Sampdoria 1, Milan 2: Coach Combat

This fierce match was a battle of two teams, one flying high, and one struggling and slipping down the table. It was a battle of youth and experience, and a very physical battle, too. Milan were fighting to keep their Serie A unbeaten streak alive, despite tired legs, and Sampdoria were hoping to get back to winning ways, no matter how many points separated the two teams going into this match. But there was one other aspect to this match: Ranieri is Pioli's former coach, and Ranieri has never managed to best his student. This one was also about coach combat.

Two coaches enter their technical areas, but only one comes away with 3 points

The physical battle began right away in the fifth minute, when Kessie earned himself a very early yellow card. Gigio was forced into action shortly thereafter, making a big save on Tonelli after Milan were unable to clear the ball from the box after several attempts. Gabbia got a bloody nose, and Bereszynski had to leave the pitch in the 17th minute due to injury, replaced a few minutes later. It was an epic battle indeed.

In the 39th minute, Rebic got around Audero and it seemed a certain goal, but Tonelli made a goal line clearance literally at the last possible millimeter, after GLT and VAR were both checked. The deadlock would only be broken by a penalty for Milan from a Jankto handball just before the half, which Kessie coolly converted, 1-0 Milan.

For you, Ibrahimovic

In addition to having mentality, momentum, and an amazing team atmosphere that he built, Pioli's masterclass moment was to sub Hauge on for Brahim at the half. Ranieri never stood a chance. Sure, he also made a double sub at the half, one of which would impact the scoreline eventually, but Hauge was the perfect change to really impact this one, and almost had an assist when Tonali's shot ended up hitting the post two minutes into the second half.

Gigio was even roughed up a bit, and probably should have gotten at least a call or two for interfering with the keeper, but did not. Players were slipping all over the place, as well, like when Calhanoglu had a nice chance in the 60th minute, but slipped and fell. In the 64th, Tonali was called for a foul on Candreva, whose age is apparently about 30 years off of his maturity level, and grabbed Tonali's ear. Calvarese missed this, however, and Samp even got the ball out of that exchange. Gigio had his teammate covered, though, as he saved Candreva's next shot.

So many feels

Pioli's second masterstroke was to bring on Castillejo in the 76th. Saelemaekers had been struggling, and though Castillejo runs a lot and takes a lot of wild shots, not unlike a former Milan player who also liked to bleach his hair, he is getting us the result. Castillejo came on, Hauge sent it in nicely for Rebic, who crossed it to Castillejo, who timed his run perfectly, and beat Audero. 2-0 Milan. That is Castillejo's 3rd goal in the last 3 games, so it's obviously more than just luck.

Ranieri did punish his former student a little when Ekdal whipped in a ball from a corner to pull one back. Although Gigio did his best Buffon impersonation in the moment to grab the ball, GLT did not let Milan take a Gol di Muntari away from Sampdoria, the ball definitely crossed the line, and Gigio behaved much classier anyway. 2-1 Milan. 

The family that wins together celebrates together

Despite an ugly battle to the end, Pioli bested his former coach yet again, thanks to his Milan family that he has created. As great as everything feels that is happening in the club right now, I'm so happy for him, too. He has worked for years and been through so much to get to this magical point where his skills are exactly what this club needed, and it's paying off, too. Ranieri can have his Leicester City miracle, because when it comes to coach combat, Pioli will be the winner this year.

This post inspired by the music of Utah Saints' "Utah Saints Take on the Theme from Mortal Kombat"

Our next match is 
Europa League Group Stage
Sparta Prague vs. AC Milan
Thursday, December 10 • 21:00 CET (3pm EST)

Sampdoria 1, Milan 2: Coach Combat Sampdoria 1, Milan 2: Coach Combat Reviewed by Elaine on 11:58 PM Rating: 5
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