AC Milan 3, AC Sparta Prague 0: The Portuguese Inquisition

There is a classic Monty Python sketch called "The Spanish Inquisition," in which three Spanish Cardinals burst on to the set shouting "No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!" and listing their chief weapons as fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope, and nice red uniforms. Tonight at the San Siro, Sparta Prague probably didn't expect the Portuguese inquisition. With two of the three goals scored by our young Portuguese players, our principal weapons were youth, skill, ruthless efficiency, an almost fanatical devotion to winning, and red and black uniforms. No one expected the Portuguese inquisition.

Youth, skill, ruthless efficiency, an almost fanatical devotion to winning...

Despite the fact that all three goals were scored by 21 year-olds, it was our most experienced player, Ibrahimovic that got the match started with a shot that went over in the sixth minute. Despite taking a nasty little knock to the ankle, he then assisted Brahim Diaz's tasty goal in the 24th, 1-0 Milan. Brahim Diaz is like that kid who just likes to give you a second to think you can stop him, then effortlessly dribbles around defenders and goalkeepers to punish them. And of course, to celebrate, the 5'7" (1.71m) young player went over to hug the giant 6'5" (1.95m) Ibrahimovic in what is fast becoming my favorite Milan meme, "Come to papa." Amazing.

In the 36th minute, Lischka was punished for pulling down Ibrahimovic in the box, and Milan were awarded a penalty. I am not sure what was more shocking about this: Ibrahimovic hitting the bar and missing the penalty, or the fact that the penalty was given in the first place. Serie A refs rarely ever award Milan a penalty when our Swedish giant is pulled to the ground. The refereeing was almost otherworldly compared to Monday's debacle, and honestly quite refreshing.

Starting to expect this Spanish Inquisition

It was at halftime that Pioli authorized the Portuguese Inquisition, using the weapons of fear and surprise by replacing Ibrahimovic with Leao. Sparta Prague had no answers whatsoever for the youthful, quick, and less predictable movements of the Portuguese striker. So after Heca had a great double save on first Leao then Tonali's rebound, in the 57th, Bennacer sent a great ball up to Dalot, who sent an exquisitely perfect cross to Leao in the box who, with ruthless efficiency, beat Heca to make ti 2-0 Milan. Complete with a new little choreographed celebration, the Dalot-Leao combo had all of us on our feet at this surprise of youth and skill.

After that goal, what happened should not have surprised Sparta Prague, but after all, no one expects the Portuguese Inquisition. So when Bennacer sent the perfect ball up to Dalot again, he used the elements of surprise and skill to score on his own. 3-0 Milan. And a fabulous little pulse celebration, too. It was almost too much. Milan are the first team in Champions League or Europa League history to score with three players 21 years old or younger. This team just can't stop smashing expectations and records alike.

Heca's face did not expect the Portuguese Inquisition

Pioli's management of his squad is just a dream come true, balancing egos and youth, injuries and exhaustion, and with his subs almost always making an impact. To that end, after the brilliant Leao sub, he gave Conti about 25 minutes after being out injured, and brought on Kessie for the last ten minutes to wear the armband after Duarte replaced Romagnoli. Even Daniel Maldini got five minutes, replacing Krunic. The Bennacer-Tonali combo worked out  well for this type of opponent, even if we missed Kessie for most of the match. It was totally worth it to see him wear the armband. It's a little strange to see Krunic play behind the strikers when we have actual trequartisti, but he did well in this match. Calhanoglu got a 90 minute vacation, even if we saw him seething from the sidelines, anxious to go to battle.

I was a little skeptical after Tatarusanu's performance on Monday, but Kjaer played kind of a second goalkeeper/central defender position in that he stood right in front of our actual second goalkeeper and blocked anything that came his way so that Tatarusanu wasn't even tested, like in the 82nd, for example. It worked, too, because the Czech side only got five shots off altogether, with zero shots on target. It seems we have solved the problem of our goalkeeper liability while Gigio is out: just play a team that doesn't shoot on target.

The pulse of Milan's attack tonight

Keeping our feet on the ground, Dalot was brilliant deputizing for Theo Hernandez today, who has not started from the bench in any matches he was available for since September of 2019. Maybe Dalot isn't quite ready to take on Juventus or something, but he got his first goal and an assist tonight, and looked very solid for a right back playing on the left-hand side. Milan have a lot of options, and Pioli has been absolutely brilliant to take the risks and expose the immense wealth of talent this side has right now. It is so enjoyable as a fan. Even my son noticed as he watched with me that it was so nice to feel so proud of the way Milan are playing again.

Sparta Prague manager Kotal had said in his prematch press conference that Sparta Prague were nowhere near on the level of Lille and Milan, and that was blatantly obvious tonight. While our young players got a lot of confidence and the fans got a great show, we are not infallible. However the consistency, not only of great results and enough goals to make up for all of the past years where we could never score, but also the consistency of play and skill level are so refreshing after all of the horrible football we have been subjected to for so long. Tonight was a heartening display of depth and youth, as well as something no one could have expected: The Portuguese Inquisition.

This match inspired by the music of Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now"

Our next match is
Serie A Week 6
Udinese vs. Milan
Sunday, November 1 • 12:30 CET (6:30am EST)*
*U.S. Daylight Savings Time ends Saturday night, remember to set your clocks back

AC Milan 3, AC Sparta Prague 0: The Portuguese Inquisition AC Milan 3, AC Sparta Prague 0: The Portuguese Inquisition Reviewed by Elaine on 11:57 PM Rating: 5
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