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Champions League • Milan-Ajax: Amazing


Milan are through to the Round of 16. If you didn’t believe in miracles before, surely you do now. After the miraculous and lucky season we had last year to qualify for qualification, to qualifying vs. PSV in August, to doing just enough to be in the driver’s seat for this match, Milan’s path to the Round of 16 was full of miracles. But in the end, it won’t matter how we got there, only that we did. Amazing.

There are no words.
The first half started out fairly promising, with a Balotelli free kick in the 4th minute that had to have bruised the Ajax keeper when he stopped it. Abbiati showed his form early on with a massive save in the 19th, he would have 11 saves on the night, despite having some pain from a muscle injury. But it was the 22nd minute that changed the game, when our noble captain, Abbiati Bonera Kaká half of the rest of the team who have been at Milan longer Montolivo stomped on Christan Poulsen’s ankle. I mean, who hasn’t wanted to do that? But there was no reason, no real threat, just one of his overzealous and clumsy fouls he frequently displays. And it was right in front of the ref’s assistant, too. So he saw a straight red, Milan were on 10 men for over 70 minutes.

In a strange and quick reaction, Allegri puled off El Shaarawy for Poli in the 24th. But after the match we learned that this was largely due to a knock El Shaarawy picked up to the same foot he’d recently broken. Needless to say, the rest of the match was a blur of Milan defending, Abbiati saving shots, and eventually Milan fouling, earning cards, drawing fouls, and wasting time. Whereas Ajax spent the game passing and creating chances and taking chances – 23 in all. They took 669 passes, with 549 of those completed, whereas Milan only attempted 327 with a paltry 207 completed. No wonder Ajax manager Frank De Boer said that anti-football won on the night.

De Jong beasted against his former club

But heart also won. Milan have not been able to string enough discipline, focus, and heart together to do enough in Serie A this season. But when push came to shove, even playing some of the worst footballI’ve seen them play in recent memory, in the Champions League, they have faced the 90 minutes with the hearts of 11 lions. Tonight, when their captain made a terrible mistake, they banded together and parked the bus. But they did it together, and they did it like a momma bear defending her cubs. So maybe De Boer didn’t like it, but Milan earned the draw playing on 10 men for most of the game. Amazing.

As for our card situation, both Montolivo and Muntari will miss our next Champions League match – Montolivo because of his sending off, and Muntari for yellow card accumulation after he was cautioned in the final seconds of the match. Yellows were also given to Balotelli in the 71st for putting his studs to someone’s calf, De Jong in the 83rd for timewasting, and De Sciglio in the 88th. So it wasn’t pretty at all.

Abbiati played through pain and saved Milan again and again

But football sometimes isn’t pretty. And even if De Boer was frustrated because his young side were eliminated by a bad ref call in Amsterdam and 180 minutes of anti-football vs. Milan at home and away, the bottom line is that Milan are progressing to the Round of 16. At the end of the day, like it or not, results really are all that matter. And this season, Milan pulled out the results against all odds. Amazing.

So now we look to the draw in Nyon at 12noon CET on MONDAY. Our possible opponents we could meet in the Round of 16 are Manchester United, Real Madrid, PSG, Bayern, Chelsea, Dortmund, and Atlético Madrid. Stay tuned here on Monday for details. (This is a correction from my original post)

The prospects are daunting, but making it to the Round of 16 is like a trophy to us

Until then, I will dream of Champions League glories of the past and of the future. It is unlikely with our league form that we will be in the Champions League next season, or maybe even a season or more after that, so even with poor performances and a lot of luck to be here, tonight I will dream. Thank you, Milan, for the heart you’ve shown this season in the Champions League, and for believing in yourselves against all odds. Despite the odd circumstances, you’ve given us back some of the joy that we’ve been missing by qualifying for both the Champions League Group Stage and Round of 16 this year. Amazing.


This post inspired by the music of “Inno Milan”


The Champions League Round of 16 Draw will be held

MONDAY, December 16 • 12noon CET (6am EST)
(correction from original post)