Napoli 1, Milan 3: Clash of the Titans

This match had everything: epic goals, epic saves, serious injuries, a red card, yellow cards, and more. It was one of the most intense Milan matches in recent memory, and also one of the most rewarding ones. It is also difficult to face beloved exes, and this one had Petagna, Bakayoko, and of course, Gattuso who had all formerly played for Milan. But at the end of the game, we won in beautiful fashion. Three points, maintaining our top of the table spot, keeping our unbeaten streak in the league alive against a very worthy oponnent, and winning, despite missing Pioli and five other staff members due to COVID-19 positive tests. But above all else, it featured three former teammates and Milan Titans from the last Scudetto-winning side at Milan: Gattuso, Bonera, and Ibrahimovic. It truly was a clash of the Titans.


Current mood


The last time Milan beat Napoli was ten years ago, and Milan won the Scudetto that season. Take that however you wish, I cannot be responsible for your expectations. Ibrahimovic scored in that match, too, so it was no surprise when he opened up the scoring in the 20th minute. What was surprising was Theo Hernandez's perfect cross, and Ibrahimovic's perfect header. 1-0 Milan. Absolutely beautiful.

Napoli answered back with a barrage of shots in the 27th. First, a Mertens shot forced Gigio into a fantastic save. Then, from the resulting corner, there was a Bakayoko shot that forced a great save, next, Di Lorenzo hit the crossbar, and the last shot went over the bar. Gigio may have PTSD from that one single minute in the game.


Titan.


The rest of the half was nail-biting, but also disturbing. In the 43rd minute, Kessie took an elbow to the face, and blood was gushing from his mouth. After treatment, it appeared to be a cut in his lip, and he was able to continue playing. However, whether it was from that injury or another knock later in the game, in the second half, 2 minutes into the final stoppage time, he signaled to the ref that something was wrong with his head, and then collapsed to the pitch. Head injuries are so serious, and it was shocking to see him come back on for the last few minutes when he was clearly not well. Hopefully he is okay and will be able to play again soon.

The second half started off much like the first, with Ibrahimovic scoring an incredible goal from a phenomenal assist from Rebic, who sent it in after a great pass from Calhanoglu. 2-0 Milan. This one, Ibrahimovic scored with his right knee, slipping perfectly between two defenders, it was absolutely breathtaking. Poor Koulibaly was first elbowed in the face by Ibrahimovic, then left helpless to concede that second goal. And Ibrahimovic would have had a hat trick, having put the ball in the back of the net in the 60th, but it was called off for being offside. Mertens pulled one back for Napoli in the 63rd, where Romagnoli didn't clear his first shot, and he expertly poked it around Gigio for the goal. 2-1 Milan.


Can there ever be too much Ibrahimovic?


The second half was also full of dumb yellows, and also Bakayoko not getting yellows for rough fouls over and over. He was on a yellow after some cleat to ankle contact with Saelemaekers in the first half, and then it seemed his mission to take Theo Hernandez out in the second half. Valeri was finally forced to give him that second yellow in the 65th for another bad foul on Theo Hernandez. He was sent off, leaving Napoli on ten men. This was incredibly fortunate for Milan, because Napoli had 63% possession and took a total of 20 shots in this match, with eight of those on target. That shows how epic Gigio was, too. Incidentally, with only 37% possession and only 15 shots, with only seven on target, it shows how impressive the entire team were to maximize those opportunities.


"Hey, coach, I know you're new, but next time, remember the head injury protocol"


Napoli playing on ten men changed the course of the match, as Gattuso's Napoli had been absolutely terrifying in attack. Not even the massive ex-Milan striker Petagna was able to change their fortunes, although a couple of amazing saves from Gigio showed that he tried to. Another very worrisome injury was when Ibrahimovic pulled up in the 76th, and had to be subbed off in the 78th minute. This, added to Kessie's head injury and Kjaer having apparently suffered a possible groin injury in the first few minutes, could prove costly, especially as we are away to Lille on Thursday in the Europa League.

The drama of this match was settled in the 95th minute, when Hauge took a great pass from Bennacer and dribbled around the defender to take the shot... and score his first goal in Serie A. 3-1 Milan. This made it an even more special night for him, as his former team, Bodø/Glimt, officially won the Norwegian Eliteserien for their first top flight title right as our second half was kicking off. Hauge was an important player to help them reach this title, and his little brother also was subbed on for about ten minutes in that match to complete the Hauge connection. Congratulations to the entire Hauge family and to Bodø/Glimt for their trophy win.


Everything was golden for the young Hauge on this night


Bonera, for his part, did not screw this up. His subs were not impressive, and I personally would have preferred to see Milan play on ten men for the last few minutes, rather than send a clearly struggling Kessie back out onto the pitch. But he led the troops to victory, and as some people put it, is undefeated as a coach. The players had indicated this week that they wanted to win this one for Pioli, and they did. It was all smiles as three past "Titans" for Milan passed the torch to this young new squad, with Ibrahimovic leading them to glory with a brace. With Bonera in charge for Milan, and Gattuso on the opposite side, it was really a clash of the Titans.


This post inspired by the music of Queen's "We Are the Champions"


Our next match is 
Europa League Group Stage
Lille vs. Milan
Thursday, November 26th • 18:55 CET (12:55 EST)

 

Napoli 1, Milan 3: Clash of the Titans Napoli 1, Milan 3: Clash of the Titans Reviewed by Elaine on 9:46 PM Rating: 5
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