Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Celtic 0, Milan 3: Some Italian Mob

In a crucial match for both teams, it was hard to know what to expect. On paper, Milan had the better team, and the advantage of a convincing 2-0 win at the San Siro in September. However with Milan falling apart and their current form so abysmal, as well as the massive 12th man advantage that is playing at Celtic Park, it really could have been anyone’s game. But it wasn’t. It was Milan’s, and with a shock defeat of Barcelona by Ajax, Celtic said “ciao” to their European dreams this season. I’m sure Barcelona will give them a proper sendoff at the Camp Nou in a couple of weeks. But their exit from the Champions League this season will be credited to some Italian mob.

Haters are gonna hate, but haters also don't have any chance left of more European football this year
(as tweeted by @theeurofan)
Earlier in the day (7am my time, to be exact,) Inzaghi’s Primavera kept Celtic’s U19 team honest with a 1-1 draw, which also sealed their youth team’s exit from UEFA’s Youth League this season. So how fitting that our senior team came out swinging after kicking off at Celtic Park. Well, came out defending, anyway. Celtic started the match at a frantic pace, and it was clear that we would be tested. To the tune of 20 shots, actually, 10 on target. So Abbiati had a huge night and this clean sheet should be extra sparkly clean. And Bonera had a Champions League performance, bless him for that, too.

But it was Kaká who broke the ice in just the 12th minute. 1-0 Milan. In the ultimate irony, he scored a header from a Birsa corner kick. Yes, you read that right. Not only did Milan not concede any set pieces or headers, or even concede at all, they scored a header from a corner. But that’s not all! In the 49th, it happened again. Birsa curled the ball in from the corner to an open Nocerino who sent it back across toward Zapata who tapped it in, no mistake this time. 2-0 Milan. So two corners, two goals for Milan, not against. That certainly is some Italian mob.

A deflection took the last one from you, but they couldn't take this one from you, Zapata!

But the scoreline says we scored three goals… how was the third goal scored, you might ask? That would be Balotelli. That’s right, after 6 matches and 56 days of not scoring, the big man came up big to put the nail in Celtic’s coffin in the 60th. Montolivo sent a long ball forward, and he brought it down, outmuscled his defender and put it in past the keeper. 3-0 Milan.

So what was different about this match? How did Milan pull this off after so many poor results? Well for one, the team met Celtic’s pace. They also played with heart, focus, and determination for 90 minutes. Despite many different lineups this season, Allegri’s perennial favorites Matri and Muntari were not missed. For one, Balotelli was played as a true center forward for the first time in a long time, which is where he plays best. And using Poli instead of Muntari helped the midfield to be faster and more functional, and Poli was also able to fill in at fullback for a while when Abate left the pitch due to injury. The 4-3-2-1 formation seemed to click with this group, for once they appeared to know what they were supposed to be doing, it gave them direction and clarity. Those are two very important elements that Milan’s performances have been missing of late. All in all, it changed this team from a band of misfits into some Italian mob.


It’s not to say that Celtic had a poor performance. They played a terrific match, and also played with heart for 90 minutes. The marking on the two set pieces was all too familiar for us Milan fans, I can absolutely empathize with them there. But if I could, I would give their fans an award. They deserve the Champions League trophy for the best fans in Europe. Their fans also had heart for 90 minutes, and rallied their team for the entire game, even for the last 30 minutes when they were down three goals. Even their youth team fans earlier were the best in the UEFA Youth League.That is a lesson we Milan fans could learn, to support our team with all of our hearts, no matter what.

And speaking of fans, my thoughts go out to the Ajax fan who was seriously injured after falling from the stands in their game vs. Barcelona tonight. Football is passionate and wonderful, it is always horrible when someone gets hurt supporting their team.

Heineken's Top Player for this match, Milan's lord and savior this season

But back to our favorite team, we had a couple of worrying injuries tonight. Abate had an ankle injury and was unable to continue. Robinho also had a shoulder injury that looked very worrying, despite only playing ten minutes. They will both be examined soon, let’s hope they will be able to shake off the injuries and continue playing. We certainly don’t need any more long term injuries this season.

I am very proud of our team’s perseverance. After so much criticism from the fans and media this past few days, they pulled together and got a result against Celtic again. They will still have to take out Ajax at the San Siro in two weeks, but they put belief back into the hearts of the fans and themselves alike tonight. That takes mental fortitude and strength well above the average team, and well above what we’ve seen this season to date. They silenced the haters and showed, even if it’s only for this match, that they do have the talent and heart of eleven lions. Even if some would have you believe they are just some Italian mob.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Here in the USA on Thursday, I will be celebrating Thanksgiving with my family, and I would just like to express my gratitude for all of you who share my love of Milan with me and make this little corner of Milan such a great place. Thank you to those who read, those who have commented, those who have been podcast guests and written guest posts, and those who chat with me on Twitter. I am truly grateful for all of you. So even if you weren’t celebrating, Happy Thanksgiving! Feel free to let me know on Twitter what you are thankful for at @milanobsession

This post inspired by the music of Andrea Boccelli

Our next match is
Catania vs. Milan
Sunday, December 1 • 12:30 CET (6:30am EST)