Milan 2, Sassuolo 5: Defensive Kryptonite

Looking at the final score, many are quick to judge. Milan are now six matches without a win, and have the worst defense of the top five European leagues in 2023 in terms of goals conceded. Plus, this was the first time they had conceded five goals at the San Siro since 1997. The stats are anything but flattering. However, those of us who sacrificed sleep and sanity to watch the actual match know that there was more to it than just stats. There were two more Milan goals, for example, both called back for offside due to SemiAutomatic Offside Technology (SAOT,) conveniently introduced just this weekend. But also, we were facing not just Sassuolo, but more specifically, Berardi. He was involved in four of the five Sassuolo goals, and has always been Milan's defensive Kryptonite.

Sassuolo and Berardi have always been Milan's Kryptonite.

Milan came out firing, very different than their last four matches for sure. Rebić had a shot just wide in just the second minute. Then Krunić and Saelemaekers seemed to collide, with the latter possibly losing one or more teeth, or at least having some kind of oral bleeding that needed treatment throughout the match. In the eighth minute, Giroud scored, assisted by Rebić. However, after a VAR review that was way too long for this new SAOT, the goal was called back for offside. It took 12 minutes for them to produce an image onscreen for viewers to demonstrate that Giroud's shoulder had been offside. That is not the bill of sale we were sold about this SAOT, which was supposed to speed up the offside calls.

Giroud made things happen, SAOT took it away.

Needless to say, having the goal called back took some of the wind out of Milan. That would have been the early intervention we needed. Just ten minutes later (before we saw the SAOT image,) Defrel scored with an assist from Milan's Kryptonite, Berardi. 1-0 Sassuolo. The fear crept back, the lack of confidence infiltrated again. No one was less confident than Tatarusanu, who may have had his boots glued to the pitch as a prank, I am not sure. Or perhaps there is some sort of magnetic field that prevents him from straying too far from the goal line. Either way, Sassuolo pounced on the opportunity, scoring again just two minutes later. This time it was Frattesi with another Kryptonite assist. 2-0 Sassuolo.

However, to Milan's credit, they pulled it together and reacted. Giroud was not okay with them taking his goal away, so he scored another in the 24th. It was a great header from a perfect Calabria cross on our young captain's 200th appearance. Milan 1, Sassuolo 2. Game on. 

The one they couldn't take away.

Or at least it was game on. In the 30th, Sassuolo won a corner, which Traorè whipped in and Kryptonite headed it home. 3-1 Sassuolo. That hurt. And if you are keeping score, Berardi had a goal and two assists by this point. But Milan did not faint or give up like they had in other games. Sure, their mentality was not 100%, but they still fought. To the point that the cards came out.

Giua, the referee, handed out 12 yellow cards in all. Yes, that is twelve yellow cards. Several were for fighting or for dissent, but he honestly had some questionable calls as well. Our players who received cards were Tonali (dissent,) Rebić (for doing Rebić things,) Krunić (pushing someone,) Gabbia (clumsy tackle,) Giroud (self defense,) and Pobega in stoppage time. Normally, I would assume Giua's performance would be reviewed and potentially penalized, but with the scoreline, no one cared about him.

200th appearance, an assist, and conceded a penalty. A very eventful match.

For the second half, Pioli subbed an invisible Leão on for De Ketelaere, who had actually been slightly more visible. Calabria immediately gave up a penalty, which was very unfortunate after his beautiful assist earlier. Laurienté stepped up and converted the penalty to make it Milan 1, Sassuolo 4. An absolutely brutal score for what was actually happening on the pitch.

And still, Milan fought on. Rebić scored a goal in the 54th. That was assisted by Obiang. It was also called back for offside, which I take issue with. Tonali took a free kick. At that moment, Rebić's shoulder was just offside. However, Obiang very clearly headed the ball before Rebić touched the ball, which, in my referee training, should have reset the offside, because a defender touched the ball. (If you go back and look at it, Obiang knew that, too, and he was looking nervous during the check.) But VAR took it back to the initial play, SAOT used that point to determine that he was offside, and another Milan goal was called back. Can you blame the players for being deflated?

Rebić was robbed. And so were Milan.

But still they battled on. Like literally battled. Things were very tense, and there was definitely some pushing and shoving. There were back to back VAR checks for handballs, one for each side, neither upheld. Then Pioli subbed on Messias, Pobega, and Origi for Saelemaekers, Krunić, and Rebić in the 70th. 

Henrique was also subbed on shortly thereafter, and scored the fifth goal, with a Kryptonite assist, of course. It was Milan 1, Sassuolo 5. But Milan reacted. Two minutes later, Origi scored a phenomenal goal from outside of the box, from a Messias assist. Milan 2, Sassuolo 5. Milan literally fought to the bitter end, with Giroud getting his yellow when he was involved in some sort of mugging at the goal line that saw him kicking off Consigli and holding his back after it looked like Tressoldi, whose head was already bandaged, kicked him in the back while he was down. Yeah. It was that ugly.

What did Origi do? His amazing goal is lost in the scoreline.

Yes, Milan have now conceded at least four goals in two Serie A matches in a row for the first time in their history, according to @OptaPaolo. We know there is a massive problem at Milan right now. There was reportedly a long discussion after the match between Furlani, Maldini, and Massara about the situation. But this was not the same tragedy that faced Lazio on Tuesday. The statistics will show that Sassuolo had five different goalscorers, another record against Milan. But look further. Our personal Kryptonite, Berardi, was involved in four out of five of those. He is a serial Milan killer, the only player to have ever scored four goals against Milan in a single game

But those stats do not tell the whole story. Milan had ten shots today, five on target. Sassuolo were more clinical, with only nine shots, seven on target. With one change of fortune, this game is very different. For example, if this match had been played last week, without SAOT, I doubt either of Milan's goals would have been called back, that's how tight the calls were. That would have given us four goals, and potentially even a win because of the change in momentum. 

Tatarusanu has lost all confidence, but he was never supposed to play this many matches.

Give us Maignan back two weeks earlier than he is expected, or at least take the glue off of Tatarusanu's feet, and he saves at least a couple of those goals, making the scoreline different as well. Or having Tomori not injured. Or a healthy Kjaer instead of the young Gabbia. Or Bennacer not suspended. Or really any of the eight players we did not have available for this match. With the heart they showed today, a little luck could have gone a long way. But it is not time to give up on them. They are fighting their way back.

This was not like the other five matches. Sassuolo also beat us last season at the San Siro, then we destroyed them and had our Scudetto party at their stadium. We struggled against them and finished in a goalless draw at the beginning of this season, at that very same stadium. We have a long history with Sassuolo, and especially with Berardi. Meeting them at a time that we were already struggling was bound to expose our defensive Kryptonite.

This post inspired by the music of The Cure's "Never Enough"

Our next match is 
Serie A Week 21
il Derby della Madonnina
Inter vs. Milan
Sunday, February 5, 2023 • 20:45 CET (2:45pm EST)

Milan 2, Sassuolo 5: Defensive Kryptonite Milan 2, Sassuolo 5: Defensive Kryptonite Reviewed by Elaine on 11:47 PM Rating: 5
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