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Coppa Italia • Milan 3, Spezia 1: Free at Last


Milan progress to the Quarterfinals to face Udinese after dispensing with Serie B side Spezia tonight in the Coppa Italia. With all of the events of the past week, and interim coach Mauro Tassotti in charge, no one really knew what to expect. And to be fair, in the opening minutes, it was difficult to tell which team was the Serie B team. But like prisoners seeing the light of day for the first time in a while, the team experienced an awakening that was visible to the eye and came together with a performance that showed what many fans have believed all along… Milan were not playing to their potential under Allegri. So with excellent player selections and prudent and timely subs, Tassotti led the team many called ‘not fit to wear the Milan jersey’ to a convincing win with a performance that was actually starting to look like Milan again. Free at last.

The goal scorers 
New coach Clarence Seedorf arrived at the San Siro for the last 20 minutes of the match, having just stepped off the plane from Brazil, but his arrival did not eclipse the performance. It took about 25 minutes for the team to settle in and find their rhythm. With a delicious midfield of Poli-Montolivo-Cristante and Honda starting alongside Robinho, with Pazzini getting his first start after injury, it wouldn’t be long before the goals started to flow. So in the 28th minute, Robinho kicked off the scoring… with a header from a fantastic cross in from Pazzini. 1-0 Milan.

That was all it took for the confidence to come flowing back to the squad. Pazzini, who missed several sitters throughout the match, scored a fantastic goal on the volley with a pass threaded in from Poli in the 32nd. 2-0 Milan. The third goal came from Honda in his first start, a fantastic rebound from a Montolivo shot that Leali had saved. 3-0 Milan.

He's back.

But it was more than the goals. Players were linking up and passing and actually doing something with the 63% possession they have been known for all season. We pressed high and relieved a lot of pressure from the defense. And speaking of defense, they did well when tested. The lineup of Zaccardo-Mexes-Rami-De Sciglio was almost ideal, with only Abate’s fitness causing him to make what is likely our strongest back line right now. Yes, they conceded a goal in the 91st with a classic lapse of concentration, but otherwise held tight despite missing their “5th defender” in De Jong.

Tassotti’s trust in youth was evidenced by starting both Poli and Cristante in the midfield instead of the usual brute squad (as well as De Sciglio on the left, of course.) Then he brought in Petagna in the 71st, just barely returned from his loan at Sampdoria, to give the youngster some minutes. His other subs were perfect, too, Birsa on for Honda in the 64th, with Honda still reaching for full match fitness, and Birsa needing time after returning from injury. And his final sub was in the 78th, with Nocerino replacing a tired Robinho.

Even the crowd was distracted as Spezia scored, looking at Seedorf

It wasn’t perfect, and as Seedorf said at the airport, “We have a lot of work to do in order to bring Milan back to the top.” But it was refreshing and comforting for fans who have suffered so much this season. Comforting to see that yes, our youth are talented enough to start, at least in a Coppa Italia match against a Serie B team. Yes, Honda and Rami are quality new signings, and should definitely give the team a much needed defense. Yes, when we don’t field the brute squad, we can actually do something with all of that possession. Yes, Pazzini is back. No, we don’t need someone screaming “Dai Dai Dai” for 90 minutes, and when Tassotti said “It was a good game,” it actually was. Tassotti in one game showed fans what this team is capable of. Which had to leave Seedorf able to sleep tonight, knowing that he does, in fact, have something to work with. And so a collective sigh of relief spreads amongst Milan fans everywhere, and I could swear that I heard the hearts of players and fans alike cry out “Free at last.”


This post inspired by the music of “Milan Milan”


Our next match is
Milan vs. Verona
Sunday, January 19 • 20:45 CET (2:45 EST)



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