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Fiorentina 2, Milan 2: The Legend of Tagliavento


This game was meant to be epic. The battle for third place, a team in great form vs. a team returning to form. The latter had taken all three points in the first tie back in November. The former had acquired a new superstar in January. It was supposed to be worth watching at 3:30am. But I apparently watched the wrong channel, because instead, I saw a tragic documentary about a terrible referee. Yes, this match should have been called the Legend of Tagliavento.

"Two more sets of cards, please. I can only card one player at a time right now"

It started out sporting enough. And Milan were looking dangerous. Boateng whipped a shot off in the 8th minute that hit the back of the net, but it was called off due to Balotelli being offside. I think Boateng gave up after that. While he and his hideous new hair style ran around a lot, he simply wasn’t effective for the duration of his time on the pitch. But his poor taste in hairstyle was quickly forgotten in the 14th when Montolivo, captain for the day to face his former club, outsmarted Pizarro to grab the ball, beat the defense, and put it into the back of the net. 1-0 Milan.

Likewise, Tagliavento started out well enough. Like in the 28th, when Muntari easily deserved a yellow card for a bad tackle, he gave the Ghanaian a little talking to instead. But his card-thirsty fingers just couldn’t wait any longer, so in the 35th, when Montolivo gave a blatant and stupid shirt tug on Ljajic, the yellow came out. Ignoring another rough Muntari tackle in the 36th, but filled with an apparent lust for cards, he reached into the other pocket in the 39th when Tomovic elbowed El Shaarawy in the face.

Must... not... celebrate (only on the inside!)

This card defined the match. It could have gone either way. At first I thought Tomovic was the second to last defender, which would have solidified the question as to the intent of the elbow. But replays show he wasn’t. And while many refs would have pulled the red card, many also wouldn’t have. That’s the minefield a ref walks when reaching for the cards. But that’s also when this match ended and the Tagliavento show began.

Sure, there was El Shaarawy’s amazing header in the 34th that was even more amazingly saved by Viviano. Or Jovetic’ amazing rocket in the 35th that caused Abbiati to juggle but amazingly save as well. Abate had a great game at both ends, Montolivo absolutely bossed in front of his former club. Or Fiorentina’s tragic loss of two players to injury in the first half – first Savic in the 30th, then Jovetic, who had been risked for this game coming off of an injury, who came off in first half stoppage time. There could have been an epic story here, but instead it was more of a terrible documentary on the rodeo clown’s backup, Tagliavento. He perhaps tried to make amends by finally awarding Muntari a yellow in the 45th for a tackle on Aquilani, but it was much too little too late.

Another great, albeit scoreless, match for il Faraone

The second half should have been a restart. It sure was for Allegri, as he pulled off the killer midfielder Muntari for the longsuffering benchwarmer Nocerino. (Who had a fantastic run in the 50th, by the way.) And then in the 62nd, magic happened when Montolivo put a beautiful cross in and none other than the former €4m a year man, Flamini, scored a big one. 2-0 Milan. Which just goes to show you that Allegri is right about one thing: If you keep putting subpar players like Boateng and Flamini in, eventually they’ll scored. It’s not talent, or even luck, necessarily. Just that statistically, their foot will connect with a ball from a more talented player and find the back of the net if they play all 90 minutes of every single game.

But back to the backup rodeo clown. In the 65th, Tagliavento awarded a penalty to Fiorentina because Nocerino’s beard might have grazed Ljajic in the box. (I do wish he’d shave that thing!) Seriously, there were actually three Milan players there, but none of the contact I saw warranted the yellow for him or the penalty. But maybe this was an “I’m sorry” call, I don’t know. Ljajic stepped up and cooly converted the penalty, 2-1 Milan.

The very rare Flamini goal would be nullified by the ref

In all fairness, I have to say that Fiorentina were playing incredibly on 10 men at this point. I can’t begrudge them getting the penalty, we were lucky they hadn’t scored from the run of play. But still, it said more about Tagliavento and less about the match.

In the 70th, Balotelli got himself a yellow card. So he will miss our Napoli match. Ouch. And then in the 73rd, another penalty awarded by Signor Windbreaker. De Sciglio, as amazing as he played the rest of the game, showed his inexperience and fouled Cuadrado in the box. Despite the fact that Pizarro stepped up and easily beat Abbiati to make it 2-2 all, the spotlight here still lingered on the Chosen One, Tagliavento. His math skills were unsurpassed, as he determined that 2 penalties = one red card in the 39th minute. But I’m not sure that’s how it really works.

"Finally, someone else screwed up worse than me!"

Back to the match I woke up so damned early for, Allegri went into super-sub mode by throwing on every striker within earshot. First Niang on for Flamini in the 78th. Then Pazzini on for Woody Woodpecker Boateng in the 84th. But Fiorentina fiercely defended, and, despite being on 10 men for over 50 minutes, they managed to average 59% possession and get 9 shots off, 4 of those on goal. They were valiant in the face of so many injuries and playing on 10 men. Mexes was valiant, too, in the 88th, he got really angry, but controlled himself instead of getting a red. He was actually very good in this match, too.

But Tagliavento was not going to let Montolivo and his goal and assist steal his spotlight. In addition to many other blatant non-calls throughout the match, he ignored it when Abate was practically clotheslined and thrown down in the box in the 86th. Or a Roncaglia handball. Or a Balotelli foul in stoppage time that could have easily been a second yellow. I mean, he handed out four yellows to Milan, three to Fiorentina, as well as the controversial red. I don’t know why he was holding back now. But that was the beauty of this documentary. No one understands what, if anything, was going through his mind. I’d feel more certain of my chances of winning the lottery than of getting the correct call with this one.

Even Abate's flying ninja moves were overshadowed by Signor Windbreaker

It’s a shame, though. I tuned in for a football match, and got some twisted referee show instead. It undermined the efforts of both teams, as well as their failings. It was like being Sauron, and he was the Palantir. Our attention was drawn only to one man of the 23 on the pitch. Okay, we might have been distracted by Allegri’s complacent subs and inability to read the game and react properly and in a timely manner, but we are used to that. All of the good performances, and also the bad ones, were completely overshadowed by the Lord of the Cards. Which truly is a shame, because this match could have been epic. All I can say is that the result was probably fair, I don’t know. Milan dominated before the sending off, but Fiorentina absolutely crushed us in the second half on 10 men. Sadly, this result goes to Tagliavento. Let’s hope he is rewarded with a little vacation after this one. That would be the only fitting end to the Legend of Tagliavento.


This post inspired by the music of The Smiths’ “Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me”