Milan-Bologna Review: Stand By Your Man

People who think that all women love Valentine’s Day in all its ridiculous commercialism should not be so quick to judge. I, for one, have always said that if you love someone, you should show it all year round. So this year, I didn’t want flowers or chocolates or jewelry, all I wanted was for Milan to win. Which they did. (For me, of course.) But people are often too quick to judge others, too. Like Balotelli, for example. Too much has been said about him and his performances lately. And don’t even get me started over the social media meltdown about his tears last week vs. Napoli. And yet with one sublime goal, he secured the victory for me and silenced his critics. Well, he should have anyway, but that’s not his fault. The moral of the story is instead of passing judgment, you should always stand by your man.

The team can stand by their man, why can't the fans?

Unfortunately, I knew the scoreline of the first half before I got to watch the actual game. And even my commentator called it a “decaffeinated” half. However, upon watching the half myself, I beg to differ. Maybe it’s because of what I have been through as a Milan fan, but I loved the way we played. I mean, it’s still a work in progress, but there was so much progress in the first half. We held our shape, worked together as a team, and controlled the game completely. Even Montolivo had a few great shots, that’s how well we were playing.

We had a few chances, Krhin had a great shot that forced Abbiati into a fantastic save in the 22nd. Balotelli’s free kick in the 32nd was not controlled by Curci, and Zaccardo was there trying to clean up, but was whistled for offside. The big drama involved Bergonzi, however, as in the 38th, Montolivo and Perez both went for the ball and the result was a point blank shot to Bergonzi’s face, resulting in a giant gash in his lip. More annoyed by having to stop the game for treatment than showing any kind of pain, he did have to go get treatment, but kept a handkerchief or something on his lip to finish out the half before he could be stitched up at halftime. Whatever you may say about ref calls sometimes, those guys are badass. Stand by your man.

Balotelli and Seedorf share another bromance moment

The second half started out okay, but questions started right away. Like why is it only Bergonzi who calls fouls on people who foul Balotelli? The yellow for Natali in the 48th was evidence, as were later calls. Or in the 49th, why was Montolivo taking the free kick when Honda was standing next to him? Has no one watched Honda’s highlight videos? And speaking of him, I know that Seedorf loves his dynamic midfield, but when Honda plays in the middle, he is just a cut above.

More questions, like when Rami collided with Natali, why did he have to go off for treatment and get the bleeding stopped when the ref was allowed to stay on while still gushing blood? (That is a joke, by the way. Bleeding players is not a good thing.) But the biggest question of the second half: why were we so exposed from about the 60th to the 65th, allowing multiple great chances for Bologna? There was a shot high from Cristaldo, but he was past the defense. Then Lazaros rose the dead in Abbiati, forcing another great save in the 61st. Bianchi took a shot in the 63rd, but only Rami was there. Then Bianchi again from distance, and Zaccardo made a great clearance not a minute later.

Not sure if Taarabt is serious about Barca or Real Madrid, or is just trying to win me over...

Here is my theory: Seedorf’s formation/philosophy relies on a strong attack. Pressing and keeping a high line, everyone probably knows that by now. But in the past games, we have seen the midfield split into a Tale of Two Teams™, with all kinds of space to exploit between the defensive midfielders and the attacking midfielders. So I would offer that his philosophy relies perhaps even more on the attacking midfielders playing defense and tracking back just as much as their attack is crucial. Also for the defensive midfielders to move up and the fullbacks to connect all of the pieces as well. In the first half, they did that. But in the second half, tired legs won out, and we lost our shape, lost our focus, and our attacking midfielders especially had a hard time running as much and covering not only the attack, but also going back to recover balls and defend.

So it was up to Seedorf, then to make subs that could make a difference. The first was in the 63rd, De Jong off for Muntari. I’m not even going to touch that one, other than to say that De Jong has been our most consistent and decisive player this year, and I don’t think he needed the rest half as much as say, everyone else on the pitch (barring Abbiati.) Still, it was a timely sub. Then came Pazzini on for Honda in the 66th. Loved Pazzini, would have probably left Honda on, though, since he can’t play on Wednesday, and subbed off someone else who could use some rest before the big Champions League match. And seriously, fans, why would you whistle off Honda? He did very well. Not everyone can be a superstar in every game. Stand by your man. The last sub was Kaka off for Poli in the 80th, which may have been forced by the fact that Kaka rolled his ankle pretty badly in the 75th.

This is what precision looks like

However, whatever questions I may have had about the subs, they were enough to reinforce and make an impact on the game. The fresh legs helped regains our formation a little bit, and the result was enough to create chances like Balotelli had in the 86th. Montolivo passed it in to him, he took one touch and then sent the ball in with perfection from 39 meters out, a shot that was clocked at 91 km/h and curled perfectly over the keeper and into the top left corner of the net. Milan 1-0. Words cannot describe this “wondergoal,” other than “I wonder why people *cough*Boban*cough* are so critical of a player who can just pull on of those goals out of his pocket?” He silenced his critics, then dedicated the goal to his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day. Seedorf grinned from ear to ear, Galliani was giggling like a schoolgirl in the stands, and Perez, who had given the ball away to Montolivo, simply fell to the ground on his back in disbelief. (and then got himself a yellow card, apparently for saying something.) Seriously, people, stand by your man.

Moscachia™ made a late appearance, and Bergonzi handed out another yellow, this time to Friberg, on the pitch less than 3 minutes before he fouled Balotelli. Which begs the question, when does Balotelli play the best? When the ref and his coach and his teammates have his back. People say “he should run more,” “he is lazy,” “he goes to ground to easily.” And yet when he is treated with the same respect others are given, we see him shine. Seedorf after the game said “I believe in him.” Four words every coach should say about every player, but especially about such a maligned and overly criticized player like Balotelli. Granted, he had to send Balotelli out onto the pitch to shake hands afterward, but he did. And that is what is so exciting about this “partnership,” if you will. Seedorf and Balotelli have mutual respect for one another, and I expect the results are only just beginning to show. We just need to stand by our man.

Even Shrek knows a World Class player when he sees one... Why can't everyone else?

The three points were so needed, and honestly quite deserved. We are growing, we are improving, and tonight, we got the result, too. I know it made my Valentine’s Day to see the team I loved so much get three points, even if it was against a relegation-threatened team. Now we face perhaps one of the toughest games of the year on Wednesday against Atletico, with lots of injuries, of course. But I believe that our boys will give it their all, especially Balotelli. If we stand by our man.

This post inspired by the music of The Strokes

Our next match is
Champions League Round of 16
AC Milan vs. Atletico Madrid
Wednesday, February 19 • 20:45 CET (2:45 EST)

Milan-Bologna Review: Stand By Your Man Milan-Bologna Review: Stand By Your Man Reviewed by Elaine on 9:42 PM Rating: 5
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