Champions League • Milan 0, Atletico Madrid 1: WMDs

There is a precedence for falsely claiming that someone has Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs.) But I am not worried about that tonight. There are at least two players on the training tables at Milan tonight as a direct result of Atletico Madrid. Plus a scoreline that does not tell the story of this match. And also, my shattered heart. I think that is evidence enough that Atletico not only have, but have used their WMDs at the San Siro.

Capable of taking on WMDs

The attack on my heart, the scoreline, and our players’ fitness began from the first whistle. They attacked and controlled the pace of the game, which can really only be described as frenetic. And then their method of operation became clear: destroy. Take no prisoners. Like in the 9th minute, when Balotelli was blatantly fouled for the first of so many times on the night. The shots began, remarkably from both sides. In fact, Kaka took one in the 14th that hit the crossbar, not sure if Courtois got a fingertip to it or not.

So Milan fought back with a vengeance. In fact, in the 16th, Rami had to jump over Taarabt just to avoid taking him out. Which was good, because just two minutes later, Taarabt sent the ball in to Poli whose header was only saved by a brilliant Courtois save again. But in the 19th, Insua delivered the first WMD in the form of a nasty tackle on De Sciglio (meanwhile De Jong was being fouled almost simultaneously, no call.) Insua could and should have seen red for that, leaving Atletico on 10 men, which easily could have changed the game’s outcome. But he only got the yellow, as well as a united Milan squad coming to defend their fullback. In the 22nd, Balotelli was fouled again, by Koke and another player, and in the 25th, Garcia’s header was saved by Abbiati, who ironically spent a year on loan at Atletico.

At least the Primavera got to showcase their hard-earned silver

Not surprisingly, Seedorf was forced into bringing on Abate for the wounded De Sciglio in the 26th. But that’s okay, because at the other end, Balotelli was beasting it like always, holding up two defenders and sending in a sweet backheel to Kaka, whose shot was just inches over the crossbar. Of course, in the 33rd, Balotelli had to be treated for a bloody lip, another foul not even called. Milan’s defense held firm. That may be the first time I remember this season being able to say that about 89.9 minutes of a game. In fact, I was incredibly impressed with how Milan were still able to attack, being so under siege themselves. They would marginally dominate possession with 52% on the night, and taking 13 shots, five of which were on goal.

In the 37th, Balotelli was again double teamed and fouled. And in the 41st, Suarez earned a yellow for fouling Balotelli (double-teamed again.) He had a shot in the 42nd that went just wide (it’s hard to get those shots off when you’re constantly fouled.) And in a turn of fate, Abate got a yellow in the 44th for pushing someone (so Godin took that opportunity to take down Kaka, but of course, no call.) And in the last minute of stoppage time, yep, you guessed it: Balotelli was fouled again as he was double-teamed again. I see you, WMDs.

Wonder what his critics could do if they were constantly double-teamed?

The second half amazed me even more. Although Milan took their foot off the gas a little, they still played with more heart and drive than they had all season long.  Defensively, they worried me, with a number of passes back to Abbiati. As the cameras casually panned to the stands, where Prandelli was, amongst others, the fouls from Atletico piled up –  20 in all (that were called.) Kaka had another shot wide in the 59th. Big Game Bonera™ didn’t show up, but luckily his evil twin, Daniele, didn’t either. Some guy called Bonera played a decent enough stop-gap kind of center back, but did manage to earn a yellow for fouling Costa in the 61st. Balotelli was double-teamed and fouled in the 68th, and then fouled hard by Costa in the 69th, landing harshly on his shoulder, which he held for most of the rest of his night. At least Costa was rewarded with a yellow card for his WMD launch.

Taarabt, who is clever enough to realize that one of the names in this opponent was ‘Madrid,’ had an excellent audition for his desired Barca or Real Madrid destination, with a lot of attempted assists and shots, and some great hustle. But then again, most everyone played their best tonight. After Balotelli got knocked again in the 77th, Pazzini replaced him in the 78th. And the WMD attacks started almost instantly on him, too. Rami got fouled hard in the 81st, but we already knew he was tough (I wonder if his stitches in his lip healed yet from Friday?) But in the 83rd, the ultimate WMD was launched, of course in the form of a corner. And yet we were still better than before, it was a bit odd, really. Abate tried to head the ball away, but sent it behind him, instead, where the unmarked Costa headed it in. 1-0 Atletico. And so much for my heart.

The irony of this camera angle and focus is not lost on me.

In the 85th, the exhausted Poli was subbed off for Constant… bet you forgot he was originally a midfielder, didn’t you? But Seedorf was out of options, anyway. After Pazzini was fouled in the 86th, Rami released a rocket of his own, only to see it go just wide. Then he followed it up with a tactical yellow, for stopping Costa in the 91st. The final yellow was handed out to Adrian Lopez in the 93, for a series of fouls, really, of which he was only part of. Full time, WMDs launched, my heart shattered, two Milan players with worrying injuries, and an away goal stolen. What many noted would be our last home Champions League match for a while ended in disbelief and pain, especially for the 65,000 plus fans who cheered their heart out to such an inspired performance.

Personally, I thought Atletico were better than that. I can’t believe they had to resort to thug tactics. I mean, they’re tied for first in La Liga, and we are languishing midtable in Serie A, and if it weren’t for the one split second of loss of focus, we would have at least pulled the draw. Still, I am not ashamed of the loss. Only worried about our injuries. Seedorf only had 19 players to call up in the first place, and we’ve got a trip to Sampdoria on Sunday as well as Juve and Udinese to play before we take the long road to Madrid for the return leg in three weeks.

For someone who won the CL 4 times with 3 different clubs, this wasn't a bad coaching debut

However, after playing so well tonight, Madrid will not be sleeping as comfortably in the next three weeks. They’ll know that unless they launch all of their WMD’s and take out our entire squad, they are not assured of advancing in the Champions League at all. So tonight I’ll pray for the doctors at Milanello and for our boys, that we can come back fighting, and in three weeks’ time, show Atleti why we are seven times Champions League champions. We may have been besieged, but we are not going to let them take our spot without a fight on the pitch. Hopefully this time, without all of the WMDs.

This post inspired by the music of Chick Corea

Our next match is
Sampdoria vs. Milan
Sunday, February 23 • 15:00 CET (9am EST)

Champions League • Milan 0, Atletico Madrid 1: WMDs Champions League • Milan 0, Atletico Madrid 1: WMDs Reviewed by Elaine on 6:01 PM Rating: 5
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