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Coppa Italia Quarterfinal • Milan 1, Inter 0: Turn of the Tide


Coming into this match, Gattuso said it was like a World Cup final and that the Derby “could change our season.” Those were bold statements from a coach who has looked more lost than found since he was appointed. And whose team’s results were only marginally better than their performances during his tenure to date. But maybe his words were magic. Or maybe Inter just sucked worse than Milan. Either way, emotionally, particularly in one particular moment, this actually did feel like the turn of the tide.

A magical and very emotional moment

Everything seemed to be going wrong heading into this match. First Gigio got a minor injury in training yesterday, and was pulled out of the squad. Then Storari was injured in warmup, apparently a worse injury, so Antonio Donnarumma was set to make his debut, and Gigio was put back into the squad, just on the bench. Then there was the rain, steady and wet. Things weren’t looking good.

But Gandalf Gattuso made one very big change that really made a difference in the team’s performance and confidence: man marking. A bold but commendable choice by Gattuso. I think some might say it is a lower level skillset to the traditional defense, but it visibly helped each player to focus and know what they were supposed to be doing. And it gave Inter exactly zero room to breathe. Completely stifled them. In fact, most people might not even know Icardi, Serie A’s current capocannoniere, was on the pitch, unless they had seen him shake hands with Bonucci at the beginning of the match.

That yellow card was totally worth it

It was still a tough match. Not in skills so much, more like which team would suck the least. Physical and battling, there were plenty of fouls and a few cards that defined the match. But VAR also played a part. In the 23rd, Perisic seemed to have opened the scoring. Then we realized that it was Antonio Donnarumma’s own goal. But as the VAR refs reviewed the play, they noticed that Inter’s favorite defender, Ranocchia, only playing because of others’ injuries, was actually offside, so the goal was called back. And while Milan looked pretty deflated when the goal was still a goal, they snapped out of it when it was called off, and I’m not sure Inter ever did.

Milan’s injury list grew once again in the 50th when Abate got a calf injury. So he was subbed off in the 53rd for Calabria. Gattuso got one tactical sub, which was Calhanoglu on for Locatelli in the 73rd. Then he had to sub Kalinic off in the 76th for Cutrone due to injury. But what a fateful sub that would prove to be. But I digress. Milan’s best chance in regulation was in the 79th when Suso’s shot hit the crossbar. Another injury scare in the 90th+3 when Kessie fell awkwardly and hit his head, but he continued to the bitter end like the soldier that he is.

Channeling his younger brother, but with heavier feet

With the match still tied at zero at the end of regulation, it went to extra time. And that apparently was what Milan needed to kill the match. In the 104th minute, Suso sent the ball forward perfectly, and Cutrone, on the volley, just tapped it in beyond Handanovic. 1-0 Milan. The San Siro exploded. There were about 50,000 fans expected, but the pure emotion was on the pitch. Cutrone ran, ripping off his shirt, and jumped up to hug Bonucci. If you did not tear up while grinning from ear to ear at that moment, you are dead inside. It was beautiful. Moments like that are why football exists. Well that and watching the dejection on the faces of the Inter players and fans. But all I was thinking about at that moment was the joy of Cutrone’s goal.

Something else to think about is Antonio Freaking Donnarumma. The point blank save on Joao Mario in the 59th may have been his masterpiece, but after getting the own goal called back from a VAR review, he was simply amazing. He came out of his box in the 52nd and nearly gave me a heart attack, but coolly cleared the danger. And I lost track of how many saves he had, even if I still remember a Karmalicious save on Perisic in the 87th. I am certainly eating my words about him, and I think many others, are, too.

A very deserved celebration

Part of the magic may have come from a visit from the enigmatic Yonghong Li. He was shown several times, and seemed particularly concerned when players were injured. After the match, he said “We win as a team, we lose as a team. Only through teamwork we can achieve great results like we did today.” And it was a great result. Only it pits us against a two leg semi-final against an impressive Lazio in a competition we maybe shouldn’t worry about at this point. I would say that the most important turn of the tide would be that with this being Inter’s third straight loss, the evil eye of Sauron the media may change its focus onto our cugini for a while, taking some pressure off of us.

Gattuso is no Gandalf. He’s not even a wizard at all. In fact, he called himself the worst coach in Serie A in his postmatch press conference. And I think he may just be right on that one. His dumb ritiro was proven completely foolish and ineffective after the team actually performed better as a team today after getting some time with their families. But just for today, we achieved victory. Not only over our ugly, crying diva cousins, but also over our waning mentality. The emotions of Cutrone and others were so powerful because we have all suffered so much. Maybe this will just be one insignificant win at the end of the season. But for today, it certainly felt like the turn of the tide.


This post inspired by the music of Howard Shore’s “The Lord of the Rings” Soundtracks


Our next match is
Serie A Week 19
Fiorentina vs. Milan
Saturday, December 30 • 12:30 CET (6:30am EST)