends. Not only did El Shaarawy, our best defender, have a key clearance, but Niang, not to be outdone, also showed his complete playing style by heading back and helping to recover. He also did some fancy footwork heading for goal, only to be schooled by Bonucci, but he also learned from that. In the 88th, he got in the box and had a header that was just inches wide. And in the 110’, he breathtakingly dribbled around the defenders, only to be stopped by Storari yet again. I hope Allegri decides soon that he is not actually a player for the future, but a player that we desperately need available now.

In the 91st, Ambrosini was subbed off for Traoré. Ambrosini had a great match, and along with Montolivo, who was phenomenal, especially on defense, they really managed to keep us competitive with a team who has a lot more depth and quality than we have. But I didn’t expect such great things from Traoré. He actually had 3 shots, as many as El Shaarawy, including one at the end that forced a great save from Storari, and was nearly identical to his last minute shot last year against Juve. He did well, and I’m glad he’s back from injury. I might actually miss him if he is sold.

It was nice of Allegri to let Urby out of his vault for this one.

Added extra time started with Vucinic looking for the kill. Amelia saved one in the 92’, but in the 95th, after being passed around in the box, he was in the right place at the right time to tap it in. 2-1 Juve. I’ll admit it was painful, but not wholly undeserved. Not unlike his yellow card in the 113th, when his behavior completely detracted from his performance. Speaking of yellow cards, Montolivo also earned one in the 100th. Maybe it’s best we didn’t move on to the semis, with so many cards, we might not have been able to field 11 players.

Not to dwell too much on Amelia, but he had two amazing saves in the 108’ and the 112’, both situations where he was left 1 v 1 and came up big. Breathtaking. The last few minutes, we were determined to get a goal. So many players stepped up and took shots, and every time Storari or the defenders came up big. It was definitely a nail biter. In all, we took 16 shots, with 9 on goal. Not bad. Juve tested Amelia with 12 shots, 7 on goal, it was an excellent night for both sides offensively.

Tonight, you have my sympathy, oh maligned one. I feel for you.

I wasn’t as sad as I thought I would be, mainly because we played so very well. Perhaps the most heartbreaking thing for me was watching Allegri be interviewed immediately after the game. Yes, me, the one who has been calling for his head all season, felt my heartstrings pull watching him talk about it. What could anyone say? He did his job tonight, very little he could have done differently. And the boys left everything out on the pitch for 120 minutes. For once, I agree with him when he said “Milan deserved more.” I mean Juventus are the better team. They simply have a better squad. And they did what they had to to win and got the result. But our boys didn’t have anymore to give, and even managed to keep 53% possession against the league leaders. If we had won, we would have deserved it, too.

Aside from watching poor Allegri’s dream of silverware slip away, I could not be more proud of our team. They played excellent football tonight, and I am so very proud to say that I am a Milan fan. Some may say our season is over, but tonight gave me hope. I’m sure we’ll see more lethargic performances, concede more goals from set pieces, and shed more tears as fans before this season is up. But now I hope that we will also have more exciting performances like this, win, lose or draw. For once I actually enjoyed a Milan match this year, and I like to think they will give me more matches like this in the very near future. Bravo, Ragazzi. Tonight you should hold your heads high. Our season is far from over.

This post inspired by the music of NIN

Our next match is
Sampdoria vs. Milan
Sunday, January 13 • 20:45 CET (2:45 EST)