Paris Saint-Germain FC 3, AC Milan 0: Punished in Paris

Milan finally played a group stage match that was not a goalless draw. Unfortunately, it was also a 3-0 loss to the third place Ligue 1 side Paris Saint-Germain. From a referee who dealt yellow cards like a poker dealer to facing one of the best strikers in the world, you could say that this Milan loss was predictable. But each of Milan's four yellow cards (and the second one he did not give to Tomori) represent errors, which was a running theme for Milan. While Pioli was not wrong in that Milan played well for much of the game, their inability to convert, coupled with those errors, saw Milan punished in Paris.

A family reunion gone badly, at least for Theo.

First of all, shoutout to Polish referee Slavko Vinčić for his stamina in blowing the whistle, handing out cards, sometimes in flurries, sometimes not at all, and being able to fit all of those names on his match report. Refereeing is often a thankless job, so I want to thank him for providing some of the most entertaining moments of this match. From the courage it took to hand out three yellow cards in the first 16 minutes to the awareness it took to distribute the cards evenly enough amongst the Milan players so that no one was actually sent off, his performance was truly... something.

Special mention to the man in yellow.

Some might say the same for Milan's performance, but they really did fight, at least up until the second goal. Others might point to injuries, with six of Pioli's 23-man squad not fit for this one, and then Jović suffering an injury during warmup, which limited the manager's choices. Everyone is searching for the answers to what went wrong, with too many theories to list here. But maybe the answer is bigger than just one match.

Needless to say, Thiaw's fourth minute yellow set the tone for the match. The young German defender uncharacteristically picking up right where he left off on Sunday, when he was sent off for a very similar foul. Krunić also picked up a yellow in the 7th minute. Then came the chances. Leão just wide after a set piece. Maignan's first save on Mbappé. Mbappé just wide. Then the unavoidable – Mbappé goal in the 32nd minute. 1-0 PSG. 

Who wouldn't want to just wrap their arms around Kolo Muani and give him a big hug?

Still, it was a relatively even match. Pioli wisely took off the cautioned Thiaw and put on Calabria at halftime. Not that anyone was able to keep up with the speed of PSG's attacking players any better, obviously, but it did prevent a young player from being sent off twice in a week. Just three minutes in, Dembélé put the ball in the back of the net, however, after a VAR review, it was determined that Ugarte had fouled Musah on the buildup to the goal, so it was called off. 

In the 50th minute, Pulisic and Giroud combined for a nice attempt, but Giroud put it just wide. Then the dagger to the heart, Kolo Muani's goal in the 53rd. 2-0 PSG. That was when Milan's confidence dropped. Maignan produced another save on Mbappé, then Tomori and Kalulu got back-to back yellow cards, although Tomori's was questionable. That may have factored into Vinčić's generosity a few minutes later when Tomori very much deserved a yellow for a foul on Kolo Muani, but was only given a stern warning, rather than be sent off with a second card.

And then there was one. Despite all of the new purchases, injuries forced Giroud to play all 90 minutes.

Despite being deflated, Milan still attacked, but without much venom. There were shots for Pulisic, Leão, and Giroud before the substitutions started. Tomori showed focus to make a nice stop on Mbappé in the 73rd minute. Then Pioli brought on Pobega and Adli in the 77th. Again, shots by Leão and a header from Giroud that were both getting much closer, but no goal. Maignan barely managed to save a shot from Mbappé in the 82nd, deflecting it onto the post, but no goal. 

However, just before the end of regulation, Lee Kang-In scored a third goal, effectively sealing the win. Although to be fair, Milan's inability to be clinical in front of goal sealed their own fate. In a match that originally seemed to be a duel between the two keepers, each facing their former clubs, both made four saves. And PSG only took two more shots in all. The goals came from having seven shots on target instead of just four. Okay, well, that, and fewer defensive errors. And losing the ball less in the midfield. But hey, at least Giroud took the opportunity to hit Vinčić with the ball (unintentionally) late in the game to thank him for his fabulous refereeing.

Maignan did not do poorly, PSG's strikers just did better to beat Milan's defense.

The complete overhaul of the team this summer focused on Milan's attack, with much of the €134 milion spent on attacking players. Odd that the team that struggled to score last season, but managed to go to the Champions League semifinal and qualify for the competition again this year (even if Juventus' corruption finally caught up with them to give us the extra nudge,) should have problems scoring after investing so much in fire power. Combining that with us being blanked in the semifinal by Inter, we are now the first Italian team to ever go five matches in the Champions League without scoring, according to @OptaPaolo

Weird what happens when you remove the Milan DNA from Milan. This was also the first time Milan ever named a starting 11 featuring zero Italians in their lineup. (That joke is on you, "Internazionale.") So, this management took a team that won a Scudetto, then went to the Champions League semifinals, but needed some reinforcements to properly compete, and now they have the most cards and expulsions in Serie A, are struggling in the midfield and defense, and cannot score. Also, now our captain is saying things about his teammates' efforts that Pioli is calling out in postmatch press conferences. Oh yeah, and we still have the same problems with injuries as we have had in the past few years. (Maybe management should have focused on that?) It definitely seems like Cardinale has put his stamp on this team. I wonder what the Moneyball data has to say about all of those players they purchased being unable to score at all in the Champions League? Ironically, this will also be his (and therefore Milan's) downfall, at least financially.

Last I checked, Leão has 9 other outfield players on his team that should also be playing better.

Of course, some people think this is all Leão's fault. (Even though he was just awarded Serie A Player of the Month for September.) Or Pioli's. Despite this being his 200th match on the bench for Milan, something only five other managers have even accomplished, many fans are once again using the incredibly tired "PioliOut" hashtag. Statistically, in addition to being one of the longest-lasting, he is also one of Milan's most winning managers, despite doing it under two different ownerships, multiple changes in technical and sporting directors, and with the youngest team of any of those other managers. But sure, this is all on him. And even if he is not the greatest tactical mind ever, why would anyone want to burn this club to the ground by making a change in manager at this point, too? The players are barely starting to be a cohesive group again after so much sudden change this summer. Pioli is one of the last straws of consistency and sanity these players have to cling to.

What this team went through this summer can only be measured in... results.

When things go wrong in football, people, fans especially, look for someone or something to blame. Most of the time, it is more than just one thing. That is probably the case again here, too. But the fact is that, unlike in Serie A, none of the new players have been able to step up in the Champions League. Maybe they just don't have that Milan DNA. Or maybe it is the injuries again. No matter how you look at it, the main difference between the team that scraped through last year to the bitter end and looks to be crashing out this year in Europe are all of the changes. Too many changes, all at once. From an owner who did not even know Milan's Champions League history as of March, let alone what is needed to build a team that is competitive in the Champions League. And for that, we were punished in Paris.

This post inspired by the music of Billie Eilish's "What Was I Made For?"

Our next match is 
Serie A Week 10
Napoli vs. Milan
Sunday, October 29, 2023 • 20:45 CET (3:45pm EDT*)
*Note the time difference due to Daylight Savings ending in Europe on Sunday.

Paris Saint-Germain FC 3, AC Milan 0: Punished in Paris Paris Saint-Germain FC 3, AC Milan 0: Punished in Paris Reviewed by Elaine on 1:50 PM Rating: 5
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