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AC Milan 1 (8), Manchester United 1 (9): Penalized



The only thing worse than an Interista is a Manchester United fan. And the only thing worse than a Manchester United fan is an American Manchester United fan. When they weren’t playing with beach balls, doing the wave, and trying to see themselves on the big screen during the entire game (instead of watching), they complained at every ref call, even some that went their way. Some of them chose to cheer their team only when they made a hard foul or if there was a Milan fan injured with, say, a possible head injury. But they cheered the penalties as if it was a World Cup final. I’m guessing that’s the only part of the game they understood. A shame that ignorance isn’t penalized.

Penalty number 26

Now that we have the one negative part of the match out of the way, can I just say how incredibly amazing it was to see our team play live again? I was completely starstruck with every single player that stepped out on to the pitch. Their warmups were very organized, and most of the workout was not on the ball. That is the opposite of when I had seen Allegri’s team warm up at the San Siro, which was kind of like a bunch of kids just shooting for fun. They were focused and in sync and looked more like an army preparing for battle than players preparing for a friendly.

Structured warmup = disciplined soldiers

Gigio fell really awkwardly during warmup, and was a little off after that, I think that may have contributed to the goal he conceded. But after that, he was a monster. What was crazy impressive was how incredibly loud it is when the ball hits his gloves. You never hear it on TV over the ridiculous drivel of the commentators and all of the spectators. Just shows how much power is in those shots and how massively strong and talented he is. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen Gigio make those incredible saves right in front of your very eyes. Wherever you are in the world, start saving your money today to see them play.

To watch Gigio in person is nirvana

Cutrone is far more of a beast in real life than he is on TV. He may play even harder on defense than on offense. That guy is everywhere. Watching him off the ball is like watching a predator stalk its prey. He is so powerful and fearless, yet also clever and cunning. It was amazing to watch him interact with the team on and off the ball. Headed clearance as the last defender? Cutrone. Swift and powerful shot to rattle the keeper? Cutrone. Wait, who made that amazing cross? Cutrone. I loved him before, but I worship him now that I’ve seen him play live.

Even deity has time to give a wave to his followers

I don’t have time for everyone, but both Suso and Calhanoglu bring so much skill as well as mentality to the team. Watching their set pieces is like watching an artist paint a masterpiece. But you can feel the momentum change for the whole team when they take a nice shot, or even score a goal, like Suso did in the 15th, as a quick answer to the Alexis Sanchez goal we conceded in the 12th minute. It’s a palpable feeling, the energy that they both bring, like the literal winds of change or something. Both very different players, but both key players physically and psychologically.

Exquisite set pieces

Calabria has grown so much, he just raced up and down the flank, owning it. Pepe Reina surprised with some saves and especially the penalty saves. Kessie is like a superhero that just absorbs impact and keeps going. The way he keeps the ball is artistry as well as skill, it’s like he has a personal relationship with the ball. Borini plays well enough, but should not be allowed to shoot or take penalties.

A goalkeeper that knows how to take penalties. Yes, please.

Milan dominated possession, with 59%, but in a familiar story, Manchester United were more clinical. Milan took 17 shots with four on goal and Manchester United took 13 shots with ten on goal (hence Gigio and Reina’s heroics.) They were also far more physical: Manchester United had 19 fouls to Milan’s eight. If you ever doubted the claims that the Premier League was more physical and the Serie A more tactical, last night’s match lived up to the stereotypes. And it was more obvious to those of us there, too, because their douchebag fans only emphasized the disparity. But at the end of regulation, there was no disparity on the scoreboard, so on to penalties.

The infinite loop of penalties

It would take a whole other post to cover the 26 penalty shots taken, so I’ll just use ESPN’s graphic to spell it out. If the game had mattered in any way at all, the penalties would have been stressful. But it didn’t, so they weren’t. We got to see some great players take their penalties, and see some great saves, too. Oh, and the rarest of all, Nikola Kalinic hitting the back of the net. If I wasn’t there to see it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it. But at the end of the day, like Kalinic, Milan lost. With a score of eight penalties to Manchester United’s nine. Penalized. But whatever, I got to see my team. And I also got to meet Gattuso, which was epic beyond compare.

Yes, I met the legend.

All Milanisti everywhere should take the opportunity to see Milan play at least once in their lives. I know for most of us, it is a massive expense to get to the San Siro. But if you love Milan, it is worth every penny. This match was in my backyard, which was convenient. After stalking them all over Los Angeles all week, it was nice to drive less than half an hour to see the team of my dreams play. But the game lacked the incredible feeling that one gets upon entering the San Siro. It also lacked a worthy competitor or opposition fans that were even decent human beings. But still, I got to see my boys play. And even in prehistoric surroundings with Neanderthal opposition fans, that was priceless.


This post inspired by the music of The Doors’ “L.A. Woman”


Our next match is a friendly
Tottenham vs. AC Milan
Tuesday, July 31st • 7:35pm CDT (Wednesday, August 1st 4:35am CEST)