AC Milan 1, Tottenham 0: Heartbeat

Milan finally seemed to resuscitate some of the life back into their form after five weeks of results that left fans dead inside. After flatlining in the league Derby with Pioli's bizarre tactical changes, they have fought back, and with the 1-0 victory over Tottenham, now have back to back wins. This one was especially important, on one of Europe's biggest nights. Their performance could certainly still improve, but their pulse is now strong again, they are smiling once more. Milan have found their heartbeat.

One goal to jumpstart our hearts

A tense beginning was jumpstarted with a goal in just the seventh minute scored by Brahim Díaz. Theo Hernández's initial shot was blocked by Forster, who also sent Diaz's rebound up off the crossbar, and the tiny Spaniard finally sent it in on the third try with a diving header, leaping over Forster and Perisić, who were both on the ground. 1-0 Milan. As the Milan admin coined it, "beautifully chaotic." But it was kind of perfect, given Milan's fight to improve and restore their form of late. And it would end up being all that was needed to secure the win.

Perseverance. (Also, the looks on their faces... priceless.)

Well, that was not all that was needed. There were still nearly 90 minutes left to battle. And that battle was pretty fierce at times, particularly with a team that seem to be in a parallel universe, as we discussed on the preview podcast. Kane forced Tatarusanu into a save in the 13th minute with a dangerous header. A few minutes later, Kalulu made a crucial block on Kulusevski. Emerson's shot went straight into Tatarusanu's arms. Theo made a nice run, but was stopped by Dier. Mr. Champions League did not get on the board, but made a crucial stop on Son in the 42nd. 

Mr. Champions League, defensive edition

The second half began with a touch of controversy, as Romero made a nasty studs-up challenge on Tonali and was only shown a yellow card. He was lucky not to be shown a red, but Dier also picked up a yellow and earned himself a suspension for the next match due to card accumulation. I am pretty sure that given the choice, Spurs fans would much rather have Romero than Dier for the next leg, anyway.

Langlet body slammed Tatarusanu in the 59th, and the goalkeeper injured his ankle in the resulting fall. After some treatment, he was back up, but hobbling around. However, he was able to play the rest of the match. To be fair, in the 75th, Leão did pull Emerson back by the shoulders, and was only whistled for a foul. But overall, Schärer called a decent game.

Tatarusanu's confidence is returning as well

De Ketelaere and Messias came on in the 77th, replacing Brahim Díaz and Saelemaekers, respectively. De Ketelaere had a great chance not even a minute later, with a header from a sublime Giroud cross, his first touch of the ball, but Perisić managed to deflect it out, even though I don't think he knew much about it. Another regret came one minute later, when Leão sent in a brilliant cross and Thiaw headed it, but it went just wide. It literally could have been three-nil in the space of less than two minutes.

Thiaw's performance was immense, but his header was that close

Tonali picked up a yellow in the 80th for shoving Harry Kane, and Theo Hernández would also pick up a yellow in stoppage time for fouling Richarlison, I think he was mad that they wore the same hair color. Both Tonali and Rebić were brought on for Pobega and Leão respectively in the 86th and then the 90th minutes. Before he was subbed off, though, Leão had one last chance as Giroud sent a great long ball forward for the speeding young Portuguese player, who just got a bit too much on his initial touch to control it and get it past Forster.

More of an epic battle than a romcom

Kjaer celebrated Valentine's Day with what seemed to be some sort of Viking ritual of battling (and defeating) Harry Kane at every opportunity. Tottenham's newly crowned top goalscorer of all time was left frustrated and goalless, while Kjaer also had some important stops, such as the one on Langlet in the 66th minute. Absolutely massive performance. Thiaw also impressed on his Champions League debut for Milan with a fierce 90 minutes of defensive brilliance.

Personally, I might have given Player of the Match to Kjaer, given our recent defensive fragility and the quality of player he was marking all night. But UEFA chose to give the award to Leão, who dazzled all night and was an absolute nightmare for Tottenham's defense. Honestly, it would have been a difficult choice, because this was a great team performance.

Spurs could not contain him, UEFA's Player of the Match

Perhaps the most influential on the match, though, were the fans. The Curva Sud's Valentine-themed coreografia was amazing, spanning the stadium with the message "I live only for you... You are my only love... I have not betrayed you." The players certainly felt that love and repaid it with their performance and the result, and Pioli and the players spoke of the fans' undying support in their postmatch comments as well. The coach pointed out that it is easy to support when your team are winning, but the fans have stayed by their side even during this difficult time.

Milan's life support, in good times and in bad

Milan's fortunes seemed to have transferred to Tottenham, with their new injuries giving us a bit of luck. I mean Milan are used to playing without four or more starters (Tomori was not risked for this one.) However, the story could be very different in three weeks when we travel to London for the second leg. Tonight was for lovers, though. Lovers of the Milan shirt, those who bleed red and black. Milan are not completely healed, but tonight's match showed that they are no longer in critical condition. Tonight, when they needed it most, Milan found their heartbeat.

This post inspired by the music of Simple Minds' "Alive and Kicking"

Our next match is 
Serie A Week 23
Monza vs. Milan
Saturday, February 18, 2023 • 18:00 CET (12noon EST)

AC Milan 1, Tottenham 0: Heartbeat AC Milan 1, Tottenham 0: Heartbeat Reviewed by Elaine on 11:30 PM Rating: 5
Powered by Blogger.