Sunday, January 6, 2013

Milan 2, Siena 1: Reaching New Heights

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this match. The first match back after the break is always a little tricky to predict, and with all of the controversy this week, this one was even harder. Maybe it was just the early hour here, but this win didn’t make me as happy as usual. We were missing our center backs, and a lot of initiative, at least in the first half. Add in the penalty call, and conceding another goal on a header, and I kind of wish I had slept instead.

Rising above racism
The first half was enough to lull anyone to sleep. Well, except for Kevin Constant. He bossed the left side, showed off his mad skills, and kept Siena well away from goal on that side. It seemed like the ball only came forward through him, and he put in some nice crosses, too. But he did also lose the ball a few times, and his dominance faded throughout the match. That may have been due to an apparent injury he sustained in the second half, let’s just hope it’s nothing and he’s ready for Juve on Wednesday. I wanna see him boss Asamoah again.

There was little urgency in most of the rest of the team, and a distinct inability to connect up front. When El Shaarawy crosses it in so many times and no one gets to it, it might not be his cross. He was stellar, of course, creating chances for others, taking chances himself. Like in the 13th, a great shot that forced a super save from Pegolo. But he also took a beating from Neto, who did manage to keep him off of the scoreboard. Siena played a rough game, they would finish the match with 21 fouls and 5 yellow cards. In the 41st, Ambrosini looked like he took a dare from Mexes and attempted some sort of sideways bicycle kick that was quite entertaining. Entertaining like when you see your dad hop on a skateboard and try to do tricks and end up at the Emergency Room. We need you on the pitch, Capitano. Maybe let the kids do the tricks.

Constant was head and shoulders above the rest of our defenders today

As is our apparent gameplan this season, the boys came out with a little more urgency in the second half. But they still weren’t being effective. Like the massive facepalm on the early corner, Ambrosini earning a dumb yellow in the 49th, and crosses that didn’t reach their intended destinations. But that all changed in the 56th, when Allegri sent Bojan in and pulled off Nocerino. Immediately thereafter, Siena took a shot that forced Abbiati into an epic save. But I just have to say, Amelia wouldn’t have stopped that one. Glad Abbiati got the start.

From that point forward, Milan were on the attack, and kept Siena’s defense very, very busy. As my commentator pointed out, bringing on Bojan was crucial, because “At last El Shaarawy has somebody on the same wavelength.” No kidding. Same skill level, too. Constant was subbed off in the 63rd for Antonini, there’s more than one reason I don’t want to see Constant get injured.


In the 67th, the magic took shape in the form of a Bojan goal. 1-0 Milan. Not a huge surprise for most fans, who want him to be a starter. But the bigger surprise was that the cross came from Boateng. Yes, the guy who had been crossing blanks and moon launches and giving the ball away the whole match. Well done.

Contrast that with the 73rd, when Pazzini came running in on goal with a high boot on the keeper, then got in a childish shoving match and earned a yellow card. He’ll miss next week’s match against Sampdoria for that. Just six minutes later, he would go down in the box and be awarded a penalty. While there is often some controversy in these situations, I couldn’t tell you with a certainty if it was a penalty or not. Between my bleary eyes so early and the stream I was watching, it was hard to know. But it was given, and Pazzini converted it, 2-0 Milan.

Pazzini FTW

Abate showed us why we don’t miss his crosses, there were a number of shots – we weighed in at 10 shots with 3 on goal for the match. And then it happened in the 87th: we conceded yet another goal from a header. 2-1 Milan, Paolucci with the goal. The disturbing thing about this was that it was our 11th header conceded on the season. And yet we were playing our 24th unique defensive line in 26 games. Gee, Allegri, do you think there’s a connection? Not that it could really be helped today with injuries and suspensions. And this center back pairing today would be my “most likely to concede a header” combination, too. Still, when it comes to reaching new heights, we should be scoring headers and blocking them, not conceding like a broken dam and setting records for it.

In comparing the rules for the drinking game from the first week of the season until now yesterday, I realized that we still have the same problems. This match officially marks halfway through the season. And while we’ve made some nice discoveries like Constant and De Sciglio, and we boast the league Capocannoniere in El Shaarawy, we haven’t learned our lessons. Conceding on set pieces, and headers more specifically, seems to be our biggest bane. Allegri still struggles with consistency in our lineups, particularly on defense, and why he has ever started Boateng in front of anyone else, least of all Bojan, is the greatest mystery the world will ever know. Interesting that our biggest weaknesses are all the responsibility of one man. Hmmm….

El Shaarawy tests Pegolo's super save abilities

We’re climbing the table, we’re eeking out the wins in the second half, and we have conceded the most goals from headers in the league. Will it be enough? Will we learn our lesson? Will Allegri ever be sacked? Not if we keep winning, no matter how ugly. But that’s okay. We have the second half of the season to find out. At least for today, we can enjoy another victory. I know our boys are working hard, and hopefully the mercato will bring even better things for us. We are reaching new heights, one way or the other.

This post inspired by the music of The Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights”

Our next match is
Coppa Italia Quarterfinals
Juventus vs. Milan
Wednesday, January 9 • 21:00 CET (3pm EST)