AC Milan 1, Atlético Madrid 1: True Crime

I would like to report a homicide. Cüneyt Çakir killed the beautiful game tonight, and I was a witness to this horrible crime. What started out as a beautiful and completely dominant performance from Milan turned into a crime scene, one which the Turkish ref left with blood on his hands. His calls were inconsistent and largely one-sided, and the penalty call at the end, even with a VAR check of over two minutes, absolutely wrong. Even Simeone had no qualms about saying that Milan were the better team. And although millions watched this crime worldwide, nothing was done to stop it. When a ref kills a game, there is nothing you can do to bring it back to life. All that is left to do is hope that he is never allowed to do this again, that this true crime is investigated properly.

Çakir the Murderer of the Match

Milan opened up the match by completely controlling the game, playing with what my commentator called a "swagger." In the 10th minute, Atlético wanted a handball on Tomori, but a VAR check rightfully denied that. Likewise in the 17th, at the other end, VAR checked a potential handball on Giménez. That was as fair as the reffing got in this one. Milan's pressure was intensifying and their shots were getting more dangerous, including a fantastic opportunity from Rebić on a virtually open goal that somehow Oblak saved with his foot. No one could save Leão's perfect shot through traffic in the 20th, though, after an assist from Brahim Díaz. 1-0 Milan. I think it went through about four defenders. His celebration with Brahim Díaz was also entertaining, following the passionate celebrations of Leão and the rest of the team in front of the fans. 

Dream goal

Life was beautiful, it was a dream start.

Until the 29th minute. Çakir had given Kessié a yellow card in the 15th for pulling Llorente by his shoulder from behind. Harsh, but could technically be a yellow. But fast-forward to the 37th minute, when Hermoso did virtually the same thing to Saelemaekers, and landed on top of him, too, Hermoso received nothing. The 29th minute saw Kessié again foul Llorente, this time stepping on his foot. Çakir gave him a second yellow, then a red, and sent him off. That yellow was perhaps fair, but again, contrast it with the 91st minute when Giménez more deliberately stamped on Tonali's foot, and again, no call. Or the 70th minute, when Suárez went bungling in on Maignan and stamped on his hand, no call. Or so many other fouls from Atlético that were not called, let alone carded.  In a game that tense, the fact that Kondogbia received the only yellow card for Atléti whereas Milan were shown five yellows and a red is incredibly suspicious in and of itself.

The beautiful game a victim of refereeing homicide

To be fair, a couple of the yellows were for dissent. Rebić received a yellow because he put his arm around the ref, man to man, trying to talk to him about Kessié's sending off. Obviously, you cannot touch the referee, but it's not like he insulted Çakir's mother. Maignan received a yellow in the 96th minute because he was fiercely defiant in the face of the unfair penalty. Sure, he should have gone to his line like Çakir repeatedly asked him to. But can you honestly blame him? He was witnessing a murder.

On the flip side, our sweet, scrappy Saelemaekers, after making a brilliant block in the 70th, could have had about three yellows in the space of two minutes in the 79th, including one that Simeone wanted a penalty for. He was only shown one, but that doesn't make up for Çakir changing the game. In fact, it just demonstrates further Çakir's poor performance. Even the ex-Inter Simeone admitted that the red card changed the game. And we haven't even checked UEFA for wiretapping yet. With the Turkish Çalhanoglu having betrayed Milan for Inter, and the entire ref and VAR team being from Turkey as well, that seems incredibly suspicious, too. Not to mention that Çakir became an official FIFA referee in 2006, the same year as Calciopoli. It seems a ridiculous conspiracy, but after this match, is anything actually more ridiculous than his shambolic display?

Victims of a crime

Pioli sacrificed Rebić for Tonali in the 34th, as the Croatian's blood was clearly boiling after the yellow card and Kessie's sending off, and someone needed to be sacrificed to replace the midfielder. Milan were still dominating on 10 men, with Leão taking an absolutely exquisite overhead bicycle kick that cruelly hit the crossbar (and was likely offside) in the 28th. So Simeone unusually made a tactical/emotional substitution of his own before the half, pulling off Trippier (who seemed a bit wound up himself,) for Joao Felix.

After the half, by pressure or by design, Milan sat back and defended. Pioli had to know they wouldn't last 90 minutes running on 10 men, nor would they last 90 minutes just defending. But no one could have planned for the criminal refereeing that would continue, which actually got even worse. In the 48th, after poor Saelemaekers took one point blank for the team, Calabria was also brutally fouled by Giménez off the ball, but no call, let alone a card. Brahim Díaz was injured and could not continue, so in the 56th, Pioli brought on Giroud and Ballo-Touré. Not sure why he took Leão off, I know he doesn't always last 90 minutes, but he was having one hell of a game. Maybe it was just to prevent him from getting carded or injured, who knows?

What happened to protecting the keeper? Or calling anything at all?

In the 59th minute, Llorente shoved Tonali to ground, which was certainly much worse than Kessie's first card, but no card for the Atléti player. In the 60th minute, Çakir was forced to show Kondogbia a card for shoving Tonali to ground after the whistle blew, which should have absolutely been a straight red, yet was only a yellow. Çakir even dropped his yellow trying to keep a raging Llorente away from Milan players, the Atlético player should have also seen yellow for dissent, but was not penalized at all. Meanwhile, in the 69th, Theo Hernández was carded for pulling down Suárez, which was fair, but he probably was just being proactive so he didn't get bitten by the serial biter.

The 70th was when Suárez, who was offside anyway, flew into Maignan, kneeing him in the back of the neck and head and stomping on his hand. He knew it, too, because he tried to get Maignan to get up quickly so he didn't get penalized, which Maignan was not having. No card for Suárez, either. Not only that, but instead of trying to break up Suárez from continuing to aggravate Maignan (despite Tomori's interventions) or checking on either Calabria or Maignan, who were both down, like he should have, he insisted on emphatically calling for the goal kick and arguing with Saelemaekers, who was nowhere near the injured or provoking players. Because he was a Milan player, apparently. Anyone that has read this blog for any length of time knows that I always respect the referees, I know what I like in a referee, and am typically objective to the point of being abused by my fellow fans. But this was criminal.

Enhanced photo from shows Lemar handling the ball

Pioli brought on Florenzi and Kalulu, who both did their best to make a difference, but in the end, a moment's lack of concentration in the red and black defensive wall saw Griezmann score in the 84th. 1-1 all. Milan, despite being so unfairly done by thus far, did not sit back. They reacted by attacking. If Florenzi's accuracy was as good as his vision and creativity, he would have had two goals in two minutes. Maignan was called into action still, and continued to do well against 11 men and a killer referee gone rogue, but Tonali getting his foot stomped on by Giménez in the 91st was just another frustrating crime on Çakir's very long list of crimes.

The nail in the coffin, though, was assisted by his colleague, Abdulkadir Bitigen in the VAR booth. In the 94th minute, Lemar handled the ball, pushing it onto Kalulu's arm. Can you guess who Çakir called the handball on? That's right, on Milan. He whistled for a penalty, and after a long VAR review in which he did not even go and review the play personally, his original call stood. The serial biter, Suárez, converted the penalty in the 97th minute, but only after Maignan received his yellow card. Salt in the bullet wound. 2-1 Atlético. 

AC Milan is back, but so is criminal  Champions League refereeing

Our Milan fought to the bitter end, but when someone has the power to take the life from the beautiful game and wields that power for 90 minutes, what more could they do? Their youth and inexperience showed in their emotional reactions, the swarming of the ref during VAR checks and then again after the final whistle. This match was a bitter pill to swallow, probably cyanide, if Çakir's conduct is taken into account. Certainly, his decisions will impact the outcome of not only this match, but all of Group B, as Milan sit at the bottom of the group with 0 points, despite having scored 3 goals, second only to Liverpool. There are always things the players can do better, and they are young and very inexperienced compared to their opposition and the murderer himself. But instead of writing about the beautiful game, I have had to lay out my testimony of a homicide that I witnessed. And that in and of itself is a true crime.

This post inspired by the music of Rage Against the Machine's "Killing in the Name"

Our next match is 
Serie A Week 7
Atalanta vs. Milan
Sunday, October 3 • 20:45 CEST (2:45pm EDT)

AC Milan 1, Atlético Madrid 1: True Crime AC Milan 1, Atlético Madrid 1: True Crime Reviewed by Elaine on 11:58 PM Rating: 5
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