For years, Milan has had a mentality issue, that is no secret. First with that coach-who-shall-not-be-named who used to scream “Dai Dai Dai” as his only solution for the very problems he created. Then the laundry list of coaches since then who were given the task of making wine from water and obviously failed to work such miracles. Finally, Montella came along. And earlier results would seem to indicate that maybe he had solved the mentality issue. Then January came, and it became painfully obvious that he had simply masked those problems, and we were reaping the consequences. But whether today’s win was a one-off to test our mentality, or if it is an indicator that there is some permanent change, it was an incredible result against all odds. Certainly, it taught me to never say Dai.
|They look scared, bored, or mildly amused... no sign of the grinta that would win this one|
We knew it was going to be a tough test. After four straight losses, mentality was not high coming into the match. In fact, I thought the players looked kind of scared before kickoff. And with Destro & Verdi starting, I also feared the curse of the Milan ex, too. My fears were all rewarded almost immediately, even if Da Costa saved Deulofeu’s shot in the 5th minute with his manhood. Not sure which was more painful, that or the loss. Additionally, considering he was deputizing for Mirante, who had an injury to his buttocks, it seemed that Bologna’s goalkeeping troubles were becoming increasingly more intimate.
In the 18th, things started to get really dirty, though, as Mbaye shoved Paletta ahead of a Bologna free kick, and Paletta answered by shoving him to the ground. That was a yellow. Donnarumma answered with a save on Krejci in the 21st, then it was Abate’s turn for a yellow. It was like he was adding insult to injury for Simone Verdi, as if never being given a chance in the first team wasn’t bad enough. Speaking of bad enough, after Donadoni called out Doveri for his calls last year in this same fixture, Doveri did everything to give Bologna the advantage. There were 11 cards handed out in all, six of which went to Milan, including two double yellows. Hope Donadoni was happy.
|Romagnoli's injury hurt... maybe us more than him|
Things weren’t starting off great, then Romagnoli went down injured in the 30th. No questions, he immediately called for a sub. That’s bad. Very bad. So Zapata came on a minute later. Just in time for Paletta’s second yellow five minutes later. Milan were on ten men in the 36th. Ouch. But they kept fighting, apparently the theme for this match. With one sub already used, Montella didn’t make another change until the second half, sacrificing Locatelli for Gomez. That’s right, you read that right, he pulled our regista to add a defender. I mean I seriously thought maybe he was trying to throw the game. But now that it all worked out, I suppose we’ll see that kind of thing again. Scary.
Even more scary is that seven minutes after coming on, Gomez went down injured. But after some treatment, he was back on the pitch, in time to make incredible back to back blocks in the 54th. Even Vangioni had a beast clearance on Dzemaili in the 57th. But as if we didn’t already have our backs up against the wall, with Bologna really starting to take advantage of the man advantage, Kuco, who had seen yellow in the 53rd, got another in the 59th and was also sent off. Milan on NINE men. Nine.
|"Run, run, as fast as you can... you can't catch me, I'm the Catalan man"|
In a move that was even more inexplicable than his halftime sub, Montella used his third sub to replace Bacca with Poli in the 62nd. Yes, you read that correctly. We’re on nine men, and he does that. Now I was certain he was throwing the match, and that he didn’t even care who noticed. Was he just a huge Donadoni fan and wanting to give him a gift? Or was he just toying with Bologna all along? I didn’t know, but 17 minutes later, Poli got injured. However with no subs left and only nine men, he had no choice but to stay on. Here is where I will go with a very unpopular opinion: Poli on for Bacca was genius. Bacca is clinical, but he doesn’t inspire his teammates. Poli works very hard, and I think it may have just been his grinta that inspired his teammates to pull off the win. It certainly wasn’t his mad skills.
In the meantime, after Donnarumma’s many saves, in the 65th, he had just a massive save on Krejci. Pretty sure the 24 year old Czech is going to reconsider his life choices after having so many shots saved by a 17 year old. Then Da Costa saved on Pasalic in the 68th, while Deulofeu’s shot in the 70th hit the crossbar. That’s right, on eight men plus Poli, Milan were finally creating chances. In fact, Bologna took 20 shots but only five were on target. Whereas Milan, who normally share numbers like that, only took five shots in all. But four were on target. Four out of five shots on target. Amazing.
|The moment of truth|
It was that fifth shot that gave this game its infamy. In the 89th minute, Deulofeu with some incredible skills dribbled and turned around his defenders, saw Pasalic making the run, and sent in the perfect cross for the latter, who just nailed it home. Literally in the pictures, you see the horror on the Bologna players’ faces. The team that was down two men and playing an injured Poli just scored on them with a minute left in regulation. 1-0 Milan. Inconceivable. And despite the five minutes of stoppage time for the walking wounded, Bologna were not able to react.
When I watched the Super Bowl on Sunday, I couldn’t believe the comeback that the Patriots made to win in the first ever overtime of any Super Bowl game ever. That day, the red and black team suffered. But this time the red and blacks made the comeback, and the red and black team prevailed. I’m honestly crushed for Bologna and Donadoni. They were at home. They had every advantage. And then every advantage again. And really, after losing 1-7 to Napoli on Saturday, which was worse? Losing to an injury and suspension-laden eight and a half man team in the final minute of regulation? Or a full-strength team who scored early and often? And what team wins like that on eight and a half or nine men anyway? Was that Montella’s mentality in full glory? Or just a very lucky anomaly? Tonight, I don’t care why. I’m just so thrilled they played so well for the full 90 minutes, especially against all odds. It just goes to show you that you should never say Dai.
This post inspired by the music of U2’s “War” album
Our next match is
Lazio vs. Milan
Monday, February 13 • 20:45 CET (2:45pm EST)