I was really nervous for this match. Despite what Montella said in his prematch press conference, he was definitely switching up our starting eleven more than I was comfortable with. But they all stepped up. And while we saw a few errors from the likes of Sosa and Gomez that we wouldn’t see in Locatelli and Romagnoli, the team rallied together and got the win. After being down early. There is something that is replacing the heralded winning mentality, and that is good old-fashioned grit.
|So many feels|
My condolences to Mihajlovic, he didn’t deserve to be sacked ahead of our Coppa Italia match in May. And his team really didn’t do him any favors today, they made a lot of errors. Errors which cost them the game. But maybe it’s just as well, now that they are out of the Coppa, they can focus on the league. Certainly with that attacking trio and players like Baselli, they are underperforming.
The opposite of underperforming would be Bonaventura. I think he stole the last of Mihajlovic’s luck at halftime, as he visibly sought out his former coach to greet him as they were coming back out of the locker rooms. That was awesome. He had a good first half and a spectacular second half, scoring one goal and getting the assist on the other. He was like a man possessed. And by that I mean he also fought every minute to get possession and create chances.
|The Tank broke the heart of his Balkan Buddy, Mihajlovic|
I had worried about Gomez, and he started out quite strong and was very solid for most of the match. But I would always start the birthday boy, Romagnoli (who had the flu this time) whenever possible. Paletta has been immense, but where he used to make dumb mistakes, now he just destroys the opposition players. Like in the 14th, he had a bad foul on Belotti, but got away without a card. Then in 19th, he stepped so hard on Belotti’s boot, he put a hole in it and he had to get a new pair. The boot can be replaced, but not the foot inside of it so much.
In the 15th, Bonaventura got free and was not offside, and was dribbling toward Hart one on one, but was caught by faster Torino defenders. Then in the 27th, “the chicken” Belotti, got clear after a couple of defensive errors in the middle of the pitch and scored, 1-0 Torino. It was only fair, I guess, as Donnarumma had saved his penalty the last time we met. But quite disappointing that we think of our exciting young players, and yet it was Paletta, the oldest, who ran the fastest and nearly caught that chicken. Torino were often faster than many of our players, actually, with Ljajic totally schooling Gomez in the 30th. But before the end of the half, there was a sign of things to come in the 35th, when Kuco sent a bullet of a shot from distance, and it went heartbreakingly just wide.
|No, YOU'RE awesome|
The second half started out in a sickening way, with Lapadula trying to run in on goal and instead ending up running his cleats across Joe Hart’s face. He got a yellow for that in the 48th, but he was immediately distressed and pacing around, he was clearly so sorry for what had happened. It seemed to affect him the rest of the game, too. He was still trying as doggedly for those chances, but was more clumsy and awkward than usual. Hart did not have a concussion, apparently, but got bandaged up and was sitting up and laughing right away. He probably was giggling saying “Lapadula” to himself, but will probably not be giggling when he sees those scars for life. Because he was the keeper, though, the incident was responsible for most of the whopping seven minutes of stoppage time at the end of the match.
It was in the 61st that Kuco sealed his 50th appearance with a great equalizer, assisted by Bonaventura. 1-1 Milan. Suso had taken a shot and Bonaventura raced down the flank to send the cross in for the one Mihajlovic had named “the Tank.” (And that’s when Mihajlovic learned what it feels like to get run over by a tank.) Just two minutes later, Bonaventura got his goal, from a great cross by Suso. It would be the game winner at 2-1 Milan.
|Literally nobody does it better|
In the 69th, Donnarumma had a massive save on Belotti. Massive. Belotti was coming in one on one, and Donnarumma shut him down and made the save with his legs. Will there ever be another keeper this incredible? I don’t think so.
Also incredible were Montella’s subs. Never one to sub early, Calabria made his injury comeback in the 79th subbing on for Abate, who had just picked up a yellow in the 78th for a foul on Belotti. That chicken took a beating today. At the same time, Pasalic came on for Kuco. Torino went down to ten men because Barreca got a second yellow and was sent off in the 87th for a bad foul on Suso. So in the 89th, Montella finally brought Locatelli on for Sosa. Sosa was only marginally better than Montolivo for me, and the main difference was that he actually runs. Pretty sure Locatelli is going to keep that starting spot.
|There's a sight for sore eyes. Welcome back, kid!|
Lapadula showed the aforementioned clumsiness in the fourth minute of stoppage time, as he was free one on one with Hart, dribbled around him, but took so long that a Torino defender schooled him and took his blatant chance on goal. There were a couple of late free kicks from Ljajic, but to no avail. Not even the one in the final play of the game when Joe Hart came out of goal and down to the other end to try to help. You cannot say Torino didn’t try, but their errors ultimately sent them home.
Whether or not we can get past Juve three times within three months we'll just have to see come January 25th when we meet them in the quarterfinals. But what impressed me with this match was that the winning mentality has slowly turned into a more tangible grit with which the players play all 90 minutes with. The tactics and skills are slowly improving, too, but it is still that unmistakable and concrete belief that is propelling us to all of these wins. Let’s hope we have enough saved in the tank for Monday, when we will face Mihajlovic and Torino again, but this time for three points in the league. And this time in their house. I like to believe that even if they’re a little tired and have to travel a little, we’ve got an even better chance now of taking Monday’s match, too. Because grit.
This post inspired by the music of Inno Milan
Our next match will be
Torino vs. Milan
Monday, January 16 • 20:45 CET (2:45pm EST)