Chelsea 3, Milan 0: Crushed

The writing was on the wall for this one, but it doesn't make the loss any less painful. Milan's signature mentality was broken between the onslaught of really horrible, long-term injuries and the crowded schedule, including an international break that saw 16 of our players called up for their national teams. The brave young team, some of whom were literally our third choice at that spot, showed up to play for the first 20 minutes or so, but were soon overpowered by a team at full strength, playing at home, with the energy from a new coach. Losing is never easy. Losing 3-0 is worse. But losing when you've been pummeled by injuries relentlessly is more like being crushed.

When even your best was never going to be good enough

I am always shocked by the unfounded optimism and even delusion that so many fans have, apparently simply because it is the Champions League. No one seems to take the time to do a reality check anymore to note that we had eight injured players, including our starting goalkeeper, both of our starting fullbacks, and the lucky player that had scored in both of our previous Champions League matches this season. 

Not the homecoming he wanted for our only Champions League winner to start

More importantly, we were facing a team that had six of 11 starters who had won the Champions League just over a year ago, while we only had one player on the pitch who had ever won the this competition, and that was ironically with that same Chelsea team. 

Chelsea's average starting age was 27.5 years, with plenty of players with European experience, while Milan's average age was 25.6 years, which was actually weighted by the 10 years Tatarusanu has on Maignan or players like Krunić who are older, but whose Champions League experience is limited to primarily with Milan this year and last. In fact, very few players aside from Giroud had any experience at all in the top European competition, while most of the Chelsea players have played consistently at that level.

One of these teams was not like the other

With even just a couple of more of our best players available, the mentality this team are known for might have pulled us through. Instead, we were beaten at nearly every turn for most of 70 minutes by players whose annual salary is €167,000,000 million compared to Milan's paltry annual salary of less than half that, at €81,000,000. And that is counting all of our injured players. In short, if you do the math, Milan were the inferior team by far. That we were ever in this game is a miracle.

That said, despite being in the game in the first 20 minutes, Milan's only contribution on paper were yellow cards for both Krunić and Ballo-Touré. Once Chelsea got control, it was just a matter of time and errors made by a patchwork defense before the home team scored, a Fofana goal in the 24th. Mount scored another in the 33rd, but it was called back for offside. Unfortunately, Fofana was injured and had to be replaced in the 37th, as he could not continue. 

Milan's heatmap

A yellow for Tomori in the 42nd was a nail in our shambolic defensive coffin, as he had to be careful for the rest of the game. Our best chances of the night came at the end of stoppage time at the half, when Leão made a breakthrough, passing it do De Ketelaere, who instinctively shot, but Kepa parried it, and Krunić's rebound forced a bigger save. That was it, we were only able to get four shots off in total the entire match, with only one registered on target.

The second half got worse, as Chelsea continued to overpower this Milan side. Tomori was somewhat lucky not to get a second yellow in the 50th for a foul on James. Things got rougher as two of the oldest players on the pitch, Giroud and Thiago Silva had a nasty collision. And then suddenly, Chelsea made the breakthrough with an Aubameyang goal in the 56th. After the year he's had, he was particularly joyful to get on the scoresheet, but that was the goal that broke Milan's mentality


Just five minutes later, they conceded a third goal to James, after which Pioli subbed the best he could to keep the squad fresh. But his choices were a third choice goalkeeper, a Primavera goalkeeper, five first team bench players in varying degrees of fitness, and two more Primavera players. It's not like he had gamechangers available. And though they showed some heart and did not concede anymore goals, none of them did actually change the game, either.

But what did people actually expect? I used the analogy on Twitter of going to a second-hand store and expecting a high-end store experience and merchandise. It would never happen. Milan have struggled so much away this season anyway, and without Kessié in front of the defense, have conceded far more goals even with their starters all healthy. It is incredibly unfortunate that our return to the Champions League dreams have been so impacted by misfortune, last year with the referee decisions and now this year with injuries. But we are still rebuilding.

The fans who actually supported their team to the bitter end

People who are expecting a €160 million per year squad performance with an €80 million per year squad probably need to be told not hand their keys to anyone when they go to the second-hand store, thinking that they are a valet. Because as much as we love our team and want them to win everything with pure grinta, they are still not that team. And also, you will never see your car again if you are that naive.

The only solace that can be taken is that our new owner, Gerry Cardinale, was on hand to see this match, and had to be able to see the disparity in quality of players. Hopefully, he will use this information to invest wisely. The other bright spot is that, unlike the fairweather fans on Twitter, the Curva Sud supported our team to the final whistle and even a little beyond. Because as a fan, when your team is on the pitch bleeding out after being pummeled by injuries and a relentless fixture list, kicking them while they're down is not helpful for anyone. Supporting them to the bitter end is what people do who bleed red and black, even when we are all crushed.

This post inspired by the music of the Garbage's "Empty"

Abate's Primavera drew 1-1 with Chelsea's U19 team earlier in the afternoon. They are tied for top of their group with Salzburg U19.

Our next match is 
Serie A Week 9
Milan vs. Juventus
Saturday, October 8 • 18:00 CEST (12noon EDT)

Chelsea 3, Milan 0: Crushed Chelsea 3, Milan 0: Crushed Reviewed by Elaine on 11:58 PM Rating: 5
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