AC Milan 0, Chelsea FC 2: Hell Hath No Fury

After Chelsea had their way with a Milan side that was missing nine players last week, we knew this match would be difficult. But we also knew that a sold out San Siro with 75,000 passionate Milan fans would give any team hell. What no one ever expected was that a referee would singlehandedly change the match to give Chelsea even more of an advantage. Again. After last year's debacle that saw UEFA referees suspended, you would think UEFA would choose referees more carefully, especially so that Milan and their group were not influenced by the officials. Again. But German referee Daniel Siebert apparently did not get that memo from UEFA. Or perhaps he did? Either way, Hell hath no fury like a club that has been robbed by UEFA referees two years in a row.

A good ref should never be the talking point. And UEFA did not send a good ref.

I start at the top with UEFA, because not only are they accountable for their referees, but they are under the microscope for the massive and ever-growing financial divide between English clubs and all other European clubs. After fighting to beat down the Super League concept, they restructured FFP into a new set of criteria known as financial sustainability regulations that continue to favor English sides and punish all other European clubs. Maldini rightfully pointed out this disparity ahead of the match, saying that "Chelsea spent more on their reserve left back than we spent in a whole year on the transfer market." This makes actually competing in Europe incredibly difficult for non-English clubs.

In Italy, Milan are the top club that is most compliant with these new regulations, having worked tirelessly to improve revenue and cut costs dramatically, even during COVID, while even English clubs showed massive losses. The best way for clubs to get ahead is for them to build a solid team, qualify for the Champions League, and have success there, as the prize money from UEFA and the revenue from TV rights are huge sources of income. However, only the English clubs can truly compete with this disparity.

These legends deserve better, UEFA

If Milan have worked the hardest and done exactly what UEFA have asked of clubs, then why are they being penalized so much on the pitch? If UEFA apologized last year and suspended referees, then why would they allow this to happen to the same club and their group again?

What happened this time was a referee who tried to whistle everything in our match. That is impossible, because there are constant fouls and other rules violations in football, and referees are there to facilitate the game, not whistle for every single infraction. Furthermore, the match was not called consistently, it never can be. That becomes even more difficult the more you whistle.

Eleven players for only 17 minutes... they were never given a sporting chance

From the first minute, when Mount's fist collided with Tomori's face after fouling the Milan player, Siebert was clearly going to call a tight game. Only he would not call it fairly. For example, he did not card Mount, only called for a foul, and definitely did not card for the extra contact. Which in the first minute is probably what most refs would do, just give a warning. That was the first of five fouls whistled against Chelsea in he first 16 minutes, which also makes what happened next really bizarre.

In the 17th minute, Tomori was desperately trying to catch Mount, whom he had let get by him in the box. With a couple of soft touches on the shoulder, he could have technically been viewed as impeding the Chelsea player in a scoring situation, but Mount was more than capable of getting his shot off, and Tatarusanu come up big to block the shot anyway. Very, very few refs would have called that as a foul, given a penalty, or a red card, let alone all three. But especially in a Champions League match, just 17 minutes in, it would be a very harsh call even if it was the right one.

Mount's smirk is actually the most telling in this episode. He knows he was not impeded.

Here is the best part, though. Because it was not a "clear and obvious error," but rather a subjective call, the call was not reviewable by VAR. So when Siebert made his call, he also did so alone, without any backup or chance for review. Referees are specifically trained to think twice before giving a penalty or a red card, and to think again if it is early in the game. I am not convinced that Siebert even gave it a first thought. As if he already hadn't lost the game by over-refereeing, he handed out two yellows to Mount and Giroud for something they did or said in the aftermath as well, before the penalty was even taken.

I like a man who knows how to keep his cards in his pocket

Jorginho stepped up and converted the gifted penalty to give Chelsea the lead, 1-0. The thing is, Milan had Chelsea on the ropes for much of the first 20 minutes. That's why Chelsea had reverted to five fouls, they were desperate and playing dirty was the only way they knew how to stop this team that was backed by a stadium full of very loud fans. Milan had not been able to create much more than a Tomori weak shot from distance, but Bennacer had an exquisite tackle on Sterling in the 11th minute that was worth its weight in gold.

Bennacer was a brilliant beast

Even being down a man, Milan fought like lions. There were two more Chelsea fouls before Giroud had a great opportunity in the 27th, but headed it wide. Then Sterling only got a yellow for fouling Krunić badly in a studs-up challenge which could have easily been a red card by any other referee's standards. Compared to the light taps on the shoulder that saw Tomori sent off, Sterling should be doing hard time for murder somewhere. And to think, it was Milan who were on 10 men, yet Chelsea were still fouling instead of playing football.

The ex-Chelsea men were ex-tra cursed tonight

Gabbia was on his Champions League debut and did rightfully get a yellow card of his own in the 32nd for a foul on Mount, but that was the fifth card in 32 minutes for Seibert. Chelsea did score one goal of their own accord on the run of play, against 10 men Milan, before Pioli brought on another defender. It was Aubameyeng in the 34th to make it 2-0 Chelsea. And then it was back to the cards, with a yellow for Krunić. Pioli finally sacrificed Brahim Díaz to bring on Dest in the 37th to try to shore up the defense, but that impacted our ability to create chances even more.

The score does not at all reflect how solid this man has been.

Tatarusanu has really been fantastic in deputizing for Maignan. He was very solid in this match, including the save on Aubameyang in the 54th. Shortly after that, there was a shot of Shevchenko, so dejected, sitting in front of a completely deflated Maldini and Massara. All I could think of was for a legend like this, who played for both of these storied clubs, and who is suffering so much with a war in his homeland, he deserved so much better than this debacle of a refereeing job.

Dest actually had a great chance in the 60th, but it went high and wide. Pioli brought on Pobega and Rebić, the former of which earned a yellow card in the 66th. Dest also did well to defend Aubameyang in the 75th, he may be learning something at Milan already. In the 80th, Pioli brought on Origi and Ballo-Touré. 

One of very few opportunities, unfortunately missed

Tonali was given a lame yellow in the 89th for fouling Chilwell literally seconds before the Chelsea man was subbed off. Then Ballo-Touré got a yellow, Seibert's third yellow in less than four minutes. Origi had Milan's singular shot on target in the 91st, forcing Kepa into a save. Tatarusanu closed out the match with a save on an offside Gallagher, showing once again his solid form.

Origi with Milan's best chance after playing on 10 men for 75 minutes

In all, Seibert handed out nine yellow cards and a red. His first half tally was a record in the Champions League this season, according to @OptaPaolo. But more shocking than the card tally of 10 cards for 30 fouls is the balance of the cards, as very diplomatically addressed in the postmatch interview by Tonali. Milan only had 12 fouls in the entire match, yet were shown six yellows and a red. Chelsea, meanwhile, were whistled for 18 fouls, but were only shown three yellows. You do not have to be a referee or a mathematician to understand that this does not compute.

They left everything on the pitch. They deserved so much more.

Additionally, Seibert's refereeing will continue to influence Group E throughout the rest of the Group Stage, as Milan will miss Tomori due to suspension against Dinamo Zagreb. The six yellows he handed out like candy will likely also impact Milan players for the final group matches as well. His "bad night" not only changed the balance and the potential outcome of this match, as well as the standings in the group, his "bad night" will also likely affect Milan's outcomes of the other matches, and thus the final standings of the group as well.

Pioli has had enough. He was using every last ounce of zen he could summon to stay in control during the match, then he had some justifiably angry words with Seibert at the end of the match. Afterwards, he confessed that he asked Seibert if the VAR worked. This is completely uncharacteristic of the man who has made no excuses for over three years now of absolutely ridiculous amounts of injuries and unbelievable referee calls, but I do not blame him.

Pioli took the jacket off. And the gloves. Luckily for Seibert, his English is not perfect.

He and the players also claimed, though, that our Champions League fate is still in their hands, thanks to the other result in the group tonight. Which is so courageous, considering they were just robbed helplessly. Again. Speaking of courage, I have never been so proud of this team. Despite the most unfair of calls, with eight players injured, many of them starters, and all of the other cards stacked against them, they held their heads high and fought to the final whistle. I love this team so much and am so proud to support them.

Having a 12th man is only an advantage if you are allowed to keep 11 on the pitch

Milan supporters were also in fine form. Starting the party with a great coreo of "Let's Go Milan" and the traditional chorus of "Pioli is on Fire," they made their displeasure with Seibert known. But they also supported the team to the bitter end. Milan's new Style and Culture Partner, Off-White, uses the tagline "Wear your heart on your sleeve." Everyone from Maldini to Pioli to the players to the fans did that tonight, and we were still robbed of a fair chance to compete sportingly. But I believe in Karma, I believe that somehow, someday, things will be made right. And I also believe that, as Diavoli, Hell hath no fury. 

This post inspired by the music of the NIN's "Head Like a Hole"

Abate's Primavera defeated Chelsea's U19 team 3-1 earlier in the afternoon. They are now top of Group E in the UEFA Youth League.

Our next match is 
Serie A Week 10
Verona vs. Milan
Sunday, October 16 • 20:45 CEST (2:45pm EDT)

AC Milan 0, Chelsea FC 2: Hell Hath No Fury AC Milan 0, Chelsea FC 2: Hell Hath No Fury Reviewed by Elaine on 11:53 PM Rating: 5
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