Sunday, May 19, 2013

Siena 1, Milan 2: A Numbers Game

The most important number we take from this game, of course, is THREE. Milan finish number THREE in Serie A, which means we can qualify for the Champions League for next season, something we’ll tackle probably starting in late August. But there were lots of numbers in this game that mattered. (And a few key people, too.) It was not Milan’s finest hour, but in the end, it was our hour. And even if we were incredibly lucky, it just proves that karma isn’t always what they say she is.

They dreamed the impossible dream
Despite Milan’s quick, zealous start that tested Pegolo, Siena quickly settled in and looked for ways to catch us off guard. With only 35% possession, they managed EIGHT shots, if only TWO on goal. Milan, on the other hand, took TWENTY-ONE shots, with NINE on goal. But those numbers may be a little misleading, because Siena stayed dangerous throughout, whereas Milan seemed more, well… lucky.

Milan were lucky in so many ways. After some bad luck with Siena’s only goal in the 25th by Terzi to make it ONE – ZERO, both Ambrosini and Montolivo were getting heated from relatively early on and making some rash tackles. Ambrosini, for example was doing some massive shirt pulling in the box around the TWENTY-FIRST MINUTE, but Siena didn’t get the call. Milan were lucky that only Ambrosini was sent off, and that we finished on TEN men. Of course, Bergonzi being a terrible ref, but equally terrible, also gave Terlizzi TWO yellows, sending him off just TWO minutes after our captain, for Siena to also finish on TEN men.

Galliani probably needed his medication after this one

Speaking of cards, FOUR other Siena players saw yellow cards, while only ONE other Milan player received a booking, which was De Sciglio in the 72nd. However to put things in a little bit better perspective, Siena were whistled for TWENTY-SIX fouls, as opposed to Milan’s ELEVEN. When you look at those numbers, it was only a matter of time before Bergonzi made a call that might have seemed controversial. But just like a bad pop song that gets stuck in your head worse after each time you’ve heard it, he may have seen one too many fouls when he made that call.

That call was the penalty given to Milan for a foul on Balotelli by Felipe in the box in the 82nd. While I initially argued it was a definite penalty, the luxury of multiple replays convinces me that it was kind of soft. But like being haunted by that bad pop song, Bergonzi had had enough. So had Iachini, apparently, as he was sent off protesting this injustice. But Balotelli stepped up, and converted his TWENTY-THIRD penalty of TWENTY-THREE in his professional career. 100% penalty conversion, and ONE all.

Dogpile on the Frenchman

While most of us still couldn’t believe our luck, Milan fought back with tenacity, and it was rewarded with the FIRST goal scored by a Milan defender in Serie A this year. Mexes scored in the 87th minute to make it TWO – ONE Milan. This was also, fittingly, the ONE THOUSANDTH goal scored in Serie A this season. While it felt incredibly lucky, those who believe in karma may believe that perhaps it was fitting, as Milan had a claim for another penalty in the 58th, when Mexes, the game winner, was elbowed by Rubin in the box, but there was no call.

The Siena fans shouted “Ladri” or “Thieves,” and threw things onto the pitch, as other members of the Siena staff were sent off, too, but they should maybe look at the numbers. While Milan were once again somewhat forgettable during large parts of the match, we did deserve this win. Allegri’s lineup was controversial again, but his subs worked out pretty well. Pazzini replaced Niang at the half,  El Shaarawy came on for Nocerino in the 59th, and finally Constant on for Abate in the 79th. We also deserved to win because Allegri, with the luck of a pack of Leprechauns, nearly subbed Mexes off in the 79th, but he didn’t.

With Milan's fate decided,  Allegri's fate is next

How did he know not to sub him? Who knows, but somehow he did. And with his crucial goal, we won game number THIRTY-EIGHT, a mere NINETY minutes to make or break our Champions League dreams for next year. And after our worst start in SEVENTY years, to finish THIRD felt better in some ways than when we won the Scudetto. With so many emotions, it’s hard to put it into words. All I can say is Grazie, Ragazzi.

This post inspired by Sesame Street’s “The Count” and the music of the Champions League anthem

Watch for the Milan Obsession Season Wrap up Podcast Coming Tuesday!