Milan 2, Parma 1: The Pregame Show

Well, we played one good half of football again, and got lucky again with the own goal gift from the birthday boy. But considering that this was just the game before the game next Wednesday, and we won’t have Super Mario with us then, it’s not as comforting as the result would appear. But none of this is as disconcerting as the fact that RAI chose to air the Sanremo music festival live instead of the game. Well, okay, Milan's problems are more important. But Sanremo is hardly a pregame show. I want my Milan!

There's only one Super Mario

The game started out pretty shaky. A handball by Boateng, then a near own goal by Yepes in the 7th. Although to be fair, I think Yepes was trying to make Zaccardo feel better for not getting the start against his former team. But a couple of interesting duels appeared early on that gave the game a little extra flavor.

The first was Yepes vs. Amauri. Amauri really seemed to be Yepes’ kryptonite, either that or Yepes was a little shaky from not having started in a while. They would duel for most of the first half. The other was Balotelli vs. Coda. That matchup quickly escalated in the 18th when Coda smacked Balotelli hard across the back of the head. Coda seemed to use the hack-the-star method of playing, fouling hard and often. Like in the 39th, when he jumped into Balotelli’s back with his arms out. Or just a few minutes later when there was a visible scratch on Balotelli’s face. But to his credit, Balotelli kept his cool, which is great, since we really need him for the derby next week.

So many sparks, so little fireworks

Boateng showed us yet again why he is not a striker. I wonder how many more games he’ll be played up front before Allegri will relegate him back to the midfield where he shines. Before you start with the hating, I’m talking about missed opportunities here. Did he have shot on goal? Yes. A shot my daughter could have saved. Did he have the assist on the own goal? Yes, but what does that say about him? He had some breathtakingly amazing cross and shot opportunities, but once again, just played a little too wild to convert them. He even got in the way of Muntari near the beginning of the second half. But it was his cross in the 31st, where Niang was pulled down in the box and thus unable to reach the ball that made fans question whether or not there should have been a penalty. This ref called less, not more, and it’s not as if we haven’t been gifted calls already this season, so no harm, no penalty.

Both Constant and Niang had great games, like when Constant came to Muntari’s aid in the 23rd when the latter failed to make a clearance. Or just pretty much the whole game. The same could be said for Niang, who was involved in almost every decent cross or chance we had, he absolutely bossed it. He had a great run in the 26th where he threatened to score, and that beautiful cross in the 51st where Boateng and Muntari got mixed up. Most people will probably remember him getting upset when it was time for the free kick late in the half, and he challenged Balotelli to take it and had to be calmed down, but for me, he was fantastic on the night. It’s only a matter of time before he becomes a scoring machine, even if he’ll have to grow in Balotelli’s shadow.

Wow, Coda or someone scratches like a girl

Of course, Paletta must have felt bad about us not getting the penalty call earlier. And even though it was his birthday, he gifted us an own goal in the 39th to start the scoring. 1-0 Milan. And that wasn’t even when Milan were playing well.

To be sporting, Milan came back from the half and showed up to play. Some players, such as Montolivo and Nocerino, seemingly went missing, yet their quiet contributions are what enabled Milan’s attack to have teeth this time around. Muntari is still coming back from his long injury, he tends to have moments of brilliance and then be a little extra quiet. But this midfield was a tremendous improvement to the one that got stuck on the island in Cagliari, and it showed in the quality of play.

I believe in Bojan. If only Allegri would give him some time and play him where he thrives

While Amauri had a couple of threats in the first half, Sansone and later Belfodil were more dangerous for Parma in the second. But Milan controlled the game better, and it showed. And while Mesbah gave a couple of our players a little something to think about, of course he was not a significant threat, he played just like a 10th place team’s fullback should play. I’m happy he finally got some playing time and wish him well. And besides, Balotelli settled any score there might have been in the 60th with a hearty foul. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, Djamel. Ouch.

Balotelli dominated in the second half, even more so after the troublesome Coda was taken off in the 66th. But just before that, I nearly gave Allegri a standing ovation for pulling off Boateng in the 65th and putting Bojan on in his place. Of course, Bojan didn’t end up making any significant contributions, but he also didn’t make everyone facepalm every 3 minutes or so, either. It is of note that there were only 2 yellow cards in the match, one to Marchionni in the 66th, and one for Zapata in the 73rd. This is either a credit to the ref or a shortcoming, I am not sure.

Double teamed? No problem.

What I do know is that Balotelli’s free kick in the 77th was sublime, his 4th goal in 3 games. 2-0 Milan. He is the first Milan player to do that since Oliver Bierhoff did it in 1998. But more impressive than the goal itself or this accomplishment was that when mauled by Parma, he kept his cool. Well done, Super Mario. You were my super hero today.

My villain was again Allegri. While I applauded his relatively early subbing of Boateng, he waited until the 87th to make another sub, when he pulled off Niang and put on Traoré. He only used 2 subs ahead of Barcelona, only resting the players who weren’t called up. No one can tell  me he subbed to rest. And it should have been Muntari off for Traoré, as evidenced by the goal we conceded, where, if the antlike perspective of my stream was correct, it was Muntari who ran out of steam and lost Biabiany, who crossed it in for Sansone to score. 2-1 Milan.

Even on a quiet night, his passing is essential to our game.

We are improving in many areas. We didn’t concede from a set piece or a header, for example. And Allegri did make one sub before the 70th minute. With Montolivo and Nocerino added to the midfield, we were able to move the ball around properly instead of that disconnect we saw at Cagliari. So, even if Nocerino plays better on the left, I would still say we improved from the last game. But this team today was not ready for Barca on Wednesday. And when you consider that Balotelli won’t be available, we have legitimate call for alarm. But this pregame show wasn’t the end of the world. Nor does anyone in their right mind expect us to beat Barca. If we play our best, though, we should put up good fight. And with any luck, the main attraction on Wednesday will eclipse this little pregame show.

This post inspired by the music of The Cocteau Twins

Our next match is
Champions League Round of 16
AC Milan vs. Barcelona
Wednesday, February 20 • 20:45 CET (2:45 pm EST)

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Milan 2, Parma 1: The Pregame Show Milan 2, Parma 1: The Pregame Show Reviewed by Elaine on 4:04 PM Rating: 5
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