Milan have been living the dream this season. Winning with luck and mentality primarily, this match was always going to be a test for us. And it was a test I felt that we passed successfully. We played the youngest starting lineup in Serie A this season (via @OptaPaolo,) and we played a team who have a lot more quality and experience. And we gave them a run for their money. In fact, it really was more of a reckoning for Roma. Could they beat a young team having a good run who have been nipping at their heels all season long? Could they get the three points to put a bit of distance between them? Well they got their three points, but I’m not sure they played as convincingly as they have paid to, let alone to challenge for the Scudetto. So for both sides, it was definitely a reckoning.
|A bunch of kids|
Roma came out in attack, with two shots in the first six minutes, forcing Donnarumma into saves right away (and seeing him take a knock early on, too.) After that, the battle commenced. Milan started to come into their own slowly but surely and it became a very entertaining football game. Fate struck in the 26th when Lapadula was taken down by Szczesny and a penalty rightfully given. But everyone knows now that Niang is the first choice penalty taker, so he stepped up to take it. Now I don’t know what he’s done in training to be first choice, but according to @OptaPaolo, Niang’s penalty record is now four failed penalties in seven opportunities between Ligue 1 and Serie A. That of course counting this one today, where Szczesny redeemed his clumsiness by saving Niang’s penalty in the 27th. To be fair, Szczesny confessed to having studied Niang’s penalties, and he noticed an easy pattern, that Niang switched corners after each failed attempt. Niang, meanwhile, apologized, and has said that Lapadula will absolutely take the next one.
So that was the controversy, otherwise known as an opportunity for shortsighted and shortfused Milan fans on social media to pour on the hate. While a successful penalty could have earned us a point or three at that point, I just didn’t see it like the social media armies of hate do. Fate gave us a penalty and fate took it away (if you spell fat S-z-c-z-e-s-n-y.) It’s not like we played well enough to deserve anything more than we got, and actually we’ve been incredibly lucky this year before this match. Not like Bruno Peres, who left the pitch on a stretcher because of a severe ankle injury in the 42nd, replaced by a familiar little pharaoh, El Shaarawy. Ouch.
|Not the way Romagnoli likes to spend his visit home|
The second half, the epic battle continued. And in the 62nd, due to a clumsy clearance from Milan, Nainggolan was able to capitalize and score the lone goal. 1-0 Roma. After that there were shots, fouls, and a couple of cards. Pasalic had earned his in the 18th, but Paletta got his in the 79th for fouling El Shaarawy. Ironically, it looked to me like Mati Fernandez’ acting skills saw Rüdiger get his yellow in the 84th, but overall, Mazzoleni did a great job of managing a big game. Possession was pretty even, although it differs based on where you look. Which means really that Milan held their own with players who were bought in hopes that Roma could win something. Which they did. They won a match vs. a team who were young and 67% Italian. That should totally be worth their mercato purchases in recent years (insert maniacal laughter here.)
I know it was a loss, I had so very much hoped for a win. Especially with the Strootman controversy. But I’m proud of how Milan played and felt like they played better than expected, as they have most of the season. It was bittersweet to see El Shaarawy of course, but remember that we have their Montella, Bertolacci, and Romagnoli, so that had to hurt a bit for them, too. If there was one game that could truly measure where we are and what we need to get to the next level, this was it. Perfectly timed ahead of the mercato so that if anything happens and we make some deals, it should be obvious what we need. For Roma, it was a victory, but also a wake up call for their aspirations. Their players spoke as if they had won against a big team. Which was flattering, but in essence, they just beat a primavera team. So they may have the win, but Milan came out ahead in the reckoning.
No water bottles were splashed at opponents for this post
Our next match is
Milan vs. Atalanta
Saturday, December 17 • 18:00 CET (12noon EDT)