Lazio 1, Milan 2: Mission Accomplished

Milan had one objective for this season: to qualify for the Champions League for next season. With four games left, they achieved that goal tonight, and took back first place, at least until Wednesday, when three of the Serie A makeup matches will be played. We came into this match knowing that we needed a win, and despite going down an early goal, the players fought back and pulled it off in the most extraordinary of ways. Mission accomplished.

Champions League qualified in the 92nd minute with 4 games to go

The match started off with another Milan defensive error leading to an Immobile goal in just the 4th minute. 1-0 Lazio. That was a bitter pill to swallow after Tuesday's match, but our defense tightened the screws and did not let anything else in, even if both Tomori and Kalulu got yellow cards for stopping Immobile at some point in the match. It seems that since Kjaer's return to Milanello, Kalulu seems to have been reminded of and perhaps intimidated by the Viking shoes he was filling or something.

Just four minutes later, there was controversy in that Strakosha handled the ball outside of the box and only received a yellow card for it. Worse still that Messias took a ball to the face in the process. To be fair, there does seem to be some sort of technicality in the rules that allows Guida to make that decision. And had it been our goalkeeper, we would have been so grateful for the mercy of the yellow card. But given the narrative of the refereeing this season for Milan, it just seemed like one more call that went against us. Lazio could have been on 10 men for 82 minutes and playing their backup keeper. That would have made this match just slightly easier for us. 

To be fair, Immobile is not so easy to mark

Milan started their offensive, they would take 25 shots in all, with eight on target. Meanwhile, Maignan had to take matters into his own hands, and even feet, with a fabulous tackle on Immobile in the 23rd to make the save, although technically, he was only credited with making one save on the night. That's how well our defense managed to step it up, Lazio were held to seven shots in all, just two on target.

In the 35th, a miracle happened. Kessié was battling with Milinković-Savić and the Milan midfielder got the best of him with his elbow, an action that could have seen him carded, but he wasn't. That's right, ladies and gentlemen. One call in one game went Milan's way. Put this one in the history books, because as Pioli pointed out in his prematch interview when asked, there would need to be a lot of calls going our way to make things "even out" as Simone Inzaghi had claimed they do. (Although this one actually would not have influenced the game one way or the other, so never mind.)

Leão was brilliant and would get an assist

In the 39th, there was yet another referee controversy (insert shocking horror music here.) The ball hit Luis Alberto's hand in our box. By one definition, it was not a handball, as it ricocheted directly off of Brahim Díaz's shin, which is a newer interpretation of the rule. But also in the interpretation was that Luis Alberto's hand was away from his body and not in a natural position when it hit, therefore it should have been a handball. Guida did not call it, so VAR could not reverse it. Once again, another penalty denied Milan, another match influenced by a referee call. I would love to know exactly how many of those we have had this season. On second thought, maybe I would rather not, it might make me vomit.

The second half started out properly with a Giroud equalizer in the 50th minute from a Leão assist. 1-1 all. Sure, Giroud scored away for only the second time, but it was kind of like home, given the 10,000 Milan fans that made up almost half of the fans at the Olimpico due to the Lazio Ultra's protest. Their loss, in more ways than one. Milan kept pinning Lazio back and creating chances. Sarri made his subs in between his infamous tedious notetaking. 

Hell yeah.

Pioli's subs did and did not make sense. In the 68th, he brought Ibrahimović on, returning from injury, for Brahím Diaz, and Rebić on for Giroud, who was not thrilled to be taken off. Those were a bit early, but kind of reasonable. But then he brought Krunić on for Messias, who had seemed possessed with the desire to score, and also, Krunić is not a right winger. An offense that had been firing on all cylinders suddenly seemed doomed to dropping two points, and as the clock ticked down and chances were taken, Pioli also pulled off a tired Leão for Saelemaekers in the 86th. But as Pioli would later say, they believed they could win it until the final whistle.

Ibrahimović had just received a yellow card for a tackle, but after a few more minutes, they really did finally start to click, just before the end of regulation. Their experience paid off as they held up the ball when necessary and took wisely timed shots. And then it happened. In the 92nd minute. Rebić sent the ball in, a Lazio defender sent it back out, but Ibrahimović managed to get it and send it into Tonali, who was charging in on goal and was able to just push it past Strakosha with sheer grinta. 2-1 Milan. 

Never underestimate the grinta

The Milan Curva erupted. Tonali ripped off his shirt and ran toward them. Pioli and Giroud celebrated on the sideline as the entire team swarmed Tonali to celebrate. Somewhere in there, Guida wearily showed a yellow for the excessive celebration, and not one Milan fan cared at all. Of course it was Tonali. From an Ibrahimović assist. To qualify for the Champions League. We wouldn't want it any other way. Mission accomplished.

This post inspired by the music of Muse's "Feelin' Good"

Our next match is
Serie A Week 35
Milan vs. Fiorentina
Sunday, May 1 • 15:00 CEST (9am EDT)

Lazio 1, Milan 2: Mission Accomplished Lazio 1, Milan 2: Mission Accomplished Reviewed by Elaine on 11:15 PM Rating: 5
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