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Sassuolo 0, Milan 1: And the Award Goes To…


On the same day that Hollywood were celebrating themselves in the most ostentatious of ways, Serie A were also rewarding Oscar-worthy performances. There were dives and tantrums, fouls galore, and questionable calls of every shape and size. In the end, it was a penalty taken incorrectly that gave Milan the win. But the award goes to a man with a pocket full of gold… or at least yellow. Calvarese gave out seven yellow cards in the first half alone. And that was not even the pièce de résistance of his performance, either. Penalty calls, penalty non-calls, fouls called, fouls not called, and even some questionable hair moments. So for all of these reasons, it is time to present the highest award in any league or academy for a performance that transcends art and sport. And the award goes to… Gianpiero Calvarese.

Step aside, Oscar. There's a new man of gold.

Don’t worry, Milan still get the win and the three points. But much like at that Hollywood award show, where they announced the wrong film for the best film and all of the acceptance speeches were made before the error was discovered, Sassuolo had to feel a bit like the people from that film. Except they were not nearly so classy. Which shouldn’t be a surprise, really, as all three ex-Milan players were on the pitch by the end of the match. And they came from the Milan who used to swarm the ref and contest every call. But the highlight was actually after the game, when Montella, on live TV, chastised his former Fiorentina player, Aquilani, who said he didn’t touch Bertolacci for the fateful penalty, then mentioned many “shocking incidents” from the match. Montella schooled him and said “Next time we will give you the whistle and let you be the referee.” Which was probably actually a good idea, considering Calvarese’s performance today. Even if Aquilani’s reffing was as poor has his playing has become, it would probably be an improvement.

Why give Calvarese all of the credit? Berardi's penalty miss was Academy Award Winning

But hey, let’s not talk about the ref, like Montella said in all of his class and restraint. So in the third minute, Berardi took out Deulofeu in the box. I could swear Calvarese took out a card, but must have looked at his watch and thought better of it, giving him only the foul, a warning, and Milan the free kick. Five minutes later, Berardi gave him no choice but to card him, the first of nine in all. Keep in mind, Berardi could have technically been sent off at that point. That’s not all about Calvarese, either.  Those were both technically yellow card offenses. Then in the eleventh, Calvarese handed Kuco a yellow for taking down Duncan in the box. So very, very generous of the birthday boy, don’t you think? In a bit of irony, Berardi took the penalty. And even more ironically, he missed that penalty. Which should really be where Sassuolo look to blame, because they had that golden opportunity. But Berardi had used up all of his goals vs. Milan over the last three and a half years, so Karma sent the ball wide.

Let’s see… how to not talk about the ref. Oh. Consigli had a massive game, of course. A giant save on Deulofeu in the 14th, for one. Oh, and three big saves in the 80th, 81st, and 82nd minutes as another example. He faced 13 shots in all, with six on target, so bravo to him. And a little weird for Donnarumma. He came way off his line at least twice, very uncharacteristically. I guess he decided he can do that now that he’s officially a man, but I for one hope he stops that. I mean I can’t blame him with Romagnoli and others out, he’s been left stranded too many times, so perhaps wanted to literally take things into his own hands. But no. Let’s not, please?

Zapata was just relieved that there was someone else on the pitch who made more egregious errors than him

Something else besides the refs… ummm… Deulofeu had a nice game. As did Bacca, actually. He had two goals rightfully called offside, so the penalty he took in the 22nd was a lovely consolation for him. The foul was a little shady, but that was mainly because it was an afternoon game, and literally took place in the shade. It all started with Bertolacci, who has proven himself time and time again more thespian than footballer. In his quest for the Best Actor in a Leaning Role, he seized the opportunity that being surrounded by defenders in the box affords someone of his talents. And Aquilani, hoping for a nod for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, carefully placed his foot so as to poke the ball. If he got Bertolacci, too, it was a very weak call. But Bertolacci’s performance was reminiscent of the legends of clubs like Barcelona, and Calvarese jumped on the opportunity to once again be the center of attention. Which must have actually seemed like that, since Sassuolo swarmed and complained about every call like Interisti. I get it Calvarese, you’re lonely. But you know, you’re going to be even more lonely when you are suspended for such terrible reffing.

I think the infringement was the overzealous Sassuolo players already complaining to the ref before the ball touched Bacca's other foot

Poor Aquilani only took home a golden card for his performance. And Bacca became the new center of attention. As he took his penalty, he slipped, which caused the ball to touch his other foot. That is illegal, and the penalty should have been called off. Not on Calvarese’s watch, though. And in a twist of fate not unlike the Oscar Best Picture Award Gaffe of 2017, Sassuolo players were infringing on the penalty, meaning the penalty should have actually been taken over. So amidst more confusion than a bunch of fake people with loaned jewelry and wearing sparkly dresses, Milan took the lead, 1-0.

I give up. I was going to talk about Montella’s subs or about how Abate was taken down late in the game by some kind of Orc, but no. This game was not about all of that. This game wasn’t really about football at all. Even if Milan managed 51% possession and took one more shot than Sassuolo, the lack of football was quite evenly matched. But unsurpassed were Calvarese’s stats. He whistled 20 fouls for Sassuolo and 17 for Milan, and those were just the ones he called, not the ones he foolishly let slide. If there were something like the tape the actresses use to tape themselves into their cleavage-baring dresses, but to keep Calvarese from pulling out his cards or blowing his whistle for everything… or maybe some super glue even… but I guess that wouldn’t help for the times he didn’t make the calls.

If Calvarese says it's legit, then it is. Go home, haters. Oh wait, you are home...

And so like the “in Memoriam” montages that we see on all big award shows, here is a list of everyone who got a yellow in this match: Berardi in the 8th; Kuco in the 11th; Aquilani in the 21st; Defrel in the 23rd; Peluso in the 26th; Sosa in the 30th; Bertolacci in the 38th; Pellegrini in the 58th; and Duncan in the 90th +3. We mourn for the loss of football. But one man’s loss is another man’s treasure, and Calvarese gave out nine golden cards today. That’s more cards than actresses with plastic surgery at that other show. He was so inconsistent. But like a film that has plot twists and turns, it kept us all going through the five minutes of stoppage time.

My favorite Oscar moment of all time was when Roberto Benigni accepted the award for best Foreign Film for “Life is Beautiful.” But Calvarese’s performance was almost as exuberant and entertaining as Benigni’s that night. Almost. And while we are not supposed to talk about the ref, how can we not? Our players didn’t do enough to win the game on their own. And Sassuolo… even for Berardi’s missed penalty alone, they really still deserved to go home empty handed. But as long as we have refs like Calvarese to keep us entertained and enthralled and always guessing at every plot twist and turn, then it will be worth me being awake at 6am on a Sunday morning to witness such a performance.

Any conspiracy theorists should note that  Calvarese did not celebrate with Milan

In all seriousness, I think Montella’s words were wise. Despite Calvarese being a massive distraction from what would have otherwise been an ugly and difficult match to watch, the ref calls do balance out over the season. Just not for Sassuolo, who did get fewer calls than us both times they played us this season. But that’s because Karma stepped in. Now we are even with them: we’ve each won four matches and lost four matches. And we finally got a victory and broke the curse of the Mapei stadium. After Berlusconi and Brocchi gifted them our Europa League spot last year, I feel like I can sleep tonight without guilt about the win. Although I imagine that somewhere in Italy, Calvarese is still giving his acceptance speech for his incredible performance. Sorry, Squinzi.


This post inspired by the music of Shirley Bassey’s “Goldfinger"

Our next match is:
Milan vs. Chievo
Saturday, February 4 • 20:45 CET (2:45pm EST)

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