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Milan 2, SPAL 1: Waiting for Borini



Coming into this match, everyone with a friend in journalism or maybe just a Twitter account was criticizing Higuain and Milan for their goalscoring droughts. Gattuso’s fate rested on this match, they said, and the players all said they wanted to score for the Mister. But all of that senseless babble missed the crucial key for Milan to score again: Fabio Borini.

Amidst all of the celebrations is the humble, incredibly fit Borini

If you follow Milan closely, you’ll remember that the last time Borini played in the league was a glorious 37 minutes in our 2-1 victory over Parma, where he most notably received a yellow card. After that, we were told that he was injured. But no one ever told us what his injury was, what his prognosis was or when he would return. He did not appear on injury lists, he simply disappeared. Was he abducted by aliens? Did Montolivo kidnap him in an effort to get playing time as the 26th best player in the team? Did Lazio Ultras put something in his food to make him ill so they could get that fourth place back? Perhaps we’ll never know.

What we do know, however, is with him called back up into the squad, the scoring began again. Well, kind of. Romagnoli forced a Gomis save in the eighth minute, then put one past him in the ninth… but it was called back for offside. Then Petagna, our former hulking young prospect, was giving Romagnoli a very physical challenge when he sent a shot in that appears to have deflected slightly toward goal by Romagnoli to make it 1-0 SPAL in the 13th minute.

Castillejo empowered by Borini's mere presence

That was not how Borini rolls, though. So Castillejo, not known for his physicality, shoved the SPAL defender away and simply equalized in the 16th minute in a goal that was perfectly onside, 1-1. There were notable shots from Kessie, Bakayoko, and Calhanoglu in the first half that all went just wide or over the bar, too. But this game was not to be like the four goalless draws for Milan which preceded it, it wasn’t even going to end in a draw. Because Borini.

The second half was getting scrappy, with cards flying and shots being missed everywhere. Once again, Milan doubled the amount of shots – 22 in all compared to SPAL’s 11 – but ended with the same amount on target: four shots on target each. How did we win, then? One 6’5” difference was Gigio Donnarumma, who came up with a massive save on Fares in stoppage time. But the other difference is that Milan had Borini.

At least someone believed in Higuain

The San Siro “fans” were whistling Higuain, who was visibly frustrated and wanted to score more than all 48,000 of them combined. So Gattuso, clearly emboldened by the presence of Borini’s incredibly fit physique alone, sent on a double substitution of Cutrone and Calabria for the kill, replacing the goalscoring Spaniard, Castillejo, and the injured veteran warrior, Abate, in the 62nd minute. Even with such a bold move, SPAL were like deer in the headlights to the Borini Effect™.

Not two minutes later, Higuain, finally unmarked in the box, took the shot. 2-1 Borini… I mean Milan. Those same “fans” who were whistling him just minutes earlier were now cheering him as he wiped away all of the goal drought from his body. So immense is Borini’s mere presence in the stadium that Abisso showed Zapata a yellow in the 73rd, apparently for getting fouled? It’s impossible to say, the ref was clearly not thinking clearly. I can’t blame him. Milan’s medical staff did reportedly say that Borini was the most fit Milan player ever upon his arrival. Abisso is just a lowly ref, who could blame him for getting so distracted?

It's no Dragon Ball Z celebration, but Borini makes that okay, too

Suso apparently tried to bring Abisso back to reality in the 79th, but instead got a yellow card for dissent. Which is noteworthy, not only because too many or our players have become too much like Gattuso and been getting dumb yellows for dissent, but also because it cost him dearly ten minutes later. Yes, in the 89th, Suso committed a dumb foul that was card-worthy, but because of his big mouth, it became a red card. Milan were down to ten men. Unless you count Borini, then we actually had a huge advantage over SPAL (but don’t tell anyone.) And now we will be without Suso for the Supercoppa vs. Juventus. Don’t worry, though, as long as we have Borini, we’ll be just fine.

Suso sacrificed himself for the greater good... Borini can play instead

Speaking of Borini, he was subbed on in the 82nd in Gattuso’s final masterstroke of the evening. I thought Gattuso was giving the fans a chance to applaud Higuain one more time after so much controversy. But then I realized: they weren’t cheering for the man who won us our first three points in four league matches. They were cheering because they had been waiting for Borini.


This post inspired by the music of AFI’s “Perfect Fit”