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Roma 2, Milan 0: The Disadvantages of Europe


In a matchup of 2nd vs. 7th, it was highly unlikely that Milan would prevail in this one. But one of the bigger factors in the game wasn’t necessarily Serie A, but rather the impact of playing in Europe or not, as well as the off the pitch management of the teams. As we discussed on the latest podcast, Roma had the advantage of focusing only on the League and Coppa this season, whereas a weak Milan were stretched even more thin by trying to compete in the Champions League. And if the score were based solely on how well the clubs were run, we’d see a much bigger disparity. Hopefully, thanks largely to this result today, Milan will not have to know the disadvantages of playing in Europe next season.

Roma's defense don't know the definition of unstoppable, they'll stop anyone who tries to score

The match was an epic battle. There is no stage like the Stadio Olimpico that stirs up such passion so intensely. Between the fans and their literal firepower, things were bound to get ugly on the pitch. And ugly they did. But Tagliavento limited himself to only six yellows, exactly three for each team. In total, he called only 13 fouls for Roma and 18 for Milan, although there were so many more. But his pièce de résistance was not carding Robinho for a very, very nasty studs-up challenge from behind on Toloi in the 90th. Toloi was forced into remaining on the pitch injured for the last few minutes because Garcia had used all of his subs, and Robinho was allowed to remain on the pitch because, well, it was Tagliavento.

If you believe Twitter, Seedorf should have been sacked 10 years before coming to coach Milan, all of our players need to be sold, and this was the worst performance ever. But if you actually watched the game, it was a decent performance. Although Roma held Milan to 37% possession, Milan still had 13 shots, with 5 on goal. Compare that to Roma’s 14 shots with 4 on goal, and the difference wasn’t as obvious.

The ref who gives out cards like a Pez dispenser and is also blind as a bat

But the difference I saw was quality. For example, compare Taarabt and Pjanic, playing on opposite wings for their respective clubs, and both 24 years old. Pjanic was poised and his quality evident throughout the match, whereas Taarabt was timid and clumsy at times with only moments of brilliance. His skills are undeniable, but his focus and his consistency are lacking. And that came into even greater focus when you compare Pjanic and Taarabt’s shooting: Pjanic took 4 shots to Taarabt’s 3, with Pjanic scoring the opening goal with his quality. Not just in this match, but throughout the season, of the two players, Pjanic is more consistent and creates more chances for others, too.

Speaking of that opening goal in the 43rd, Pjanic expertly slalomed through Milan’s defense like it was a training drill to win the 1v1 with Abbiati, 1-0 Roma. Which highlights the biggest disparity in quality, between the two defenses. Roma have the best defense in Serie A this year, and despite missing 3 starters to injuries, have still only conceded 19 goals. Whereas Milan have conceded 46 goals this season, and the reasons why were on display tonight.

No Europe does wonders for a team

For example, in the 65th, when Totti beat everyone to get the shot off, but Abbiati amazingly parried out his shot, no one was even in the same country to help him out, and Gervinho easily tapped in the rebound to make it 2-0 Roma. You can make excuses, but when Bonera playing out of position and Constant are your two starting fullbacks, you are bound to concede. Not that Mexes, facing his former club, or Rami, facing his former coach were any match for Roma’s attack, either.

Which brings me to the management piece. Roma obviously spent, and spent well last summer. Not only on the team, but in selecting an excellent new coach. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t. They have been trying to reinvent themselves for some time now, and this season they finally got it right. But for me, their edge was not playing in Europe. Their limited depth was not nearly as taxed as the teams who were playing in Europe, and when the injuries came, they did not impact their form nearly as much as teams.

Not even timely and wise subs could make the difference

Milan, on the flip side, have been nickel and diming their way to gloss over glaring errors in their management for some time now, and it has finally caught up to them. Despite recent reports showing that Berlusconi’s personal wealth has increased, he has refused to invest in the club and has shown even less interest in the way it is being run. Stubbornly and pridefully holding onto Allegri when everyone else and their mothers could see that his time was up cost us the entire first half of the season. Finally bringing in Seedorf so late hurt, but at least his results have shown it was the right move. And that this squad, while clearly lacking in quality in many areas, was capable of far better results than they had been achieving. But they were unfit, demoralized, and laden with injuries, in part due to competing in Europe.

Today, Milan fought hard. Maybe not their finest hour, but surely not their worst. So many chances wasted, but also clearly outclassed. Even Balotelli’s brilliant run in the 32nd was no match for the Roma defense. Roma had home advantage, were perched in second place in the table, and had the quality to deny us at every turn. Compare each Roma player to their counterpart at Milan, and overall, there is such a disparity in quality, it’s not even funny. Take the advantage that Garcia has between experience and having an entire year with this squad, as well as the benefits of not having to play in Europe, and it showed on the pitch today. It’s not to say that Milan didn’t fight, because I think they did. It’s just one of the disadvantages of having played in Europe this year.

What could he do with a full season, a proper rebuild and without the distraction of Europe?

Why Seedorf’s job has been in question, and the way I am sure it is going to be further challenged now by the media is beyond me. I thought he did very well to balance players coming back from injury, many of the players who needed some rest, and players who would be key in a game that was more… umm… winnable – the Derby next week. Subbing off Muntari was important because he was already on a yellow, and could have taken us down to 10 men at any time. Plus Essien needed some time to regain match fitness. Subbing off Balotelli, who was constantly fouled and getting frustrated, was brilliant, and gave him a little rest, too, which he needed. Robinho came on for the largely ineffective Honda and channeled his inner Muntari to make up for it all, too. It’s not always what a manager does when his team is winning that is telling, it’s what he does when his team is losing that shows his strengths, and I felt Seedorf absolutely met the challenge tonight.

This match could have been lost on paper, but it was fought on the pitch. Milan didn’t roll over, they fought to win. But they didn’t win. So many reasons why the squad isn’t good enough in comparison, but they ironically impacted their future today: By losing this one, it is a lot less likely that we will play in Europe next year, one of the factors that contributed to where we are today. Meanwhile, Roma set a new record of 85 points in the league today, a record in points for them. Bravo, very well-deserved. The loss hurts, but what will really hurt more is if we don’t learn one of the lessons that was taught us today: the disadvantages of Europe.


This post inspired by the music of She Wants Revenge

Our next match is
Il Derby della Madonnina
Milan vs. Inter
Sunday, May 4 • 20:45 CEST (2:45pm EDT)