Milan 1, Spezia 2: Rage Against the Machine

I have defended referees until I'm blue in the face. Even defended them and then received horrific attacks from Milan fans. But there is no defense for Serra, the referee for this match. He screwed up, massively, and not just by calling the goal off. Gyasi, the one who scored Spezia's second goal, should have been sent off more than once with a second, third or maybe even fourth yellow in this match alone. He missed other calls, too, which also influenced the outcome of the game for Spezia. Sure, Milan could have scored more, but it's not like they didn't try. With 25 Milan shots, Spezia's Provedel had the game of his life, but it was Serra who determined this match. He apologized to Milan players after the match, and the Italian Referee Association reportedly did as well, so he will undoubtedly be facing a suspension. But Milan fans are left without any points when we should have had three, leaving all of us to rage against the machine.

Giroud and Rebić trying to talks some sense into Serra, to no avail

Really difficult to talk about the match when Serra made so many errors. He initially called the Provedel foul on Leão in the 42nd minute for Spezia, but luckily, the VAR ref intervened, and after thankfully looking at the play on screen, he reversed his decision, and rightly so. Leão got all ball, and Provedel got all Leão. Imagine if he had allowed his initial wrong call to stand there, too?

Theo Hernández took the penalty and sent it just wide, something I'm sure that will cost him his sleep tonight and maybe more. Luckily, Krunić muscled a Spezia player off the ball a minute later and sent a shockingly good pass forward for Leão, who turned on his turbo speed, chipped the keeper, and scored for Milan 1-0. Grazie, Leão.

Finally, the weight of the Captain's armband was too heavy

Not really sure I could possibly list all of the times he showed mercy on Spezia's players, in spite of actually calling 17 fouls to Milan's 11, and five yellows for the Aquilotti to Milan's two yellow cards. But I can say that at least two Spezia players should have been sent off for second yellows, including Gyasi, the relevance of which was realized in the 96th minute.

Agudelo's goal in the 64th was fair, other than the fact that our two center backs who are our least experienced and the only two center backs we had left were both on yellow cards by this point, so playing less effectively and certainly more timidly. 1-1 all. 

Leão celebrating a great goal

Bastoni pulled Calabria and threw him down in the 74th, and although Serra whistled afterward because Reca was down injured, most refs would have still given him a yellow card for such an egregious and unnecessary foul. But not Serra. Nor did he card Bastoni for however many fouls during the match, at least a few of which could have been yellows cards.

No handball on Erlic? (forgive the U.S. stream's horrible resolution)

Stoppage time was where the biggest drama occurred, however. In the 92nd minute, Giroud attempted a shot that came off of Erlic's arm, but no call for the handball. Not that anyone remembers that, nor was there even time for VAR to review it, because 30 seconds later, Rebić was fouled outside of the box, and Messias scored a goal, but Serra had blown the whistle before Messias's goal, and it was called back. Serra did not allow Milan to play the advantage, but rather punished them for a Spezia foul outside the box. Absolutely unbelievable. Even neutral fans were shocked.

He did at least show a yellow card to Nikolaou, who had fouled Rebić, as a consolation prize.

Nothing Giroud could say would get Serra to listen to reason

Provedel saved Ibrahimović's free kick from that play, somehow. Then also saved Ibrahimovic's header from a corner. Milan literally had 10 corners to Spezia's one corner, if that gives you any indication of what it is like to have a full strength team against an incredibly weakened Milan side, as well as a Spezia goalkeeper who overperforms. You could see Pioli just seething on the sidelines, doing breathing exercises to keep from exploding with rage.

But it wasn't over yet. Agudelo pulled Kalulu back in the 95th, but the whistle never blew, and play continued for Gyasi to score in the 96th. 2-1 Spezia. The Spezia players celebrated like they had won the Champions League, and Thiago Motta, the ex-Inter player who was at the club when they also "won" a treble by cheating, celebrated along with them and claimed after the game that they deserved to win. I absolutely abhor when opposition teams celebrate because they were gifted a win. So Inter.

Spezia taking credit for Serra's triumph over Milan

To add insult to our dozens of injuries this season, Serra blew the whistle for full time right after Giroud was fouled, rather than awarding Milan the free kick just outside the box. Only his watch matters when it comes to the end of the match, but reports are that he blew the whistle early considering the stoppages within stoppage for Spezia's celebration. Absolutely atrocious.

Milan took 25 shots to Spezia's 10, and Provedel had seven saves, four on Ibrahimović alone, to Maignan's four saves total. Milan were missing nine players, including three of our best defenders and our three best midfielders. Not only were we short on men for this match, we have missed five or more players for most of the season, more than any other team in Serie A, and still have had the mentality to stay in most of those matches. And we are still competing for not just top four, but for the Scudetto.

How it ended at the final whistle, no free kick given

We have had significantly more ref calls go against us than I can remember in any season in recent memory, including in the Champions League, where a head ref and a VAR ref were both suspended and it was widely acknowledged that they not only influenced that game, but the entire group stage. We had Maresca suspended after the Roma game, even though we outplayed them in spite of his record amount of yellow cards this season. And now this. When we are two points from first, and could have easily won this game and gone first without Serra's horrific refereeing. 

Should the Scudetto be won by Inter or anyone else by three points or less, this game will have decided the entire season. I normally say that referee errors even out over a season, but this game was incredulously mismanaged. I don't buy into conspiracies, either, but I would like to find out if there was wire-tapping, payment of Serra by Spezia, Motta, or Inter, or at least conversations about it. We have seen horrific ref decisions go against us all season long, and in addition to our injury woes, are still in second place in Serie A. But this loss nearly caused a brain hemorrhage and certainly makes me rage against the machine.

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

Our next match is
Serie A Week 23
Milan vs. Juventus
Sunday, January 23 • 20:45 CET (2:45pm EST)

Milan 1, Spezia 2: Rage Against the Machine Milan 1, Spezia 2: Rage Against the Machine Reviewed by Elaine on 7:06 PM Rating: 5
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