Cagliari 1, Milan 1: All is Not Lost

Milanisti were commended by coach Pulga on their sporting help to get this match played on the island. But I wondered, as I started watching the match, which island it was? Instead of Sardegna, home of Cagliari, it felt like the island from the TV show “Lost.” However, one sporting gesture deserves another. Astori was kind enough to earn a red card 10 minutes from time, earning us a penalty to equalize this match. Galliani, you know what to do. Get that boy a transfer back to Milan this summer! As for this match, I guess you could say that all is not lost.

Flamini our best midfielder by far this afternoon

The first half seemed like we were still trying to find our footing after flying to the island. Flamini bodyslamming, Ambrosini with clumsy tackles, and Abate racing back for a great clearance only to crash into Abbiati. Balotelli has a talent for the stealth elbows, it seems, and Muntari has a deathwish, he will dive in front of multiple defenders kicks just to try to score. But Zapata redeemed us somewhat with his speed, and when he wasn’t auditioning for the NFL, Flamini had an excellent game, too. Zapata particularly impressed with a supersonic run and fantastic tackle in the 26th, and Flamini had a sweet backheel pass in the 16th. Niang showed his inexperience a bit in this match, like when he earned a yellow card in the 37th. Flamini also frustrated when he wasn’t dazzling, like in the 42nd, he took a sweet pass from El Shaarawy, then ran into the box pursued by only one defender. But he got a little excited and poked the ball forward a bit too far on what could have been an easy goal.

Our half ended in heartbreak, though. A clumsy foul on Ibarbo by Mexes made him see yellow, and gave Cagliari our kryptonite: a free kick. After defending the speed and wiles of Cagliari for 45 minutes, we conceded on a set piece, of course. A beautiful header from Ibarbo. 1-0 Cagliari. We seemed a little lost out there, but I also noticed that Cagliari had a very clear and calculated plan to shut down our offense. Anytime the ball crossed into their half, exactly seven Cagliari players snapped into formation, encircling our strikers and very effectively shutting them down. Their other 3 outfield players were all very fast and able to counter well, so they controlled the game, despite maintaining only 38% possession.

Zapata was monstrous tonight, his speed our saving grace

The second half was more interesting. More fouls, more cards. A total of 17 fouls from Cagliari, and 15 for Milan, as well as 7 yellow cards and a red in total. And yet there were more shot attempts, too. Like in the 47th when Balotelli came close, or at the other end when Conti’s shot went just over the crossbar in the 51st.

Allegri’s subs were also interesting. In the 61st, he sent Boateng on for El Shaarawy, which I questioned at first, but it seemed somewhat effective. However, I still would have subbed differently. After Ambrosini earned his yellow card  and a day off on Friday when we host Parma, Allegri subbed him off for Bojan. The veteran captain was tired, and we needed Bojan, but there were others on the pitch that I felt were being less effective. Things were slowly picking up when Allegri put Robinho on for Niang in the 80th. Whether it was the fresh legs or the time left on the clock, you could see the Milan urgency kicking in.

That urgency seemed to make Cagliari desperate, and that is when Astori showed his true colors. The former Milan youth player grabbed Balotelli and dragged him down in the box, resulting in his second yellow and a penalty for Milan. Cagliari now on 10 men and with no substitutions left, Balotelli stepped up and converted the penalty like a boss. 1-1 all.

The equalizer fully deserved, penalty well taken.

Surprisingly, Cagliari were not going down that easy, managing to attack on only 10 men. But by the 89th, Agazzi would face a barrage of attempts by Balotelli and Bojan. In the 93rd, Balotelli scored an amazing goal, but it was called off as the whistle had blown just before his strike. Not a minute later, Agazzi had a double save against Bojan and then Balotelli. Certainly you could say the game was played to the death.

But I want to know where our sense of urgency was for the first 85 minutes? Or how we couldn’t take advantage of having an extra man? We managed 15 shots, 7 on goal, which is not bad, but why were most of them in the final 5 minutes of play? I also question Allegri’s choice of 3 fairly defensive midfielders in this 4-3-3? It’s like leaving our offense shipwrecked up front, and it’s not like this is a new problem, it’s been happening all season. But the biggest question is why our opponents seem to practice set pieces more than we practice defending them? Why are we incapable of defending set pieces? Is there even a purpose to practicing anything else in training until we stop conceding every goal on set pieces?

This goal would have given us the whole 3 points, plus would have made a great highlight reel

It seems like I wasn’t the only one feeling the Lost analogy. Our boys, and once again, Allegri, seemed a little lost, too. But luckily, our sporting gesture was rewarded with a little luck that we got the penalty, so all is not lost. But it is disconcerting to have such a struggle against Cagliari when we will face another red and blue team in 10 days in the Champions League that is likely to give us a little more trouble. Let’s hope this inspires our boys to work even harder and pull of a solid result on Friday against Parma. We’re 3 points behind 3rd place, better than could have been expected at the beginning of the season. So all is definitely not lost.

This post inspired by the music of Nitzer Ebb

Our next match is
Milan vs. Parma
Friday, February 15 • 20:45 CET (2:45pm EST)

Cagliari 1, Milan 1: All is Not Lost Cagliari 1, Milan 1: All is Not Lost Reviewed by Elaine on 9:12 AM Rating: 5
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