Spezia 2, Milan 0: Mortally Wounded

Milan traveled to Liguria to face Spezia, a match they should have won, but also had strong potential for the Rossoneri to drop more points in. Tired and preoccupied with a Champions League semifinal they clearly were not up for, Milan not only lost 2-0 to Spezia, but played a terrible game. This result clearly affected their mentality (or was it Wednesday's match that affected their mentality tonight?) What has everyone talking, though is how this result impacts our chances for a top four. Between those two things, this one may have mortally wounded our hopes and dreams for this season.

It was a soul crushing kind of day.

The first half was drudgery. There were a few chances, such as Tonali's shot that hit the post. But things were already physical, and Doveri, the referee, already demonstrated a less-is-more attitude toward making calls. It seems that all of Pioli's complaining about playable minutes has come at the expense of our players' safety, as the referees seem to no longer make the calls that protect them.

Tonali came the closest to scoring.

But mostly, Milan played poorly. Most of Pioli's changes to the starting lineup were forced, but he chose to rest Giroud, instead starting the underperforming and never-scoring Origi and Rebić in attack. I understand that Giroud is 36 years old, and needs rest, but consider what is at risk: In the Champions League, we are down two goals. It would be so nice to win, but it is so much more important to qualify for next year. Meaning that if he was going to rest players, he should have done it vs. Inter, and started his best 11 in this match, where a win was absolutely necessary.

Instead, we got a rerun of every bottom of the table team we have played against lately: Milan struggled to get a goal, and as the match wore on, the other team, also desperate for points, became more encouraged. Only this one did not end in a draw like the others.

Brahim Díaz was punished for being brutalized.

In the 51st, Brahim Díaz was clearly and blatantly pushed down in the box by Esposito. A visually impaired person would not have even needed VAR to review it. But instead, Doveri gave Brahim a yellow card. The poor little guy had been a punching bag again, and this just added insult to injury. 

Pioli's subs made little to no impact. Except Adli, who was just so excited to get 20 minutes of playing time, he was working really hard. But he did not do enough, either. Maignan was suddenly becoming our MVP, having to make two saves in a minute, then having to come way off his line and make a tackle to stop Spezia from scoring.

Our MVP, but still not enough to keep our hopes alive.

But it was from a corner, of course, that Spezia scored. Wiśniewski poked in the rebound from a header that bounced off of the post. 1-0 Spezia in the 75th minute. Ten minutes later, Esposito took an exquisite free kick that Maignan just got a touch on, but could not save. 2-0 Spezia.

The players were clearly dejected. They knew they had played poorly. They did not need to be told. Still, they went to the traveling Curva Sud, where something amazing happened. While the leaders of the Curva Sud let them know the performance was unacceptable, they also gave them more of a pep talk for Tuesday's match against Inter. The meeting ended with the players' heads held high, them applauding the fans, and the fans bursting into a song of support for the players. They have also called upon fans for a rally of support tomorrow ahead of the big match.

Heroic support.

What was incredible about this moment was remembering back to the times when the Curva Sud turned their backs on this team. Or blocked both team busses in the parking garage at the San Siro. Or threatened our players with sticks. Or so many other horrible things. They used to whistle and abuse our players all the time.

Not this season.

This season, they have been the backbone of the team's mentality. They have shown up for every single match in full voice, singing and chanting and beating drums for 90 plus minutes, no matter how poorly the team played. It has been spectacular. Often, they were louder than the home fans, although only 5-10 percent in number. (Of course, they are planning to protest the Juve match, but let's focus on the positives today.)

Out of miracles.

That is the biggest crime in a match like this. No one wanted to disappoint them, least of all the players. Pioli has made some very questionable tactical decisions, particularly with his lineups and squad rotation. The coach who has turned water into wine for nearly four years has run out of wine. Not that he has been supported, through a series of adverse decisions and forces from top to bottom at the club – a perfect storm – the entire club is to blame for where we sit. 

But it does not matter who is to blame, because we all had to watch another uninspired performance. We all had to watch these players beat their head against the wall for 90 minutes. Even a veteran like Kjaer does not understand why. Andthe fact remains the same, that Milan are seriously risking Champions League for next season. Our hopes have been mortally wounded.

This post inspired by the music of The Cure's "Last Dance"

Our next match is 
Champions League Semifinal
Inter Milan vs. AC Milan
Tuesday, May 16, 2023 • 21:00 CEST (3pm EDT)

Spezia 2, Milan 0: Mortally Wounded Spezia 2, Milan 0: Mortally Wounded Reviewed by Elaine on 11:58 PM Rating: 5
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