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Juventus 2, Milan 1: The Ref



Ever since the Gol di Muntari, every Milan conversation about every match vs. Juventus centers around the ref. Which is a shame, because they’re rarely good looking, and nothing they do is ever as exciting as the things going on all around them on the pitch. From everything I’ve read and seen since the game, this match was no different. Milan were robbed, they say. The ref decided the game, they say. Juve own the refs, they say. All of this from people who’ve never even read the FIFA Laws of the Game, let alone reffed. But the biggest crime is that if that is all they took from this game, they missed a really great match. It was filled with so many good (and bad) things. If you people want to bitch and moan about the refs like that little baby Leonardo, suit yourselves. I loved the football.

This is what we should be talking about

Although Gattuso put forth his offensively constipated 4-3-3 again, and even started Borini, Milan played an exciting game in spite of him. Just barely after the minute mark, Suso had a great run and cross into Piatek, for example, who nearly headed it in. And that was just the beginning. Juve saw Can injured, and he finally came off in the 25th minute, replaced by Khedira, who just had heart surgery a couple of months ago. That in and of itself was amazing.

The most amazing moment of the first half, though, was the goal. Bakayoko took advantage of a Bonucci error (twice as delicious,) then fed the ball through to Piatek, who took it and did what he does best: score. 1-0 Milan. I thought I was dreaming. But it was beautiful, and I honestly wouldn’t have minded if the ref had whistled for full time at the half. But he didn’t. And in fact, in stoppage time, Reina faced a barrage of shots from Mandzukic and Dybala, including a great save in the 45+2nd minute. This was good football with an extra helping of rivalry, and I was loving every second of it.

Juve had no answers for Piatek but to foul him

The second half was even more eventful, with so many opportunities for Milan. We had 16 shots in all, with four on target, while Juve only tallied twelve shots. There were chances from Piatek, Bakayoko, Suso, Calabria, and even Borini. Oh, and don’t forget a couple of beautiful free kicks from Calhanoglu that ended just wide. Juve had their chances, too, one of them being a penalty earned and converted by Dybala for the equalizer. 1-1 all.

The nail in our coffin was the goal scored by Kean in the 84th. 2-1 Juve. It was a great goal, and in all fairness, that kid is so exciting to watch. A shame that Bonucci and some idiot Cagliari fans made him a household name earlier this week for the color of his skin, because he is a damn good player, and people should really know him for that. Also disgusting that Bonucci was the first to embrace him after his goal, clinging to him like a long lost relative instead of the teammate he threw under the bus with racist comments earlier this week.

No Gigio? No problem

The drama mainly surrounded a Croatian player by the name of Mandzukic. First he was mixing it up with Kessie in the 28th (and how stupid could he be? Everyone knows Kessie wins that one.) Then he took on Musacchio in the final minute of stoppage in the first half. But Musacchio got him back in the second half with an amazing block to prevent him scoring, the best kind of payback. Fabbri finally gave him a yellow in the 86th, and just a minute later, he kicked Romagnoli when he was down. Piatek confronted to him to defend his captain, and in a strange move, Szczesny pulled Piatek away instead of his own teammate. Perhaps he knew no one could help Mandzukic? And even in the final minute of the game, he tried to mix it up with Romagnoli again. And those were just the off-the-ball issues, not all of the fouls within the run of play. If you want to criticize Fabbri for doing something wrong, you should ask him why Mandzukic wasn’t sent off in the first half, let alone at all.

So the ref… since that’s all anyone wants to talk about. In the 35th, the ball hit Alex Sandro’s outstretched arm in the box. Some people think it should have been called just because other refs have been awarding similar penalties. How does two wrongs make a right? It took Fabbri and his VAR team three minutes to decide this one, but after a VAR review, they said no. And I agree with them. Despite the subjective nature of the handball rule, Fabbri’s decision aligns best with both the law and the spirit of the law. It was NOT a penalty for Milan. Meanwhile, Juve’s penalty given in the 59th was a clear penalty, even if Dybala was a bit furbo in drawing it. Musacchio fouled him. In the box. Period.

Once again, Milan fans were louder than Juve fans in their stadium. Brilliant.

There could be some claim for a Milan penalty in the 80th, when Castillejo went down in the box after contact with both Mandzukic and a little with Sandro. But first of all, Mandzukic shouldn’t have even been on the pitch still. And while he clearly pulled on Castillejo, Castillejo was also pulling on Sandro, and my personal opinion is that this is why Fabbri decided immediately that it was not a penalty. Perhaps he should have reviewed it with VAR, but I still don’t think it was enough to award a penalty without a doubt. But even if you believe that was a penalty, it is never certain that the penalty would be converted, or that the game would have ended the same. And again, that was not even remotely as exciting as the actual football.

In an unusual perspective, I stand with Gattuso on this one. He said that it was one of our best performances of 2019, and that we lost because of our mistakes. Maybe it’s because he was still playing for Milan when the Gol di Muntari happened and remembers the rancid discourse that fermented both fanbases and destroyed whatever respect for the referees that anyone had before it. But more likely, like me, he acknowledges the football. And Milan did play really well. We just missed too many chances. Juventus were so frustrated, they were whistled for 21 fouls, and those were just the ones Fabbri saw. I think Piatek himself was fouled at least 21 times, no exaggeration. Perhaps Gattuso could have subbed earlier. And used all three subs. We’ve seen that impact many games before, especially when there are injuries. But hindsight and maybes never give you essential points. You look at the good and the bad, take what you can learn, then you look to the next match. Criticizing the ref does no one any good.

These guys are why I watch, not the ref

Milan needed the three points. We lost. That sucks. But short term, this was a thriller of a match to watch, and it was so great to see so many good things from our side, especially against the team that have rolled through Serie A like a tank for eight years now. Despite my new, more intense hatred of Mandzukic as both a player and a human being, I took a lot of good things away from this match. I was crushed about the result, wish we could have held the lead and taken three precious points, but we didn’t. And it was because of ourselves, not the ref.


This post inspired by the music of Ministry’s “Bad Blood”


Serie A Week 32
Milan vs. Lazio
Saturday, April 13 • 20:30 CST (2:30 EDT)