Milan 1, Napoli 2: Heartbreak Loss

Milan's 22 match unbeaten streak was broken in front of over 72,000 fans at the San Siro in a 2-1 loss to Napoli. Their last loss in the league was... well, we don't really want to remember that one, either. Despite taking more than double the shots that Napoli took, and still being impacted by some questionable refereeing from last week, the scoreline was gifted to the visitors. Not quite in the unsavory way it was handed them last year in this fixture, but Napoli were incredibly lucky to come away with three points. Not that they did not play well, only that Milan played better for longer periods of the game. Obviously, Milan did not convert their chances and did not do enough to win, either. But it was a bitter pill to swallow after a valiant effort despite all odds. We go into the break with a heartbreak.

When you've given all you have and still don't get the result

Milan were immediately introduced to Napoli's new wonderkid, Kvaratskhelia, and he was immediately introduced to our defense through a series of tackles. Kjaer's tackle in the 18th earned him a yellow card, and rightfully so. The young Georgian player was just too much for Milan's defense to handle, which was the running theme for the night.

As for the other end, Giroud was hell bent on scoring in this one. After what happened last December, who could blame him? He had a couple of efforts that were pretty close before a perfect cross from Krunić to Giroud would see his effort force Meret to just tip the ball up and off the crossbar. He kept trying, even trying a scorpion kick in the 25th, which was a shame, because Calabria was open and may well have scored had Giroud not been trying to be Ibrahimović. Tonali had a great free kick that was saved by Meret, and in the 28th, Krunić, who was channeling his best Leão, or at least beast-level Krunić, had a fantastic header that Meret also saved.

Beast mode.

Maignan was forced into action in the 36th, saving a near post effort from Politano. Then Calabria, too, was entered into the referee's book, again for a challenge by the hypnotically talented Kvaratskhelia. Calabria had also been in beast mode, like a man trying to show a woman what she was missing after she left him for another man. Only his woman was Mancini, who failed to call him up for Italy again. In contrast, in the first 45 minutes, on the other side, Di Lorenzo, who was called up by Mancini, paled in comparison. Unfortunately, between the yellow card and a slight muscle problem, Calabria was subbed off after the half.

Kjaer, too was subbed off, probably not just for the yellow, but also for trying to keep up with Kvaratskhelia. Pioli brought on Kalulu in his place, and notably replaced Calabria with Dest. That was notable because it was just over five minutes later that Kvaratskhelia became too much for Dest, who fouled him in the box. Mariani whistled for a penalty, and rightfully so. Gratefully, there was a VAR check, because Paramount Plus/CBS Sports here in the United States had "technical difficulties" and the feed dropped for a couple of minutes, so the VAR check gave us time to catch up on what had happened.

An absolute beast of a performance, but now he is injured, and to add salt to the wound, his replacement conceded the penalty

Krunić got a yellow for protesting in the midst of it all, and Mariani didn't even give Dest a yellow. When the VAR check was said and done, Politano stepped up and converted the penalty. 1-0 Napoli. This did two things. First, it gave Napoli more motivation. Secondly, it made Milan a bit more frenzied, as we have seen a little of this season. Pioli wisely subbed Messias on for an ineffective Saelemaekers and Brahim Díaz on for Krunić, who had played out of his skin, but was also just coming back from injury and did not have 90 minutes in him.

The subs had an immediate impact, as De Ketelaere, who was fantastic in this one, threaded a ball through for Messias, who shocked Meret with a fantastic shot, the latter frantically parrying it away. However, he was not as lucky as Theo Hernández, who had been playing for both he and Leão in this one, sent it in for Giroud, who finally got his goal in the 69th. 1-1 all. That goal also saw him score in three consecutive league games for the first time at Milan.

Well deserved goal and assist

Tomori's yellow was not for Kvaratskhelia, actually, he fouled Anguissa, who was also a handful for Milan. He has really stepped it up in his second season at Napoli. De Laurentiis very questionably gutted his squad of several of Napoli's most beloved (and also highest paid) players this summer, citing Milan's Scudetto win and corresponding wage bill. He did shockingly well to bring in a number of young new talents in a single transfer window, and adding them to the squad he already had, they have settled in quickly. I don't think he managed to lower the wage bill as much as Milan did, and I will be very surprised if they manage to last the season at the top, as their play throughout much of this game demonstrated, but still impressive.

In the 78th minute, a beautiful disaster struck. Simeone was struggling to get the ball anywhere near the goal, surrounded by Milan players, so sent it out to Mario Rui, who sent the perfect cross back in for Simeone's perfect run, who also perfectly headed it past a helpless Maignan. 2-1 Napoli. I hate conceding goals, on paper, it looks bad. But if we have to concede, they may as well be nice goals, and that was a nice one.

I'm not sure what people were expecting, but De Ketelaere was brilliant in this match

Pioli discovered that he still had Adli, maybe he found him in the bottom of the kit bin or something, so gave De Ketelaere a few minutes off in the 81st. Adli rewarded him with fresh legs and a solid shot on goal just a few minutes later. Two minutes later, as Theo and Giroud were attempting a reprise of the first goal, Giroud didn't quite connect, but Kalulu came running in. He struck the ball well, but heartbreakingly, his shot ricocheted off the crossbar. 

When a team takes 22 shots compared to the opposition's nine and still ends up without any points at the end of the game, there is definitely a problem converting chances, obviously, but some of it is just plain bad luck. As Pioli said in his postmatch press conference, "the result should have matched the display." The game was an exciting one, at least for neutrals, and at least demonstrates the best of Serie A instead of what some of the other teams who were Scudetto favorites at the beginning of the year are doing. Milan are still playing the most consistently of any of the teams in Europe, and that bodes well for us in the long run.

Giroud gave Napoli plenty to keep them busy

Kvaratskhelia was not the only player who was too much to handle. Theo Hernández was a handful for Napoli, as well. For the second week running, toward the end of the match, we had a full back elbowed in the face by the opposition out of frustration. And for the second week running, only a yellow card for the player, in this case Zerbin. That unfortunately was not the worst news for Theo, who had to return from international duty due to an adductor injury

That brings us back to missing Leão. If Leão had been playing, Napoli would have had their hands full, too, but they dodged that bullet. Theo played twice as hard to fill in for him, and now is injured. His backup is Ballo-Touré. Thankfully, we have the break, but that may not be long enough for Theo to recover. 

Filling in for Leão, but should they have needed to?

So the referee from last week impacted the result in this match, and potentially results going forward if Theo misses matches. That includes both Serie A and Champions League matches. Considering the example I mentioned in the preview post of the similar foul, completely different call less than a week later for a different team, the consistency of refereeing becomes exceedingly important. Also considering how tight the competition is this season, a single decision from a referee like that could literally decide the Championship.

The crossbar and injuries are Milan's worst enemies

We have a long season ahead of us, and this is our first loss since... okay seriously, why do I keep having to bring that up? With the World Cup this year, this season is a complete anomaly. Considering that Inter, Roma, and Juventus all lost yesterday as well, it was not a good day for most of the big teams. The only thing that does bode well for us is that if history repeats itself, we are still on course for another excellent season. There are 16 Milan players called up for international duty, but Pioli and the rest of the team have two weeks to sit with the anger from this loss, and they know how to channel that for good. We as fans have to sit in pain with a dreaded international break, and lamenting the new injuries, too. This loss makes this break a heartbreak.

This post inspired by the music of The Primitives' "Crash"

Milan 1, Napoli 2: Heartbreak Loss Milan 1, Napoli 2: Heartbreak Loss Reviewed by Elaine on 8:30 AM Rating: 5
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