Roma 1, Milan 1: To the Death

Milan went to the Stadio Olimpico with the intention of playing football. Roma, on the other hand, had other plans. It was clear that Mourinho had coached his players to play a very physical match and do everything to interrupt play, which would interrupt Milan's rhythm. That plan worked for this game, but resulted in more injuries for Roma, so maybe not the brightest plan. Orsato did nothing to stop the melee, which made matters even worse. So the match was left to stoppage time, where Roma were given a taste of their own medicine when a late goal was equalized with an even later goal from Milan. We needed to break the curse from January, and although we did not take all three points, it felt like we may have switched places. Even if we left it all to the death.

To the death.

The first casualty was Kumbulla. After an acute collision with Giroud in the 10th minute, in which both players fell awkwardly, he received treatment on his knee for a few minutes, then limped off the pitch. He was unable to continue, so Bove was substituted for him early on in the 15th minute. The following minute, Tomori saw yellow for a late challenge on Belotti. That will see him suspended for our match vs. Cremonese midweek.

The next major incident was in the 24th. Matić literally came flying in on Bennacer with his full body and landed on top of him. He was also carded, a card that was definitely a yellow. It was one that, maybe in the final 20 minutes of a match could have even been more, because it was incredibly dangerous. The fazed Bennacer looked like he was seeing stars and checking his body parts after some help from his teammates. Meanwhile, Orsato, the sometimes-referee of the day, looked to be telling Matić that he was lucky to still be on the pitch.

Matić was lucky to be on the pitch after taking Bennacer out like that.

There were more fouls than chances, and more chances than whistles, which is not a good combination for such an intense and important match. Especially considering that each side had exactly 11 shots, with only the single shot on target apiece. The Stadio Olimpico was in full voice for the first 65 minutes or so, a gladiator-style atmosphere for a full-contact match.

Belotti took Theo Hernández down with an elbow to the chest. Bennacer got the ball, but his knee got Bove afterward and took him down. No cards for either. Leão sent a shot over, then Abraham blocked Pellegrini's shot for his buddy Tomori. Maybe he thought he had carte blanche after that, because his knee landed in Tomori's thigh/hip just a couple of minutes later, taking down the Milan defender in his 100th match for Milan. After treatment, Tomori came back on the pitch, then went down again, incredibly worrying. He was finally able to continue through the rest of the half, but would end up being subbed off at halftime. Luckily, he will get to rest midweek anyway.

Both players only made it through the first half.

The next casualty came as a result of a multi-player collision in the 6th minute of stoppage time in the first half. It was on a Tonali corner, and there were six players involved - Theo, Kjaer, Tomori, Bove, Ibañez, and Belotti. After the ball swung in, Kjaer and all three Roma players wound up on the ground. It was not clear exactly how Belotti was injured, but he, too, had to be subbed off at the half, as he was reportedly having trouble breathing.

With Thiaw replacing Tomori and former Milan player El Shaarawy coming on at the half, the battle continued. Thiaw made a pretty tackle straight away. Abraham got tangled up with Maignan, but luckily, the keeper seemed to be okay. In the 56th, Pioli brought on Saelemaekers for Brahim Díaz, who rarely is able to be effective in these physical matches. 

Orsato came for a gladiator match, not a football match.

Speaking of physical, the most egregious error on the part of Orsato in this one was in the 71st minute. Ibañez came in with a studs-up challenge on Saelemaekers, an incredibly dangerous tackle, for which he was only shown a yellow card. (Nevermind that my idiotic American commentator said that Saelemaekers' reaction was "dramatic.") If Di Paolo reviewed it in the VAR room and did not recommend a red, then he is also culpable. These rules are meant to protect the players, and not a single player on either side was protected in this match.

De Ketelaere and Kalulu were subbed on for Bennacer and Kjaer in the 73rd. Krunić earned a yellow card for a foul on Bove in the 75th minute. Inexplicably, Pioli sent Origi on for Giroud in the 88th minute. It was stoppage time, though, when everything happened. Long after Roma fans had been silenced by complacency in what had been a scoreless match, you could only hear the couple of thousand Milan supporters singing in a stadium that seats over 72,000. Tammy Abraham was finally able to score in the third minute of stoppage time. 1-0 Roma.

The only fans who were in the match all 105+ minutes.

Roma fans and players celebrated like they had won the Scudetto, causing such a delay that it offered Milan plenty more time to equalize. And so they did. With a great reaction and response, Maignan sent a long ball forward to Leão, who settled it before crossing it to the far side to a wide open Saelemaekers, who just had to awkwardly tap it in for the goal 1-1 all. A scrappy goal from our most unpredictable player to save a point in the seventh minute of six minutes of stoppage time. To the death.

It was delicious Karma after Roma had done the same thing to us in January. More delicious that Saelemaekers, who was fouled so dangerously by Ibañez, who was not sent off, was the one to get the goal. Unfortunately, as Pioli said, there was not much celebration afterward by the players, because they knew they should have taken all three points. But thanks to goal differential, Milan did stay in fourth, despite being tied with Roma. And now, our injury issues seem to have also transferred to Roma, who will have to compete for top four without at least five or six players now. 

A disruptor vs. a football manager.

Mourinho's comments of how proud he was of his team, for once not criticizing the ref, who was abysmal for both sides, tell you that a gladiator match was his game plan, and they executed it as he wished. Very disappointing. Pioli lamented that there were only 49 minutes of effective playing time of the 105+ minutes due to so many interruptions, and he was not wrong. Although it ended 1-1, it was a very frustrating match, and very worrisome to see such an experienced referee like Orsato fail to protect the players. Of course, Mourinho's side seems to have reaped the Karma for his bully tactics with the injuries, but it is always disturbing to see when a manager and referee conspire to forego the football and play a match to the death.

This post inspired by the music of The Prodigy's "Take Me to the Hospital"

Our next match is 
Serie A Week 33
Milan vs. Cremonese
Wednesday, May 3, 2023 • 21:00 CEST (3pm EDT)

Roma 1, Milan 1: To the Death Roma 1, Milan 1: To the Death Reviewed by Elaine on 11:58 PM Rating: 5
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