Fiorentina 2, Milan 1: Somber and Defeated

Milan went to Florence under very emotional circumstances, as it was the five year anniversary of the loss of Davide Astori, who had been Pioli's captain when he coached Fiorentina. That gave the home side not only the home advantage, but a cause to play for. And Milan were defeated 2-1 by a very determined Fiorentina side. Some people seem to see football as 11 circus performers and judge our players solely based on results, rather than a game that is interactive and influenced by many factors. Football is largely a mental game, and there are actually 22 players on the pitch. Tonight, it was multiple factors that left Milan not only somber, but defeated.

Not the way Ibrahimović is used to ending a match

The match began with a touching tribute to Astori, who had also grown up in Milan's Youth Sector, so it was emotional for everyone. Then Fiorentina went to work, seemingly to avenge his death or something. Even Pioli admitted postmatch that he was surprised by how well they played, it was not what he had prepared for. But Milan defended eleven corner kicks in this match, nine of them in the first half. Eleven

You could certainly argue that Milan did not play as well in the first half as they had vs. Atalanta on Sunday, for example. But they also successfully defended eight shots, with four on target in each half, which is something they did not do when they were hemorrhaging goals in January and February. Fiorentina certainly outplayed Milan in the first half as well, with Milan's only chances coming through a Giroud shot that was saved in the 32nd minute, and a spectacular Messias miss in stoppage time after a perfect De Ketelaere cross.

Not the result he would have wanted for his 50th match, but a strong performance from Maignan.

But Maignan was epic in his 50th match for Milan, which was comforting, considering it was only his second match back after five months out to injury. Four of his five saves came in the first half. Thiaw survived an early yellow in the 11th minute for a foul on Cabral and then lasted the entire match without a further card. Tomori had a heroic goal line clearance after Maignan got a brilliant foot to Bonaventura's strike in the 25th minute that was a certain goal otherwise. Messias also received a yellow card in the 35th, but played another 40 minutes free from Di Bello's wrath as well. 

Of course, the highlight of the first half was when play stopped in the 13th minute to honor Astori, who wore number 13, and every person in the stadium applauded for an entire minute. The Fiorentina fans also sang "There is only one Captain" at the end of that time. I cannot imagine how hard it was for Pioli, who has stayed in close contact with the Astori family since the loss, according to Davide's brother Bruno. Pioli had even obtained his first tattoo, DA13 in honor of his former captain. I, for one, can forgive him if perhaps he was distracted for this match and did not prepare correctly or make tactical changes earlier. He is a man first, manager second.

Astori was on everyone's minds

The second half kicked off, and one defensive error by Tomori, who was baited by Ikoné, led to a Fiorentina penalty, which was converted by González in the 49th minute. 1-0 Fiorentina. To be fair, Milan reacted. Almost immediately, Giroud had a header from a corner that Terracciano had to save. In the 58th minute, Theo Hernández came racing in and Terracciano took his shot point blank in the stomach, which required a bit of time to recover from. That is probably still going to hurt tomorrow.

Milan had some dreadful misses that probably did not even count as efforts, but of shots that counted, six of our eight shots were on target. Incredibly clinical, and an excellent performance from Terracciano, who also had five saves.

Bakayoko? Pioli was clearly under emotional distress

Pioli brought on Ibrahimović for Giroud in the 66th, who would see his first shot saved after returning from injury. The other two substitutions here were less effective. Origi came on for Rebić (did I mention that we missed Leão?) and in the most bizarre of substitutions, Bakayoko replaced Bennacer. I mean I get it, I guess, it was a very physical game. But Pobega? Vranckx? I mean he had options that would have offered some physicality as well as creativity. Bakayoko should never be an option, he is always one breath away from a red card.

These substitutions led to a switch in momentum, and Fiorentina were on the attack again. Saelemaekers came on for a tired Messias, and brought a bit of spark, but Fiorentina still dominated. In the 78th, it seemed that Di Bello was going to give Milan a beautiful gift, when he called for a penalty for a handball in the box. Only it never was a penalty, and a VAR review quickly confirmed it. He got a lot of criticism for this call, but I can see where, from his angle, with Cabral's arms in the air and other players in the way, he may have been visually deceived. Italiano was shown a yellow card for protesting before the call was reversed, but his card stood.

He does exist.

Kalulu also saw yellow for a foul on González in the 80th, but luckily none of our players who were in danger of suspension were carded. In the 83rd minute, Adli came on for De Ketelaere, who had a solid match. Unfortunately, in the 87th, Luka Jović, whose father was there watching him play for the first time in a Fiorentina shirt, slipped behind Milan's defense and headed it past Maignan. 2-0 Fiorentina. It really seemed like destiny at this point.

Milan fought back, and Theo Hernández scored a rocket of a goal five minutes into stoppage time to make it 2-1 Fiorentina. Unfortunately, many people barely noticed, which was a shame, because it was an amazing goal. And even if it was only a consolation goal, it was one hell of a consolation.

Theo Hernández terrorized Terracciano, then scored a brilliant consolation goal

The players were visibly deflated at the final whistle, and many fans online went into hysterical hypercritical mode long before that moment. But this performance was much better than the performances like the Derby in February that cost us so many points. Sure, it may be tied to that fragility of mentality that is not quite as healed as Pioli would like it to be. Or maybe a bit of overconfidence after winning four straight. But it was not the end of the world, and Fiorentina absolutely deserved to win. They were honoring their captain, after all.

A truly rough night for Pioli

Putting this match into context, Fiorentina were playing at home. They were playing for their fallen captain, on the fifth anniversary of his death. Some things are bigger than football. Milan were playing away, which we have struggled with all season long, after playing four great matches. In addition to perhaps being a bit overconfident, we were also missing Leão and Brahim Díaz for our possession and creativity. So we got pinned back, played a poor first half, and never recovered. It happens. We lost a chance to gain points on Napoli and stay even with Inter, which sucks. But considering everything, it was certainly no epic failure. Milan simply went home somber and defeated.

This post inspired by the music of Eric Clapton's "Tears in Heaven"

Our next match is 
Champions League Round of 16
Tottenham Hotspur FC vs. AC Milan
Wednesday, March 8, 2023 • 21:00 CET (3pm EST)

Fiorentina 2, Milan 1: Somber and Defeated Fiorentina 2, Milan 1: Somber and Defeated Reviewed by Elaine on 11:00 PM Rating: 5
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