AC Milan 1, Liverpool FC 2: Leaving Europe

With a fighting spirit but not enough quality or healthy players, Milan exit the Champions League with only four points. Reactionary Milan fans complain that Milan should have won this one, but forget recent performances against Fiorentina and Sassuolo. Just because it is a bigger game with more on the line doesn't change how many players are young, inexperienced, tired, or injured. Certainly, this team gave everything they had tonight. But sometimes, your everything is not enough. So Milan are leaving Europe.


Proud of you

Milan fans were not wrong to want this. Or to believe, dream, or hope of going through to the next round. Luck was not kind to us with the draw, referee errorsor injuries. But we also did not do enough of our own accord to make it out of the group, bottom line. That doesn't make our team horrible or justify maligning or attacking our players, coach, management or club. Unrealistic expectations often lead to disappointment, and those who have seen recent performances or know about our injuries likely were not as surprised at the result.

What may have surprised a lot of people, including Liverpool, is that Milan drew first blood. Alisson was unable to hold onto the ball on a shot from a corner kick, and Tomori made him pay for it. 1-0 Milan. That was an amazing moment, and if we could have just stopped the game there, everything would have been completely different. Milan would have won, we would be second in the group, and through to the next round. But it didn't, we didn't, we weren't and we are not going through. That also demonstrates how tight this group was, that any three of the four teams not called Liverpool could be going through.


Delicious.

Salah equalized on the rebound of an Oxlade-Chamberlain shot that Maignan parried away. 1-1 all. The equalizer took the wind out of Milan's sails a bit, they had been doing all they could to maintain and maximize possession. In fact, the possession was pretty even, with Milan finishing with 49% possession. The second half they started out a bit stronger again, but in the 55th, Mané took the shot, and Maignan parried it out dangerously, and Origi slotted it in to make it 2-1 Liverpool. 

Pioli made the subs he could with the players he had available, and for the last 15 minutes, Milan intensified their efforts. Both Messias and Kessié were stopped by Alisson, Theo Hernández had a shot saved, Ibrahimović tried an overhead bicycle kick, and Kessié saw his header go wide. Liverpool took 22 shots, but only eight were on target, while Milan were held to eight shots, but had three on target. 


Something for the fans

Kessié tried at least two or three times to win a penalty, but Makkelie was having none of that. One of the most impressive things about this match was that there was not a single card. A far cry from the six yellows and a red in the ill-fated Atlético match at the San Siro. Of course, we finally get a well-reffed match when we were down five starters in Kjaer, Calabria, Rebić, Leão, and Giroud. But it also goes to show how much growth the team made in the competition, as discipline and maturity were lacking in the early games.

While it is soul-crushing to have come so close to making it through, our squad is so young and injury-laden, we would have been more embarrassed in the next round. As I have discussed on recent podcasts, finishing fourth means we can pull an Inter and focus on getting our squad healthy and dominating the league while our competitors continue to play three times a week. This literally determined the Scudetto last year, and at the very least, we should be certain of qualifying for the Champions League again next year.


A well-reffed match, but still not enough

Ignorant pundits and disappointed fans are trashing Milan's performance, but I saw a team who didn't make any excuses and went out on the pitch facing a far superior opponent, even with squad rotation, and gave it everything they had. Did they make crucial errors? Obviously. Everyone does in every match. I said this in the first leg, and I'll say it again: Liverpool should have done much better, and should be far more concerned than Milan about playing a vastly inferior squad in terms of cost, age, and experience. 

I am proud of how hard they fought against all odds, and I am also relieved that we are only playing once a week now. Losing Kjaer was a massive blow, but hopefully we can get the other players healthy in January and stop having so many bizarre injuries. Milan were back home, now we are going home. It hurts, but I can make peace with it by looking at how much this squad learned and how much they have grown on this, their first Champions League journey in seven years. Milan may be leaving Europe, but they are only beginning to return.


This post inspired by the music of NIN's "Hurt"


Our next match is 
Serie A Week 17
Udinese vs. Milan
Saturday, December 11 • 20:45 CET (2:45pm EST)

AC Milan 1, Liverpool FC 2: Leaving Europe AC Milan 1, Liverpool FC 2: Leaving Europe Reviewed by Elaine on 9:35 PM Rating: 5
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