Fired Up in France

Going to Marseille, we knew this would not be an ordinary friendly, because the Stade Vélodrome was nearly sold out, with over 60,000 fans expected to attend. Plus, there is history. Milan actually lost a Champions League final to Marseille almost 30 years ago, in 1993. So it was a fiery atmosphere (complete with flares) when the two clubs took the pitch to Van Halen's "Jump," the nearly 40 year-old song that Milan used to play at the San Siro under Berlusconi's tenure. With fouls and cards galore, even a red card, both teams were fired up in France for Milan's 2-0 victory over Marseille.

Kjaer is back.

Unlike our friendly on Wednesday, which only had a single yellow card, this match started out with more fouls than chances. Milan would eventually be whistled for 25 fouls, apparently, and Marseille somehow only 13, while Milan would receive three yellows and Marseille two yellows, an almost red, and a straight red.

Pioli's starting lineup was:

Maignan; Calabria, Kalulu, Tomori, Theo Hernández; Bennacer, Tonali; Messias, Brahim Díaz, Rebić, and Giroud.

Messias was certainly fired up this evening

Messias broke up the monotony of physicality with a rocket of a goal, smashing home a shot after a Brahim Díaz assist to make it 1-0 Milan in just the 12th minute. That was the signal for Milan to turn Blanco's night into a full workout. The Marseille keeper definitely had his hands full. Messias fired wide, but had at least two or three more shots on target on the evening.

Not to be outdone, Giroud gladly accepted a cross from the on-fire Messias, and slotted home a great goal of his own in the 28th to make it 2-0 Milan. That was it for the scoring, but Milan kept firing, with a double save on Brahim and then Messias just a few minutes later. All in all, Milan would take 19 shots, with nine on target.

Giroud on target again

Rebić did Rebić things in the 40th and earned his first yellow of the season for a foul on Gerson, then Guendouzi fouled his fellow Frenchman, Giroud, in the same minute and earned his own card to end the first half.

Pioli subbed on Adli for Brahim Díaz and Leão for Rebić after halftime. Marseille's Igor Tudor, former Verona manager, brought on former Napoli striker Milik amongst his subs at the half, and that forced Maignan into a bit of a workout himself.

Tavares was saved by VAR, but no one could save Touré from himself

In the 48th, the referee controversially showed Nuno Tavares a red card for fouling Messias, who I think he determined would have had a clear scoring opportunity. But Tavares, who had been on the pitch for less than three minutes, was saved by VAR, which determined that there was an offside call before the foul, so the card was rescinded and he was allowed to remain on the pitch. 

Five minutes later, Tonali properly earned himself a yellow for a foul on Payet. Gattuso would have been proud. Then just a few minutes later, Pioli was metaphorically on fire when he earned himself a yellow card for coming out onto the pitch and having words with the very young and seemingly inexperienced referee.

Just one of the reasons Tonali was fired up

In the 73rd, Pioli made six more changes, bringing on Kjaer, Gabbia, Ballo-Touré, Saelemaekers, Krunić, and Florenzi for Tomori, Kalulu, Theo Hernández, Messias, Tonali, and Calabria. The lineup as of this point was:

Maignan; Florenzi, Kjaer, Gabbia, Ballo-Touré; Krunić, Bennacer; Saelemaekers, Adli, Leão; and Giroud.

That is not a typo, by the way. Kjaer returned. After eight long and painful months of rehabilitation from his ACL injury, The Viking returned, and he returned properly and looked great out there, too. Now, as he said postmatch,  he just needs match fitness and he will be ready to win for us again this season.

We're all smiling like Kjaer

It is of note that in the 77th, Marseille defender Touré received a yellow card for a bad foul on Leão, having been on the pitch for less than three minutes. That is noteworthy because literally one minute later, he lunged studs-up into Krunić and was shown a straight red card. Not even five minutes on the pitch. Marseille played the rest of their "friendly" on ten men.

Pioli replaced Giroud and Bennacer with Lazetić and Bakayoko respectively in the 83rd, having subbed all ten outfield players at this point. Milan absolutely took advantage of being up a man, and peppered poor Blanco's goal with shots from Adli, Leão, Gabbia, and even a Kjaer header from a corner. But they were all saved. There was even a double save from Saelemaekers and then Lazetić in the 87th, the Marseille keeper made seven saves in all.

Pioli using these friendlies to acclimate the young French player

As a testament to the fiery atmosphere, there was a little scuffle in stoppage time when Balerdi pushed Adli, Leão was involved, too, but shockingly, the ref's arms were too tired to card or something. The match ended with another meaningless Milan win, and over 60,000 unhappy fans in Marseille.

Tudor did not use all of his subs, so we did not get to see our old Serie A pals Lirola, formerly of Juventus, Sassuolo, and Fiorentina, nor did we see Ünder, formerly of Roma, as both were left on the Marseille bench. Maybe next time. Pioli used everyone but Tatarusanu, Mirante, and the last remaining young player, Coubis, with the other young players being sent on loan or sold over the past week.

Still winning, still being overlooked

What we did see was Milan's winning mentality continuing. Once again, the oddsmakers and "experts" are favoring other teams to win Serie A (who haven't even won a friendly, incidentally, not even with big name players returning to their squads.) Yet it is Milan who continue to work as a team and connect and win, even if these are just friendlies. That's okay, though. That's what they said last year, too, and Milan proved everyone wrong. Unlike another Milanese team, we won our French friendly, and have a much lower wage bill, too. It pays to be Milan, and it pays to be fired up in France.

This post inspired by the music of Prodigy's "Firestarter"

Our next match is 
a preseason friendly
Vicenza vs. Milan
Saturday, August 6 • 19:00 CEST (1pm EDT)
Centro Tecnico Piermario Morosini Stadium, Vicenza

Fired Up in France Fired Up in France Reviewed by Elaine on 9:00 PM Rating: 5
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