Detectives everywhere are still searching for Milan’s midfield. It has actually been missing for some time, but randomly makes surprise appearances, like it did last Sunday vs. Fiorentina. Poor Fiorentina. I’m sure none of their planning ever involved having to play against an actual midfield that day. But I digress. As impressively as Milan’s midfield showed up last week, they were inversely proportionally missing today. As was our clinical finishing, our airtight defense, and all of the smiles we saw last week, too. In this case, the only clue is that the midfield is the key to consistency, hence the desperation to solve this mystery.
|Montolivo calls an audible: "Okay Bertolacci and I are taking travel photos tonight, everyone else do what you do"|
Today was very mysterious indeed, as Milan decided to forego their usual game of two halves and perform well for only the first ten minutes or so of each half. A bold move, no doubt, very risky, and didn’t quite pay off in the result. It actually seemed that it would when only eight minutes in, the miracle of the referee™ occurred. Antonelli sent a long ball forward for Bacca, who was actually offside, thus the defenders were beaten and he finished the 1 v 1 with Skorupski in style. 1-0 Milan. Milan miraculously were given a goal that should have been called off. Which was particularly of note when Maccarone scored a goal in the 29th that was called off for… wait for it… offside.
In the 31st, Empoli were doing this really cool trick where one player would pass the ball to another player who was running in the same direction, who would then pass it to another player, not even being contested by Milan players. Well, okay, Romagnoli tried unsuccessfully to dispossess Saponara just before he crossed it to Zielinski, who then sent the ball through the young legs of Donnarumma for the equalizer, 1-1. If only we had a midfield. Then maybe they could learn that incredible new passing trick Empoli pulled off, or maybe even learn how to intercept passes if someone else has the audacity to try it against us again. It’s all such a mystery.
|He makes it look so easy to score offside|
Milan survived the rest of the first half with a lot more pressure from the home side to stay level, although they had a man down. Alex went down to injury, and Zapata replaced him at halftime. What is it exactly about Zapata? He is his own mystery. He is physically and technically so talented, but has some strange desire to make Mexes more relevant or something. I mean Mexes is obviously only driven to collect both Puskas award nominations and red cards, he has little interest in the art of defending. But Zapata’s inconsistency is more troubling than our midfield’s random appearances, because he actually is talented to begin with. Just didn’t do the greatest today, a poor man’s Alex for sure (or a faster Bonera, whichever you prefer.)
Mihajlovic’ influence after halftime was obvious when Bonaventura, once again the hardest working player for 90 minutes, scored in the 47th, assisted by Niang’s face. 2-1 Poor Niang took a powerful ball to the face from Tonelli, who was trying to clear it. But Niang is so badass that he turned his pain into a cross. Amazing. After that, Milan needed to attack still, but that midfield went missing again. Which left an Alex-less defense stranded to fend off Empoli’s numerous attacks. Montolivo’s biggest contribution, and the only time I remembered even seeing him after the handshakes, was to get in a fight with Saponara (who had just been fouled) and get himself carded in the 60th. I’m sure they were probably fighting over who was nicer.
|Hey, Skorupski, it's your lucky night, you conceded to lucky Jack|
But that distraction was all Empoli needed to take advantage of the resulting free kick shortly thereafter. After the ball was sent in, Zapata slipped and fell, and Donnarumma actually made the initial save. But there were two Empoli players unmarked in the box, and one of them was called Maccarone, or “Big Mac.” And when Big Mac sees an open goal, he can’t help but score. It’s just his thing. 2-2 all. Balotelli came on for Niang, but was obviously not fit and only earned himself a yellow and a couple of missed shots. In fact he was lucky not to see another yellow as he was quite physical. Boateng came on for Honda in the 86th, who was also injured and had spent his final minutes on the pitch with his head bandaged.
The miracle of the referee™ would come full circle when there was an Empoli handball in the box that was not given. Many were upset by this, Mihajlovic even mentioned it in his postmatch comments. However, what comes around goes around. We were gifted a goal that wasn’t ours, and we were denied a penalty opportunity that should have been ours. I’ll take the goal, personally, as a penalty is not guaranteed, and if it had been saved or missed, we could have actually lost this one.
|At least we finally have a left back that shows up consistently|
There is no shame in drawing to Empoli, especially in their house. They’ve been in great form. And we didn’t play that horribly, just not nearly as well as we did on Sunday. So it’s really the mystery that is more troubling, as Milan play again in two short days, and are facing the most disgusting team in the world on Sunday for the Derby, too. I hope Mihajlovic and the detectives find some clues as to where our midfield went tonight, and how we can get them to show up again with some sort of dependability. Because you can’t win games consistently if you have no midfield, we’ve learned that very painfully over recent years. I for one would like to finally solve the Case of the Missing Midfield.
This post inspired by the music of Thundercougarfalconhawk’s “White Devil”
Our next match is
Coppa Italia Semifinal First Leg
Alessandria vs. Milan
Tuesday, January 26th • 21:00 CET (3pm EST)