Juventus 0, Milan 0: Man Down

No one knew what football would look like after a sudden and unwelcome three month break. For me, this match did not disappoint on that level, it was better than expected, especially behind the silence of closed doors. However, when Milan went down to ten men after only 15 minutes, I couldn’t help but go to that place that is all too familiar when Milan play Juventus: What if? What if we had not been missing three starters? What if we had not conceded an away goal in stoppage time due to a questionable ref call by Valeri in the first leg? What if Milan didn’t have to play most of this match a man down?

Man down

We can only imagine what might have been if any of those factors had swung in Milan’s favor. And honestly, the result of this tie was completely based on Valeri’s handball call on Calabria, who had his back to the ball, in that first leg. But it was kind of perfect that Juventus would advance to the final without merit, and that Captain Bonucci (I did note the irony) was proud to go to the next round after a mostly lackluster performance in both this match and the first leg, too.

But I digress. Let’s start at the beginning. Ahead of this match, I was simply ecstatic to have football back. There was an appropriately socially distanced minute of silence to honor the victims of COVID-19, after which there was applause by everyone for the healthcare workers who have served on the front line of this crisis. All of this on top of the Milan players warming up with special “Black Lives Matter” shirts, I was so proud to be a Milan fan in that moment.

A rare penalty miss, maybe his man-bun was too tight?

For the first 20-30 minutes, I was beginning to wonder if it was possible for a team to exceed 100% possession, Juventus were so dominant. After a couple of chances, I had a flashback to the first match, when a Milan fullback was whistled for a handball, only this was only 13 minutes in, instead of stoppage time. And this time, it was the right call. I braced myself for the worst as Ronaldo stepped up to take the penalty, only Gigio seemed to get his fingertips on it before it hit the post. Still 0-0.

Before I could even celebrate, though, the whistle blew again. Rebic channeled his inner Ibra (think Ibrahimovic’s karate kick on Materazzi in the Derby in 2010, only Ibrahimovic knocked Materazzi unconscious.) With a studs-to-the-chest flying kick at Demiral, who required treatment, Orsato rightfully sent the Croatian off. Milan were on ten men. For 75 minutes. Man down.

Hero of the first leg, zero of the second leg

The rest of the match was downhill… for Juventus. For a club that claims “winning is everything,” they seemed more than content to take advantage of Valeri’s generosity in the first leg and let Milan do all of the work. Gigio had some great saves, such as the one on Matuidi in the 31st, and the one on Dybala in the 80th.

Despite being without our lone striker, Calhanoglu had a diving header in the 48th that was painfully just wide. Paquetá had the other shot on target, of five shots total. It was reported that he came back to Milanello in the best shape of anyone, and thus earned a start from a coach that had criticized him more than played him up to this date.

No social distancing here

Bennacer and Kessie make a great duo in the midfield, Bennacer bossed time and time again, and Kessie was phenomenal defensively. Speaking of defense, how about Kjaer and Romagnoli? I am such a sucker for great defenders, and Romagnoli stole my heart with his brilliant sliding tackle on Ronaldo in the 54th. Perfectly timed, perfectly executed.

Kjaer stepped it up a notch in this match, nearly scoring in the 79th with a header, but also showing us a great header to clear in the 71st and an amazing stop on a counter in the 75th. I hope poor Musacchio was able to contact his agent afterward, because he may not get any playing time with Kjaer performing that well, and Gabbia showing such promise before the break.

Congratulations to Colombo, who got his senior debut in this match

Juventus registered 17 shots, with seven on target, but that was mostly in that first 30 minutes. After the red card, they really just played keep away from ten men. Meanwhile, Milan fought fiercely. Their second half was much better than their first half, and a neutral person tuning into the match would have been hard-put to identify which team was down a man in the second half.

The game was better than expected, the result was fair for this leg. But Juve going through is very disappointing, because Milan displayed far more heart and grinta, particularly considering performances in both legs. I don’t really mind, though, I’m just so happy to see football again. With the cards literally stacked against us, Milan never gave up. That is all I can ask. They played better than I expected after the break, even with a man down.

This post inspired by the music of Garbage’s “Empty”

Our next match is
Serie A Week 27
Lecce vs. Milan
Monday, June 22 • 19:30 CEST (1:30pm EDT)

Juventus 0, Milan 0: Man Down Juventus 0, Milan 0: Man Down Reviewed by Elaine on 11:50 PM Rating: 5
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