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Benevento 2, Milan 2: Hexed

The writing was on the wall. Benevento with their perfect failure record, just waiting to be broken. Milan having just downgraded coaches, playing away and ready for the slightest change in the wind to drop points to the team at the absolute bottom of the table. And we almost managed to take all three points in spite of ourselves. But with a little help from Mariani, Le Streghe brewed the perfect and most unbelievable spell and conjured their very first Serie A point at the death. At the cost of Milan’s dignity. It definitely feels like we were hexed.

Humiliation, thy name is Milan

The physical part of playing teams at the bottom of the table became painfully obvious, at least for Bonucci, who took an elbow to the face in the fifth minute. Not sure if that broken nose was entirely healed, but I’m guessing that hurt. Not as much as what was coming, though. Although Gattuso lined up a similar system, using the 3-4-3 instead of the 3-5-2, it’s no surprise that a defensive midfielder would have his team play more defensively than a striker like Montella. But in the end, that is what really cost us the points.

The first half we were attacking somewhat, had a number of shots, and, at 3:30am my time, only caused mild indigestion. In all, we took only 12 shots the whole match, but with seven on goal. I would guess that a majority of those were in the first half. Also notable was Romagnoli’s yellow card in the 24th for a handball. But the part where Milan fans breathed a little easier was in the 38th, when after a couple of shot attempts, Bonaventura headed in a rebound to open the scoring, 1-0 Milan.

He's back.

However, the Witches cast their spell quickly in the second half, when Puscas scored in the 50th, 1-1 all. Kalinic took the opportunity seven minutes later to score and put Milan ahead again, assisted by Bonaventura. 2-1 Milan. However, there was dark magic brewing. Despite Gattuso’s subbing of Borini and bringing on Abate in the 60th, which was a well-timed sub, Benevento were conjuring more possession and more shots. In the 75th, Mariani waved his magic ref wand and awarded Romagnoli a second yellow and thus red for an innocuous tackle. And sadly, that was not the most harsh thing in this match. Romagnoli was already set to miss the next match due to card accumulation. And certainly Milan could hold on for just 15 more minutes, right?

Guess again. Gattuso was shown on screen signaling “4-4-1,” which wasn’t so much parking the bus, because busses still have wheels and can move. This was more of a barricade. But barricades can fail in battle, especially when all your soldiers do is defend. And even a team with zero points in Serie A are going to score if you let them maintain possession for 15 minutes. Or maybe 20.

His first in a while should have been the game winner

People are talking about putting the blame on Abate, who conceded the free kick with a foul in the 90th + 4. Or whomever was supposed to be marking Brignoli. But in what could only be described as black magic, Brignoli, their goalkeeper, scored a diving header from the ensuing free kick in the dying minute of the game to make it 2-2. And Benevento got their first ever Serie A point, celebrating like they had won the Champions League Final. Plus, Milan conceded on a set piece, which is how Milan rolled when Gattuso was still playing, so it was an appropriate homecoming for him.

As for the equalizer, though, you can blame whomever you want, but I blame Gattuso. Who goes to a 4-4-1 when you are only up by one point and down a man? Who takes a team that, for two years, has played possession-based, attacking football, and tells them to just defend? If you need another goal to be safe, why not use one of your subs to bring on fresh legs up front? I mean I feel like he had to make the subs he did because he started Montolivo and Borini, who weren’t even up to facing the bottom feeders, and he needed to sacrifice someone after Romagnoli got sent off to bring on Zapata. But last I checked, he’s the one who made those original lineups. And he’s certainly the one who told the team to fall back and defend.

Before the debacle

As I wrote in my preview: “The Witches have absolutely nothing to lose, they have become the joke of Serie A. Whereas if Milan lose, they will instantly become that joke.” I should have also mentioned we would be that joke if we drew, and especially if their keeper scored the equalizer in the dying minute of the match. And Benevento are to be commended, they were determined and deserved at least a point. If this was Gattuso’s debut, when teams are supposed to be motivated and win just because of the change, then I don’t want to think about how low the new Mister is going to take this team. I like to believe it was a learning experience for him and for the team, but something about this whole situation makes me feel like Milan are just hexed.

This post inspired by the music of John Williams’ “Double Trouble”

Our next match is
Europa League Group Stage
Rijeka vs. AC Milan
Thursday, December 7 • 19:00 CET (1pm EST)